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February 21, 1998


Kalyan might have queered his own pitch

R R Nair in New Delhi

Chief Minister Kalyan Singh himself may be to blame for the current political developments in Uttar Pradesh.

Kalyan Singh, it is learnt, had plans to dissolve the assembly after the general elections, a plan that was even unacceptable to his own party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The chief minister had apparently hoped to go to the electorate and seek a fresh mandate that would help him shake loose charges of horse-trading attached to him ever since he formed the ministry last October along with defectors and criminals.

The BJP victory in the legislative council election lightened his mood, and reports that the party was improving its tally nationwide boosted his spirits to the point that he expected his party could win by a simple majority if the assembly was dissolved. If the BJP came to power at the Centre, it was far more likely that his party would win since both the state machinery and the Centre would come to his aid, he reasoned.

The Loktantrik Congress leaders apparently got wind of his scheme and acted in haste to avoid dissolution of the assembly when things were beyond their control. They apparently realised that if the BJP won by a simple majority, it would pare down its huge cabinet, putting the Loktantrik Congress members on the casualty list.

A BJP national executive member told Rediff On The NeT, "It was expected. Whatever others may say, Kalyan Singh is a man of principles. Even when he had the alliance with Mayawati we knew that he would somehow come out of it unscathed. Now he had to prove that he is the same old Kalyan Singh who stands by his principles. It was expected that he would seek a fresh mandate after the parliamentary election."

And since it was a matter of keeping the BJP out, even arch rivals Mulayam Singh and Mayawati came together to back Jagadambika Pal, the Loktantrik Congress leader who successfully staked his claim to form a government.

Naresh Agarwal, the man who broke away from the Congress with 22 members last October, had been hobnobbing with Mayawati ever since the new ministry was formed. His stature had suffered after Kalyan Singh accommodated all defectors in his jumbo cabinet. But Agarwal realised he could not form a government without Mulayam Singh's support.

There was also Governor Romesh Bhandari.

"The governor wanted a showdown with the government since he knew the BJP might form a government at the Centre. In any case, he might have realised that his days in power were numbered. That is why he plotted to bring together the elements to form a government," one BJP leader claimed.

In an extreme case, BJP sources said, the party would seek dissolution of the assembly and fresh elections. "The President would not be sympathetic to these people who till yesterday supported the BJP government. Is there any guarantee that these Loktantrik MLAs will not cross over again to give BJP support after a couple of months," they asked.

Though fissures between BJP and the Loktantrik Congress developed early, it was the distribution of tickets that caused the most heartburn. The BJP had refused tickets to most of the kith and kin of the Loktantrik Party members. That was when the party of defectors began berating their leader, Naresh Agarwal. for not taking up their cause effectively with the BJP.

The Sonia factor too seemed to be preying on their minds. As the Congress improved its prospects, the group found itself increasingly marginalised, especially in the absence of a charismatic leader, someone like Mamata Bannerjee in West Bengal.

And it was this combination of insecurity and frustration that finally found vent on election eve...

Elections '98

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