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|September 27, 1999||
BJP expects problems after results are out
George Iype in New Delhi
With just five days left for the final battle -- the remaining 124 Lok Sabha constituencies go to the polls on October 3 -- the Bharatiya Janata Party is worried that if the party fails to improve on its 1998 tally, the National Democratic Alliance could break up.
Though exit polls have predicted that the BJP-led NDA may well go past the halfway mark and form the next government, BJP leaders are not overly excited. Some party leaders fear that some of the crucial allies of the NDA could desert the ship if the BJP on its own does not perform well in the election.
What has upset the BJP leaders are the dissenting voices from two key alliance partners -- the Telugu Desam Party and the Janata Dal-United -- and its own damaging prospects in Uttar Pradesh.
In the 12th Lok Sabha election, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 182 seats. The Congress came second with 140 seats.
In the last month, the BJP has been buoyed up by the surveys that predicted that it would emerge as the single largest party, winning anything between 200 and 230 seats.
But sensing that the inner-party problems in UP could damage its calculations, most BJP leaders now do not see the possibility of the party's tally touching the 200 mark. It is important for the BJP to emerge as the single largest party as President K R Narayanan will first invite the largest party to form the government.
After the 1998 election, the TDP with 12 MPs supported the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from outside. It also entered into a seat-sharing alliance with the BJP for the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh this time.
But with the AP elections now over, TDP president and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is said to be "unwilling to join hands with the BJP at the Centre if the latter's seat tally comes down."
Naidu's lieutenant and TDP parliamentary leader in the last Lok Sabha K Yerran Naidu told rediff.com that his party's arrangement with the BJP has been "just a poll alliance."
"At this juncture, it is wrong to presume that the TDP will support or join a Vajpayee government because we have entered into a seat adjustment with the BJP," Yerran Naidu said.
"We will decide about supporting an NDA government or joining it only when a clear picture emerges after the election results are announced on October 6 and 7," the TDP leader added.
TDP leaders said the party president was debating two options. First, if the NDA gets a comfortable majority as predicted by pre-poll and exit poll surveys, the TDP will join the Vajpayee government. Second, if the NDA squeezes through with its tally touching only 280 and the BJP on its own does not improve its seat share, the TDP will opt out of the government. In the second scenario, the AP chief minister would be willing to support the Vajpayee coalition from outside but only after weighing the realignment of forces that could take place.
Similarly, the JD-U, a loose-knit federation of the erstwhile Janata Dal, Lok Shakti and Samata Party is also expected to give teething problems to the BJP at the time of the government formation. Many expect that the JD-U leaders will position themselves for a tough bargaining with the BJP if the BJP tally does not improve and the Congress performs better in the election.
"The JD-U leaders are with the BJP and for the Vajpayee government. But any final word on the shape of the next government can be said only after the election results are out," JD-U spokesperson Mohan Prakash told rediff.com
JD-U leaders insist that their power-sharing arrangement with the BJP will depend on how smoothly a new government is installed in Karnataka. Though the JD-U-BJP alliance for the Karnataka assembly poll is expected to scrape through, a power struggle is already on between state BJP president Y Yediyurappa and former chief minister J H Patel as to who will head the new government.
But BJP leaders claim it is "immaterial" whether their party emerges as the single largest party or not in this election because Vajpayee is the leader and prime ministerial candidate of the NDA front, and not the BJP.
"We are fighting this election as a single front. Therefore, irrespective of whether we emerge as the single largest party or not, the President will have to invite the NDA leader to form the next government," a BJP leader told rediff.com
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