The Telegraph
Wednesday , September 19 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP, Nitish at odds on early elections

Nitish Kumar

New Delhi, Sept. 18: If the Congress is facing ally trouble, so is the BJP which yesterday saw a key coalition partner rule out its fondest hope: an early election.

Hours after BJP chief Nitin Gadkari eagerly predicted the government’s imminent collapse and a snap election, Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar dismissed the possibility saying there was no threat to the government till 2014.

The BJP believes that an anti-Congress wind is blowing across the country and wants to seize its chance before the government has time to improve its stock through popular measures. It also feels that the supposed groundswell of anti-Congress sentiment will override the organisational shortcomings and faction fights facing the BJP in the states.

Nitish, though, appears convinced that an election in 2014 will throw up a badly split verdict, allowing him to play a crucial role. He is even considering going it alone in 2014 to win a substantial number of seats from Bihar and emerge as a key player.

Gadkari, speaking at a BJP event last morning, betrayed his party’s desperation. The BJP president, who was holidaying abroad when the coal-block controversy rocked Parliament, asked the party to be prepared for an early election. “The government is in the ICU (intensive care unit) and can go any time,” he said before leaving for Gujarat to join Narendra Modi’s pre-Assembly poll yatra.

In Patna, the Bihar chief minister reacted coldly when asked about the prospect of early polls. He said the Congress would tide itself over the crisis. “I don’t see any possibility of polls before 2014. Despite their differences, the UPA allies will not withdraw support,” Nitish said.

His remark came on a day the BJP appeared to be egging Mamata Banerjee on to rock the UPA boat. Without naming her, spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: “Opposing (the government’s recent measures) only through lip service will not do. The UPA allies should not fool the people any more by opposing the government’s policies but continuing to stick with it. They have to act.”

The BJP’s troubles with its allies are not confined to the timing of the polls but extend to the issue of FDI in retail, which it is opposing in an effort to secure a wider Opposition unity. Ally Shiromani Akali Dal, which heads the government in Punjab, however, is a staunch backer of FDI in retail. Ally trouble has been spoiling the BJP’s efforts at mounting a strong attack on the government.

Javadekar, however, appeared to be banking heavily on the September 20 bandh, saying it was attracting enormous support. He hoped the people would rise to oust the UPA. “This government is not going to step down on moral grounds. It has to be thrown out,” he said.