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April 14, 1999


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Jaya meets President, withdraws support

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo J Jayalalitha met President K R Narayanan this morning and withdrew the 18-MP party's support to the Bharatiya Janata Dal-led coalition government.

''I have submitted a letter of withdrawal of support to the Vajpayee government,'' a beaming Jayalalitha told newspersons after a 30-minute meeting with the President.

She said the Opposition would jointly consider the possibility of moving a no-confidence motion against the government which has already been reduced to a minority.

To a question she categorically denied that she was a candidate for the post of prime minister. She revealed that she spoke on the telephone with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday, but no Congress leaders has called on her so far.

Asked if she had urged the President to dismiss the Vajpayee government, she said: "I have only submitted my letter of withdrawal of support to the government and now it is up to the President to take a final decision."

She declined to comment on the CPI-M stand that it is opposed to supporting a Congress-led government with AIADMK MPs being a part of it, saying she would have to talk to Marxist leaders. She said her main aim was to avert a mid-term poll.

Jayalalitha reiterated that instead of demanding the government's resignation,''we prefer to bring in a no-confidence motion and defeat the government.''

Earlier, speaking to reporters outside her hotel as she was leaving for Rashtrapati Bhavan, Jayalalitha said,"Main samarthan vapas lene ja rahi hoon. (I am going to withdraw support)"

She was accompanied by former Union ministers M Thambidurai, K R Janardanan and senior party leader V R Nedunchezhiyan.

The BJP-led coalition -- which had the support of 275 Lok Sabha MPs including 11 from the Telugu Desam -- has now been reduced to 256 in the 542 member House. The ruling party needs a minimum of 272 MPs to have a majority.

The stand of the 4 member Indian National Lok Dal, 5 member Bahujan Samaj Party and the 6 member Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will be crucial for the government's survival. While the INLD has stated it will oppose the Vajpayee government, the BSP and DMK are yet to disclose their plans.

It is not clear if the President will ask the prime minister to seek a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha which resumes its Budget session tomorrow. The Opposition's strategy on whether it should move a no confidence motion depends on the President's decision.

Rashtriya Lok Manch leaders Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, who together control 39 MPs, are expected to meet with the AIADMK leader on their return from Lucknow during the day.

Also on the cards is a meeting with INLD chief Om Parkash Chautala as well as a possible meeting with CPI-M general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet.

However, no indication has been given for the much awaited meeting between the AIADMK chief and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Wednesday is expected to be a contrast for the Tamil leader in contrast to her quiet first day in Delhi yesterday.

While all seemed quiet at the Maurya Sheraton in Delhi, where she is staying on Tuesday, sources said the AIADMK supremo was busy behind the scenes in her plan to topple the current government and plans to bring about an alternative formation.

Jayalalitha, who kept a low profile all day, and chose not to leave her hotel, had no comment to make at the end of the day. However, she did hold long consultations with her ally and Janata Party president Dr Subramanian Swamy on her next course of action.

While the atmosphere in the lobby of the Maurya Sheraton hotel in Delhi was expectant, with members of the media virtually camping out on the carpets, there was little news of the goings-on one floor above, where Jayalalitha has checked in. However, she was visited by Republican Party of India leader R S Gavai, Kerala Congress leader P C Thomas, and Muslim League leader G M Banatwalla during the course of the day.

Thomas, who belongs to a party which is an ally of the Congress party, said that he expected the AIADMK chief to announce withdrawal of her support to the government within the next two days. He also said that Jayalalitha was "confident of forming an alternative government." Banatwalla said he had met and congratulated Jayalalitha on her decision to withdraw support to the BJP-led government.

Briefing the press after his meetings with her, Dr Swamy said the AIADMK supremo was "in the process of consultations to firm up her strategy in the next few days. The whole atmosphere created in the capital today is due to Dr Jayalalitha." He also described Jayalalitha's withdrawal from the BJP-led coalition as a "mere formality."

Meanwhile, DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi described Jayalalitha as "a greater threat the communalism" on Tuesday night. He has been authorised by his party's executive to decide on whether the DMK should support the Vajpayee government.

Suhasini Haidar, UNI

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