Naidu quotes his price for supporting BJP on Friday
George Iype in New Delhi
On the eve of the crucial confidence vote on Friday, the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership held hectic negotiations with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, in an effort to rope in his Telugu
Desam Party to support the trust motion and later join the Vajpayee government at the Centre.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP president and Home Minister Lal Kishinchand Advani had
lengthy negotiations on the telephone with Naidu on Thursday.
They are reported to have urged Naidu to ask his 12 members of Parliament to vote for the government
instead of abstaining when Vajpayee seeks his second confidence vote in the Lok Sabha in less than two years.
Sources said Naidu, who quit the United Front early this week after the BJP offered the Speaker's post to TDP
candidate Ganti Mohana Chandra Balayogi, is ready to join the BJP-led government soon after Vajpayee wins
the confidence vote.
But the TDP chief is reportedly bargaining heavily -- as AIADMK supremo J Jayalalitha did -- with the BJP
leadership. Naidu wants two Cabinet and two ministers of state berths in the Vajpayee government in return for the TDP's support to the BJP government.
The AP chief minister has also put forward two more crucial demands -- one economic and the other political -- the sources said.
While Naidu wants the Vajpayee government to sanction a hefty financial package for his home state, he also desires a poll alliance with the BJP for the state assembly election, scheduled for 1999.
A TDP official in New Delhi told Rediff On The NeT that Naidu also wants the assembly election to be advanced -- as early as possible -- before an anti-incumbency mood sets in the state and clouds the TDP's prospects.
"Definitely, Naidu will be forced to go in for a poll pact with the BJP at the state level if he formalises the
TDP-BJP arrangement at the Centre," the TDP official added.
Though the AP chief minister reiterated on Wednesday that his party will not join the BJP-led government at the
Centre, many expect him to do another somersault when Vajpayee expands his Cabinet in April.
BJP sources said the party leadership has conceded Naidu's demand for a financial package for the state.
Vajpayee is also not averse to offering him two Cabinet berths -- probably the
agriculture and civil supplies ministries -- and one minister of state berth in his government.
At present, while the prime minister himself is in charge of the agriculture ministry, the civil supplies department
does not have a Cabinet minister but an MoS, the BJP's Satyapal Singh Yadav.
BJP vice-president Sunder Singh Bhandari conceded on Thursday that the party leadership is talking to Naidu
about his MPs voting for the Vajpayee government in the Lok Sabha during the
"The BJP would be also happy if the TDP formally decides to join the Vajpayee government," he told Rediff On The
The BJP, which split the United Front and has now managed the support of its prominent partners like TDP, Farooq
Abdullah's National Conference and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta's Asom Gana Parishad, appeared confident of
winning the trust vote by securing between 275 and 280 votes.
"We will win the confidence motion by a good margin," Bhandari said, adding that "We are very happy that
many regional parties are now convinced that political stability is the need of the hour."
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