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October 7, 1999


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BJP inching closer to 300 mark

Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi

The Bharatiya Janata Party is inching closer to the 300 mark.

The National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP, secured a clear majority, winning 293 seats (leading in six) in the 545-member Lok Sabha.

The Congress-led alliance has won 130 seats (leading in five) and other parties 101 (leading in three).

The BJP has emerged as the single largest party with 182 seats out of the 524 results declared so far. The Congress stood second with 112 seats.

With all but 14 results declared, the focus has now shifted from the election to the issue of government-formation.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is slated to be re-elected leader of the NDA Parliamentary Party on Sunday when the election process will be completed.

"At the BJP office-bearers meeting on October 9 (Saturday), the party will decide about the future actions," said BJP spokesman M Venkaiah Naidu.

President K R Narayanan will be approached after the NDAPP meeting on Sunday, he said.

Sources said Vajpayee would meet the President on Monday, and stake his claim to form the government.

NDA sources visualise no problems in the President asking Vajpayee to form the next government.

Vajpayee's problems are rather likely to be within the NDA, since he will have to accommodate the claims and expectations of various allies in the ministry.

Senior Janata Dal-United leader Ram Vilas Paswan, who won the Hajipur seat with the BJP's support, has categorically said he will support Vajpayee's leadership. "We will try and ensure that his government will last a full term," he told Star News.

However, JD-U chief Sharad Yadav, who defeated Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav in Madhepura, has virtually said he should be given a position befitting his stature.

The Telugu Desam Party, which has emerged as the second largest constituent of the NDA, has not decided whether it would join the new ministry at the Centre.

Speaking to a television channel, AP Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu said, ''At present, I am concentrating on the results. A decision (on joining the ministry) has to be taken by the party leadership.''

NDA sources said efforts were on to persuade the TDP to join not only the alliance but also the new Vajpayee government.

The Trinamul Congress, which is also not part of the NDA but had an electoral understanding with it, is also considering whether or not to join the alliance or the government.

Party leader Mamta Banerjee said in Calcutta that her party representative Vikram Sircar would attend the NDA meeting tomorrow as a special invitee, but refused to say whether the TC would join the NDA.

The allies are expected to extract their pound of flesh as the NDA's victory has been attributed to the impressive gains of its regional allies like the TDP and the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham.

Several analysts said issues like Kargil had no impact on the voters. Doubts have also been raised about Vajpayee's influence on the electorate with the BJP facing a rout in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

''Why should we think of only the rout in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh?'' BJP leader and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister P K Dhumal asked readers in an election chat on Thursday. ''Why should we not think of the sweep in Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh? We have also improved our tally in Assam and Rajasthan. A national election has to be viewed in the national perspective.''

As for the Congress, the party has won 27 seats less than in 1998, when Sitaram Kesri was party president. This has raised serious doubts about Sonia Gandhi's ability to enthuse the electorate. However, Sonia may not resign as Congress president.

"Mrs Gandhi is not responsible for the Congress showing in MP," Chief Minister Digvijay Singh told

According to former minister and newly elected Congress MP Kamal Nath, "There is no question of asking for Sonia's resignation. It is an organisational failure that we could not convert the votes into our advantage."

Asked why the massive crowds at Sonia's public meetings in states like Andhra Pradesh did not translate into votes, senior party leader Rajesh Pilot told, ''It is a fact that sometimes people come to see the leader, but they do not vote for that particular party. We are all aware of it.''

Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal said, "The election results are below our expectations. We will have to look into the reasons why the Congress has suffered badly in states like Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa."

Sibal said had Sonia not taken over the Congress and campaigned across the country during this election, the party could have got ''lesser seats."

Asked if Sonia will resign owning moral responsibility for the party's debacle, Sibal said, "The question does not arise as the party is today united because it is led by Sonia."

Priyanka Vadra, who had conducted her mother Sonia's campaign almost single-handedly, told Star News that it was time for the party to think of the lessons learnt and work towards strengthening the grassroots.

The statement was made in the presence of MP Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. Asked if that was the new leadership the Congress is talking about, Digvijay Singh smiled, "Why not?"

The debacle suffered by the Congress was discussed at a meeting called by Sonia tonight. Senior leaders Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Madhavrao Scindia and Ahmed Patel were present at the meeting.

A detailed analysis of the results and the reasons for the party's setback will be made at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee that will be held in few days.

The silver lining for the Congress is Sonia's massive victory margin in Amethi. Sonia, who has also won from Bellary, defeated the BJP's Sanjay Singh by 300,015 votes in Amethi -- the largest in this election. In Bellary, she beat Sushma Swaraj of the BJP by over 55,000 votes.

In Bihar, the BJP and JD-U have notched up 40 seats while the ruling RJD slipped to third place with seven seats. The Congress got three seats.

With results for all the 85 Lok Sabha seats declared in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP found itself with a low 29, closely followed by the Samajwadi Party with 27, the Bahujan Samaj Party with 14, the Congress with 12 and others with three.

Though emerging as the single largest party at the Centre, the verdict in UP for the BJP has come as a severe shock, from the impressive 60 seats it garnered in 1998 along with its poll allies, the Samata Party and Maneka Gandhi as an Independent.

The Samjawadi Party and the BSP registered their best-ever performance in the parliamentary election in the state. The BJP's losses aided the Congress, which had drawn a blank in the last election.

The Samajwadi Party, which had been relegated to the background in pre-poll projections, has increased its tally to 26, an increase of six from 1998. The BSP, which had only four seats in the previous election, also got a boost this time.

Analysts say the Congress has not fully regained the Muslim vote in UP, as predicted. They say the minority community resorted to tactical voting in the crucial state, giving its votes to the winning 'secular' horse.

''Whether it is Mulayam or Vajpayee or any other leader, if they recognise a problem of a religious minority, speak out and try to do something about it they are only acting in accordance with their vow to be faithful to the secular Constitution of the state,'' Syed Shahabuddin told

In Madhya Pradesh the BJP won 29 seats losing two in comparison to last year while the Congress gained two seats pocketing altogether 11 seats.

Rajasthan saw the Congress winning nine seats but losing an equal number in comparison to 1998. The BJP gained 11 seats to take its tally to 16. The party had only five seats last year.

The BJP-JD-U suffered a major poll reverse in Karnataka getting only nine seats while the Congress increased its tally from nine to 19.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front got 11 seats in Kerala. The tally had the Congress getting eight seats, the Muslim League two, and the Kerala Congress-Mani one.

The Left Democratic Front bagged nine seats. The CPI-M bagged eight seats, and the Kerala Congress-Joseph one.

Gujarat remained the only state where the voter delivered an absolutely clear verdict, giving 19 seats to the BJP and seven to the Congress.

West Bengal saw the CPI-M and its allies bagging 29 seats. The Trinamul Congress claimed eight seats, the Congress three and the BJP two.

In Assam, the Congress tally was six, the BJP five and others two.

In the two seats in Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP and the Congress bagged one seat each. In Tripura, the CPI-M claimed both seats; in Meghalaya the Congress and the National Congress Party got one seat each.

In the simultaneous assembly elections in five states, the Congress was firmly in a position to form governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka, the TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the Sikkim Democratic Front in Sikkim.

A post-poll alliance seemed on the cards in Maharashtra, after all parties failed to secure a clear majority in the assembly.

Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel resigned after the rout of the Janata Dal-United in the assembly election. Patel, who was defeated in his home constituency of Chennagiri, submitted the resignation of his council of ministers to Governor Khurshid Alam Khan.

Among the prominent winners today were Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav (Sambhal), Nationalist Congress Party leaders Sharad Pawar (with a margin of over 290,000 votes in Baramati) and Purno A Sangma (Tura), BSP leader Mayawati (Akbarpur), veteran Congressman N D Tiwari (Nainital), former prime minister Chandra Shekhar (Balia) and Phoolan Devi (Mirzapur), Captain Satish Sharma (Rae Bareilly) and Maneka Gandhi (Pilibhit). Those who fell by the wayside included A R Antulay (Aurangabad), Ajit Jogi (Shahdol) and P J Kurien (Idukki), Arun Nehru (Rae Bareilly).

"My defeat was expected -- a certain section of our supporters appear to have switched to the Congress at the last minute, as part of tactical voting," said former finance minister P Chidambaram who lost from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu. "I am, however, truly disappointed with the people of New Delhi over the defeat of Mr Manmohan Singh."

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