'The TDP, in fact, took the decision behind the UF's back'
Dear Mr Naidu,
I am writing to you more in anguish than in anger.
Your letter dated March 23, faxed at 1725 hours, reached us when
the rest of us in the steering committee of the Front were meeting
to discuss the situation after your press conference at Hyderabad at
11 am where you announced that you had reached an agreement with
the BJP to file the nomination of a TDP man as joint candidate for
the Speaker's post, and such a nomination was in fact filed by 12
This took us all by surprise, as only the previous day you had
publicly stated that you will support a candidate if he is by
consensus, and in case there is a contest you will remain neutral.
You were, no doubt, aware that the efforts for arriving at such a
consensus were actually on, and that it was to be finalised on the
That is why we were both surprised and pained at the contents of
You mention that you were immensely pained to know that the UF
had decided to support the candidature of the Congress nominee for the
post of Speaker. This is the same nominee that was elected as the
speaker of the 11th Lok Sabha by consensus in 1996, when you had
become the convener of the UF and the BJP had been installed as the
If now a vote on the issue has been thrust on the members in a
more or less equally divided House, the fault lies elsewhere and not
Your complaint that you were not kept informed, that it was a
unilateral decision taken behind your back and that it cuts at the
root of the UF's consensus approach on major issues, that your
feelings and pleadings were deliberately ignored and so forth, is
incorrect and unfortunate.
You will please recall that the UF core
committee had met on March 6, then on March 10, which you had
yourself convened. There were prolonged discussions to reach a
consensus about approach in the undoubtedly complicated situation
that had arisen after the poll. The other constituents, while fully
appreciating your compulsions, earnestly requested you to reconsider
your position, in view of the growing danger from communal forces
not only on a national scale, but also in Andhra.
It was agreed that we would meet again on March 16 to take a
final decision. In the meanwhile, however, it appears that you had
already taken a decision of remaining neutral on the vote of
confidence which is tantamount to actually supporting the BJP. It
is, indeed, unfortunate that you did not wait to convey your decision
first to the UF that was to meet to March 16.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan communique confirms that you had already
taken a unilateral decision. The communique states: 'The President
had a telephonic talk with N Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of
Andhra Pradesh, who informed the President that the 12 Telugu Desam
Party MPs in the Lok Sabha would remain neutral, as between the
Congress and the BJP.' Further, it states: 'The number of MPs
supporting the formation of a government by the BJP now comes to
262. This number -- 264 -- remains short of the halfway mark in the
total house of 539. However, when seen in the context of the TDP's
decision as conveyed to the President by Chandrababu Naidu, to
remain neutral, the number of 264 does cross that mark.'
From this it is clear that your decision, taken unilaterally and
conveyed to the President, is what facilitated the installation of
the BJP government.
The United Front, however, was basing itself on your assurance of
deciding the matter at the 16th March meeting. You had intimated
that you would depute a senior TDP leader if you could not attend
due to assembly preoccupations. Your representative, however, did
not turn up. The meeting was therefore postponed. Informal
discussions among available constituents took place and decided to hold
the meeting on 22nd March. I K Gujral himself informed you about
the deliberation, and about the need to meet again on March 22 as
Parliament was to convene on March 23.
In between, some of us tried several times to contact you, many
times without any success.
As convener, we expected you to convene the UF meeting on March
22. On the evening of the 21st, as the chairman, I again contacted
you and suggested that you should kindly come to Delhi, as it was a
Sunday when there would be no assembly preoccupations, so that we
can finalise the UF position.
Ignoring our request, you had in the meanwhile briefed the press
about your position as it stood till then.
In the light of these facts, is it not unfair to say that things
were being done behind your back, or to criticise the recent
functioning of the UF, of which till now you have been our
We all agree that the UF came into existence at a very crucial
time in the history of Indian politics, and that all of us, despite
differences in ideologies, laboured hard to provide a real system of
alternative governance in the country and preserve the secular
heritage of our country from the offensive of communal and
In fact, you will recollect that on the first occasion when the
Congress party withdrew support from the UF government, many of us,
particularly the Left parties, felt that we should not succumb to
Congress pressure and blackmail and instead go back to the people
for a fresh mandate. You had disagreed. The UF constituents who
disagreed with your position, however, rallied together in the
interests of the unity of the United Front. On that basis, you took
the lead as the main negotiator with the Congress party to work out
the installation of an alternative government.
The TDP had its ministers all through the UF government which
existed because of Congress's support. Yet today you, unfortunately,
are seeking to give the impression that the UF is taking unilateral
decisions behind your back: this is far from the truth, to say the
At any stage during this period, if you had even hinted that the
TDP would like to have its nominee as a Speaker, I am sure that the
United Front would have unhesitatingly agreed. In both the meetings
of 6th and 10th March, the possibility of a non-BJP, non-Congress
government was discussed. Even at that stage you had not hinted your
desire to have a TDP Speaker. Not only did you not suggest such a
course but, unfortunately, struck a deal with the BJP and sprang a
surprise on all of us. This, in fact, was a decision taken by the
TDP behind the UF's back.
Every state has always had its local compulsions whether
expressed before, during or after polls. We have together striven to
meet such local compulsions within the context of national interests
and national tasks.
In our view, it is more than ever necessary for the UF and each
of its constituents today to come forward as firm and consistent
defender of the secular fabric of India, and its federal democratic
polity. We think that the UF needs to be strengthened, so that the
hope of the people for this alternative is sustained despite the
temporary setback that the UF has suffered. We regret that you have
unilaterally decided to dissociate yourself from the United Front.'
H D Deve Gowda
Chairman, United Front
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