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|December 2, 1998||
Vajpayee prepares to bend over to please Jaya
George Iype in New Delhi
Following the Bharatiya Janata Party's assembly poll debacle, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is trying hard to invoke the threat of a mid-term election to instil a sense of fear amongst his disparate coalition partners and thus ensure his government's longevity.
But All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary J Jayalalitha continues to stick out like a sore thumb, virtually threatening the survival of the eight-month-old government led by the BJP.
To the BJP's relief, Jayalalitha has cancelled her scheduled visit to New Delhi tomorrow. She was supposed to have met Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the visit.
But BJP leaders are still apprehensive that she might make some moves to upset the Vajpayee apple cart. So the prime minister is believed to be getting ready to go the extra mile to win her over.
BJP sources said Vajpayee, in consultation with close friends in the party and the coalition, like Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jaswant Singh and Defence Minister George Fernandes, has drawn up a master plan to accommodate the AIADMK chief's demands.
The plan includes telling the central investigating agencies to treat some of the economic cases against Jayalalitha as 'minor' and to sort out many of the 50-odd cases with fines and minor punishments.
Vajpayee has also decided to expand his council of ministers later this month to keep his allies in good humour. He is expected to give at least four key portfolios to the AIADMK.
He has also decided to depute Minister of State for Coal Dilip Ray to mediate with Jayalalitha either in Madras or in New Delhi to resolve her differences with the BJP and the coalition government.
Apparently, Jayalalitha has told the prime minister that she is not comfortable dealing with Samata Party president Fernandes after the Cauvery waters issue.
Fernandes had mediated with Jayalalitha when she had protested in August against the central government's new scheme for distributing the Cauvery's waters among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry. But Jayalalitha now blames him for 'mishandling' the issue.
BJP leaders said that in the aftermath of last week's assembly election, it is imperative that the government try hard to pacify Jayalalitha. "We need the AIADMK's support to pass any bills in the winter session of Parliament. But we are disturbed by her new-found friendship with Sonia and the Left parties," a party official admitted to Rediff On The NeT.
He said while the threat of a mid-term election has drawn other crucial allies like the Samata Party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Biju Janata Dal and Trinamul Congress closer to the government, the AIADMK is the only partner who has refused to keep mum on the BJP's rout.
Moreover, the Samata Party, BJD and SAD are themselves facing an uphill task to remain united following infighting in their state units in Bihar, Orissa, and Punjab respectively.
Though the BJP's strategists have been devising plans for the Vajpayee coalition's longevity without the maverick Tamil partner, many in the party believe its complete defeat in the state election has dramatically changed national politics.
The assessment in the BJP is that Jayalalitha is now not averse to the idea of dumping Vajpayee to join hands with a Congress-led coalition headed by Sonia Gandhi and supported by the Left parties.
Therefore, the prime minister is waiting to see if his emissaries can extract any promise from the AIADMK general secretary for her continued support to the government into the New Year.
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