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December 17, 1997


BJP ties up with AIADMK

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have tied up for February's general election.

With this, the BJP will be the AIADMK's third major ally, after V Gopalasamy's Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dr Subramanian Swamy's Janata Party.

The decision follows a meeting between a six-member BJP team headed by party vice-presidents Jana Krishnamurthy and O Rajagopal, and an AIADMK team led by former chief minister Jayalalitha at her Pose Garden home in Madras on Wednesday afternoon.

The number of constituencies will be decided after the state election committees of the two parties meet in the coming weeks.

Though it was a welcome decision for the AIADMK, the BJP's course was strewn with confusion, and constant differences between the national leadership and a section of the state unit.

As was known, the national leadership preferred to keep its post-poll options open, between the DMK and the AIADMK.

But the Jana Krishnamurthy-led group as also other factions within the state party had canvassed for a poll tie-up with the erstwhile ruling party. With this, they hope the BJP would win a few seats, opening its parliamentary tally from Tamil Nadu ''with that extra push''.

The decision was first made public by Jayalalitha through a media statement. Later followed a BJP media meet, where Krishnamurthy had a lot to explain. Mediapersons wanted to know the BJP's stand on the question of corruption, now that it has tied up with the AIADMK, which was voted out last year on the same issue.

''Our stand has not changed,'' Krishnamurthy, the BJP's likely candidate from the prestigious South Madras constituency, said.

Krishnamurthy was also asked to draw a parallel between the BJP's stand on former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav's corruption and that of Jayalalitha. ''We only wanted Laloo Yadav to step down as chief minister, pending the court case. And will respect the court verdict in his case as well,'' he said.

That was an opening for further probing: What then about the Madras high court verdict delivered yesterday, holding Jayalalitha guilty in the Southern Petrochemicals-Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation share-transfer case?

''Jayalalitha can still appeal against the high court verdict, and whatever final verdict emerges, the BJP will respect it,'' explained Krishnamurthy.

He was also at pains to explain that the BJP, if it came to power at the Centre, will not interfere with the ongoing court cases and investigations against Jayalalitha and her erstwhile ministerial colleagues.

There was also no question of a BJP government at the Centre dismissing the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham regime in Tamil Nadu, as part of any secret deal with the AIADMK. ''No such deal has been struck,'' he went on to explain.

As to how the alliance came about, he said, ''We had opened a dialogue with Jayalalitha earlier, but stood away when she started talking to Congress leaders, and invited both the Congress and the Tamil Maanila Congress to join the AIADMK-led alliance.

''When we heard that nothing had come out of it, we started talking to the AIADMK on the suggestions of mutual well-wishers,'' he added.

This clearly indicates that the BJP has been shifting its stand on the Tamil Nadu front in recent times. It seemed to have settled for a 'post-poll option' even before last year's Lok Sabha poll, which it contested on its own. It had taken a centrist position in the days following the election, hoping for the DMK to part company with the United Front sooner than later.

Even on the Jain Commission interim report on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, the BJP took what is perceived as a pro-DMK stand. It condemned the Commission for its ''wholesale condemnation of the Tamils'' -- a stand close to the DMK's position.

If, however, nothing came of it, it owed mainly to the United Front not letting down the DMK, which has since firmed up its doubtful poll ties with the otherwise pro-Congress TMC in the state.

The BJP's stand was more than nebulous ever in the past three days. At the conclusion of the party's state executive on Monday, vice-president Bangaru Laxman and general secretary M Venkaiah Naidu declared that the party will go it alone in the state -- hoping, in private, to reap some benefits from the DMK-TMC distrust and the AIADMK-MDMK differences at the lower-levels.

But a day later, state party general secretary L Ganesan 'clarified' that the door to the AIADMK had not been closed.

The BJP clearly hopes to benefit from the AIADMK tie-up. The party had lost the Nagercoil parliamentary seat by 2,000-odd votes -- the lowest margin in the polarised polls of last year. It had polled 50,000-odd votes in three other constituencies, which will now be of help to the AIADMK-MDMK allies in return.

For her part, by formalising the ties with the BJP, Jayalaltiha has ensured that the DMK is left without friends at the national-level after the poll, if the United Front decides to ditch it. Her earlier stand was to wait until after the poll, and choose between the Congress and the BJP. With the latest move, she also hopes to give sleepless nights to the TMC in some of the seats in the their common southern stronghold.

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