Tuesday, August 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

NDA govt in fresh crisis
BJD threatens to withdraw ministers
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 31 — The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is facing a fresh crisis with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) threatening to break free if its demand to merge the erstwhile princely states of Sadheikala and Kharsuan in South Bihar with Orissa is not met before the formation of a separate Jharkhand state.

In a bid to soothe ruffled feathers, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, spoke on the telephone to the BJD strongman and Orissa Chief Minister, Mr Naveen Patnaik, urging him not to take the extreme step of pulling out of the NDA government.

The NDA government has been involved in a fire fighting exercise all the while, it has been leap frogging from one crisis to another. Barely a week ago they managed to stave off a potentially dangerous situation following the decision of the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra to prosecute the Shiv Sena chief, Mr Bal Thackeray, for allegedly stoking communal frenzy in 1993.

And now, the BJD is on the warpath declaring that it is ready to take any “tough” decision, a euphemism for parting ways with the NDA if its demand for redrawing the map of Orissa by including the dominant Oriya speaking areas of Bihar.

It is in this context that Mr Vajpayee’s endeavour to impress upon Mr Patnaik not to precipitate matters assumes importance. The central leadership realises that like the other constituents of the NDA, Mr Patnaik also has his own political compulsions. The BJD has upped its ante as it feels this is the time to secure its pound of flesh.

There is division in the BJD ranks on Sadheikala and Kharsuan areas being made part of Orissa. Some hardline BJD leaders like Mr Bhartruhari Mahatab are angry that Orissa’s demand reportedly has been dismissed out of hand by Mr Advani. These BJD leaders have mounted pressure on the Orissa Chief Minister to withdraw its ministers from the Vajpayee government.

It is apparent that Mr Vajpayee and company will have to find some face saving for the BJD to get out of this tricky situation which has the portends of creating serious fissures in the multi-party NDA.

The Union Water Resources Minister, Mr Arjun Charan Sethi, disclosed here today that the BJD parliamentary will meet here tomorrow to finalise its line of action. Mr Sethi said “we will not be found lacking in taking any tough decision. All options will be examined at the meeting.”

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