Monday, February 28, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

BJP-HVC alliance under strain
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Feb 27 — The suspension of Mr Mohinder Singh, the Public Works Minister, from the HVC has cast a spell of uncertainty over the 23-month-old BJP-HVC alliance in the state which came under considerable strain during the run up to the Solan Assembly byelection.

While both Mr P.K. Dhumal, Chief Minister and Sukh Ram, HVC supremo, maintained that the alliance would remain intact, much will depend on the stand the two leaders take on the sensitive issue. They have discussed the matter on the telephone but the question of removal of Mr Mohinder Singh from the ministry did not figure in the talks. They will meet here on March 1 for detailed discussions.

Reacting to the development, Mr Dhumal said it was an internal matter of the HVC and expressed confidence that things would be sorted out amicably. Mr Dhumal has all along maintained that the BJP will not ditch the HVC, which extended support to it at a crucial juncture to install a non-Congress government in the state, even if it secured a two-third majority in the House.

However, Mr Sukh Ram, who saw a conspiracy to split the party in the growing proximity between Mr Mohinder Singh, his powerful number two, and senior BJP leaders, hoped that Mr Dhumal would fulfil the obligations of the alliance by taking appropriate action on the matter. The suspended leader was a representative of the HVC in the coalition government and it was now for the Chief Minister to decide about his continuance in the ministry.

He said as far as he was concerned, he would not do anything to create political uncertainty and weaken the coalition. He said he was under tremendous pressure from party men to take disciplinary action against the PWD Minister who had been indulging in activities detrimental to the party interests.

He withstood pressure and delayed action in view of the byelection to the Solan seat as it would have marred the electoral prospects of the combine’s candidate, he said.

Since the BJP has already secured a majority in the Vidhan Sabha on its own, Mr Sukh Ram is no more in a position to destabilise the government. Since his arm-twisting tactics will not work any more, he has now decided to rein in his protege, Mr Mohinder Singh, who has over the past two years emerged as the most powerful minister in the Dhumal government.

The HVC supremo and his number two have been drifting apart for the past some time. However, the announcement by Mr Mohinder Singh that the HVC would not field a candidate in the Solan byelection, even though the party had authorised Mr Sukh Ram to take a final decision on the matter after holding talks with the Prime Minister brought their differences to the fore.

It is obvious that after having suspended Mr Mohinder Singh from the party, Mr Sukh Ram expects Mr Dhumal to take action against him. Thus, the future of the alliance will largely depend on whether or not Mr Dhumal obliges the HVC president.

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