Jayalalitha touched down in
Delhi tonight with the ?express purpose? of withdrawing support to the Vajpayee government and consulting ?political leaders, including Sonia Gandhi?.
?A final decision will be taken after the consultations,? the ADMK chief said at Delhi airport. Jayalalitha added that she had sought an appointment with President K.R. Narayanan.
The countdown for the pullout began in Chennai in the evening. Just before Jayalalitha boarded her flight, she asserted that withdrawal of support was ?inevitable? and ?you will know it during the next few days?.
Besides Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha said, she will meet Jyoti Basu. She added that her party would ensure there was no mid-term poll.
She said the dismissal of the DMK government was not on her agenda and ruled out setting any condition for supporting an alternative government.
Asked whether she thought she was a prime ministerial candidate, Jayalalitha said while she was not ruling out this possibility, a decision has to be taken by the parties with which she would hold consultations.
As the 13-month BJP-led coalition was being pushed to the brink, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee called on Narayanan. Vajpayee informed the President that his majority in Parliament was intact and there was no danger to his government?s stability, BJP sources said.
The BJP said there was no question of reopening a dialogue with the ADMK. ?There is absolutely no question of going back on the issues raised by the ADMK. We are not taking any initiative to discuss these issues,? BJP spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said.
Naidu claimed that Jayalalitha?s threats at the airports would not affect the stability of the government. ?Her statement was only to be expected, because she was moving in a particular direction,? he added.
The ADMK chief emphasised that by approaching her arch rival M. Karunanidhi for his support to make up for the loss of her 18 MPs, both Vajpayee and Advani had ?shut the doors? for any rapprochement. ?They have themselves closed the doors by talking to Karunanidhi,? Jayalalitha said.
Though the Opposition seemed united in its intent to topple the government, the contours of an alternative remained shrouded in confusion and cross-talk.
The Congress sustained its cautious posture. Spokesman Ajit Jogi only said: ?Jayalalitha?s visit to Delhi is a significant development especially in the light of her last visit (when she met Sonia Gandhi at Subramanian Swamy?s tea party). We are keeping a close watch.?
The Congress is expected to move fast tomorrow, with chances of a Jayalalitha-Sonia Gandhi meeting bright. Some senior Congress leaders are expected to call on Jayalalitha to set the stage for a meeting with Sonia Gandhi tomorrow itself.
With the Left insisting on offering conditional support and stressing that a Congress dispensation could not overlook its economic agenda, Congress sources said the leadership still seemed reluctant to take the plunge.
Sources said the Congress would prefer to induct only time-tested allies like the IUML, Kerala Congress and the Republican Party of India, instead of experimenting with parties like the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha (RLM). Sources said the leadership was prepared, at most, to accommodate Swamy in the government, in case Jayalalitha so demanded.
RLM leaders clarified that though bringing down the Vajpayee government was their first priority, their support for a Congress government could not be ?taken for granted?. They are worried that if Sonia Gandhi becomes Prime Minister, the Congress could make inroads in Uttar Pradesh at the cost of the RLM.
?We would much rather have Sharad Pawar or Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister as they do not pose a threat to our political future,? said a leader of the Samajwadi Party, one of the constituents of the RLM.
With hopes of winning new allies receding, the BJP is clinging to the apparent confusion in the Opposition camp. ?What political alternative is being offered? Please explain,? Venkaiah Naidu said.
But party manager M.L. Khurana?s attempts to win back the Indian National Lok Dal?s support fell through, when its leader O.P. Chautala failed to turn up for his much-publicised tea-party this afternoon. Chautala?s excuse was that he had to rush to Chandigarh to attend the Khalsa celebrations.