United Front gunning for Naidu
George Iype in New Delhi
The United Front is gearing up to shunt out Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president Nara Chandrababu Naidu as the combine's convener.
Faced with an embarrassing situation where Naidu is seen to have paved the way for the formation of a Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre, most of the UF constituents have agreed that the chief minister should be removed as the Front's convener.
The leaders feel Naidu's decision to remain neutral to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government is ''treason and inimical to the combine's future plans''.
"Naidu has virtually joined our enemy camp. Therefore, he cannot continue as convener," a senior UF leader told Rediff On The NeT.
"Naidu should either toe the UF line or quit," he said. ''How can the UF now be steered by Naidu? We cannot tolerate his behaviour," he asked.
Naidu's decision has earned him the wrath of the Left parties, the Samajawadi Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Tamil Manila Congress and the Janata Dal.
Communist Party of India general secretary A B Bardhan told Rediff On The NeT that the TDP's stand of remaining neutral during Vajpayee's vote of confidence will be taken up at the next core committee meeting.
Several UF sources said the core committee will meet soon to remove Naidu and appoint a new convener.
Emerging as the top contender for the post is TMC president G K Moopanar. Though SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is keen to hold the post, sources said most UF constituents are keen that post should go again to a leader from the south.
UF leaders now suspect that the TDP chief may opt for a long-term alliance with the BJP to ensure his political survival in Andhra Pradesh.
Several TDP MPs have favoured swinging the BJP way and advised him to actively support the Vajpayee government so that he can successfully carry out the battle with the Congress which has held the chief minister responsible for ruining the state's economy.
To bail him out, the Vajpayee government may offer an economic package, salvaging the TDP's prestige, sources said. An attempt will also be made to woo the TDP into the Vajpayee government.
"We are not sure whether Naidu will join hands with the BJP or not. But the UF will remain as a solid bloc in Parliament with or without the TDP," said Bardhan.
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