Thursday, August 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee opens his heart
Says end bickerings or elect new leader
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 1
An anguished Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is believed to have told the meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance partners in unambiguous terms this morning that if internal bickerings did not stop he would give up the stewardship of the country.

Asserting that he was solidly behind the NDA, Mr Vajpayee expressed pain that certain individuals and alliance partners constantly sought to create a divide by levelling unsubstantiated allegations against the Prime Minister’s office and dragged the members of his foster family into controversies.

If such willful misdemeanours continued along with the talk that he was old and his health was not good, Mr Vajpayee said then it was better for him to make way for another leader.

He was clear in his mind that if some forces in the Sangh Parivar and within the NDA wanted him to step down as Prime Minister, then he was ready to call it a day. And what hurt Mr Vajpayee the most was that none of the sweeping allegations made against the PMO in the last three years had turned out to be true.

The Prime Minister’s brief observation making his intent clear set the tone for the emergent meeting of the NDA. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah came out strongly supporting Mr Vajpayee that internal bickerings and machinations by individuals to tarnish the image of the Prime Minister aimed at creating cracks in the NDA should stop immediately. He maintained that the question of Mr Vajpayee making his exit as Prime Minister did not arise as the country needed him.

Soon thereafter, NDA convener George Fernandes and Union External Affairs and Defence Minister Jaswant Singh went into a huddle and drafted a resolution for the consideration of all the coalition partners.

Interestingly, the Shiv Sena was conspicuous by its absence at the NDA meeting. The NDA meeting was convened at short notice in the wake of Mr Vajpayee’s proposal to quit at the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party held here yesterday because of his inability to have the coalition government function in a coherent and disciplined manner.

The second para of the resolution adopted by the NDA assumes significance as it draws attention to the “irresponsible actions and behaviour of some individuals which gives an impression of a lack of cohesiveness in our alliance.”

It was a direct pointer to Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and some hardliners in the Sangh Parivar pursuing the Swadeshi and Hidutva agenda besides hurling allegations against the PMO to embarrass the Prime Minister.

Sensing the turn of events at the NDA meeting, the Shiv Sena absented itself as its presence would have amounted to acknowledging that it was indulging in making statements inimical to Mr Vajpayee and the PMO.

Embroiled as he is in Maharashtra politics, Mr Thackeray is believed to be putting pressure on the Prime Minister for an additional berth in the Union Cabinet. Mr Vajpayee could not oblige the Shiv Sena as the compulsions of the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh compelled him to induct only RLD leader Ajit Singh in the government in the recent expansion-cum-reshuffle of his Union Council of Ministers.

Authoritative sources said during his telephonic talk with Mr Vajpayee last evening, Mr Thackeray assured to rein in his Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Nirupam. Simultaneously, the Shiv Sena supremo is believed to have sought Mr Vajpayee’s good offices in seeing the back of the Congress-NCP coalition government in Mumbai.

Clearly, Mr Thackeray’s calculations are to somehow have a Shiv Sena-BJP government installed in Maharashtra despite the crucial arithmetic being stacked heavily against this combination.

The proposed code of conduct might well be the first step for the NDA partners to adhere to what is described as the “canons of coalition politics.” At the same time it is unlikely that despite Mr Vajpayee’s entreaties, the pinpricks and irritants from either the Shiv Sena chief or the hawks in the Sangh Parivar will fade away.Back

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