NAIDU RECCE PUTS BJP ON GUARD 

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By FROM KAY BENEDICT
  • Published 11.08.01
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New Delhi, Aug. 11 :    New Delhi, Aug. 11:  A worried BJP is trying to figure out the real reason behind Telugu Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu's three-day whirlwind tour of the capital from Wednesday night to Saturday morning, ostensibly to expedite pending projects in Andhra Pradesh. Sources said the BJP has started snooping on Naidu, who met 15 ministers - including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani and National Democratic Alliance convener George Fernandes - to collect information on the Centre's stability following the BJP and the Shiv Sena's war of words. Naidu's 29 MPs provide the much-needed oxygen to the Vajpayee government. BJP leader V.K. Malhotra rang up a couple of senior Cabinet ministers, whom Naidu had met on Thursday and Friday, to ask them what exactly he had discussed and what was the mood of the Andhra chief minister. Sources said Naidu, who discussed a number of projects awaiting Central clearance, was anxious to know about the Sena's growing disenchantment with the Prime Minister. Naidu also discussed the Sena's attitude with Fernandes, civil aviation minister Sharad Yadav, commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran, power minister Suresh Prabhu - a Sena member - and rural development minister Venkaiah Naidu. He also discussed the political situation with Vajpayee. Naidu did not give a straight reply when asked how he rated the stability of the NDA government. Sources said he mumbled an incomplete reply - "As long as the media..." - before walking away. Sources close to the chief minister said he was worried about the drastic fall in the BJP's image. "The BJP is becoming a liability for us. The panchayat elections proved that the BJP's and even the Prime Minister's image have taken a beating. But that does not mean we will quit the NDA. At this juncture, what is the option before us?" a source close to Naidu asked. Though sources said the Desam had no plans to desert the NDA, at least for the time being. Naidu has ruled out the possibility of the Desam joining the NDA government. At a Desam parliamentary party meeting, some MPs had raised the issue and expressed a desire to join the government. The MPs told the chief minister that they were becoming lazy without work. But, sources said, Naidu told them he was opposed to any such idea and asked them to concentrate on the development of the state.