Advani steers BJP into topple mode

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By SANJAY K. JHA in Delhi
  • Published 15.07.08

New Delhi, July 15: The BJP leadership has transformed itself from a passive spectator into an active player in the effort to pull down the government as the party feels the UPA is precariously placed in the numbers game.

Party sources said the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, was instrumental in this change of stance after he realised that providing an opportunity to the government to redeem itself could prove costly. The party held its horses initially as the impression created after the Samajwadi Party’s pledge of support was that the government would scrape through.

The scenario changed, and so did the strategy. A core committee meeting at Advani’s residence today decided to draw up a plan to topple the government.

A meeting of all NDA chief ministers has been called on Thursday to firm up the plan. The BJP and its allies have issued whips to their MPs to be present in Delhi from July 20 — Advani will host a dinner for the MPs that day — and vote against the government.

The BJP is also in touch with the TDP, ADMK, AGP and the JMM for floor coordination. The BJP’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, said: “We are in touch with smaller parties and Independents. Even some Congress MPs are in touch with us. There is no chance this government can survive. The UPA’s numbers have not risen above the 250 mark.”

Malhotra sought to discourage potential defectors, saying “money deals” would be probed if the BJP came to power. He accused Congress leaders of blackmail and horse-trading and said even corporate honchos were involved.

Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad embellished the charge with an economic barb: “The Congress says the (nuclear) deal is in national interest. What is the national interest rate in this season of high political inflation?”

Prasad also took strong objection to “the whisper campaign” launched by the Prime Minister’s Office that Advani had told Manmohan Singh he could not support the deal because of certain leaders in the party (BJP).

“We strongly deny this and dare the Prime Minister to level the charge directly instead of allowing his office to indulge in a whisper campaign,” Prasad said. He added that the BJP delegation that met the Prime Minister had clearly said the deal hurt India’s nuclear autonomy and couldn’t be supported.

The BJP, which had earlier sent signals it wasn’t serious about pulling down the government over the nuke deal, today tried to drive home the message that its opposition was not based on a single issue.

Senior leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “We want this government to fall because of its failure on all fronts. Inflation, rising terrorism and continuing agrarian distress has convinced us that this government should go.”

Prasad stressed that a government that gave greater importance to “the nuclear deal, windfall taxes and corporate warfare than the miseries of the common man must be thrown out”.

The BJP’s earlier stance was aimed at making the distinction from the Left’s position by highlighting it wasn’t opposed to strategic ties with the US.