Tuesday, April 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

NDA crisis blows over
PM thanks Naidu on phone for continued support
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
In a determined bid not to alienate the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee telephoned Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu today to express his gratitude for the regional party’s continued support to the BJP-led NDA.

The Gujarat Cabinet will decide on Wednesday whether or not to recommend dissolution of the state Assembly and fresh poll, state BJP General Secretary Nalin Bhatt said in Gandhinagar on Monday.

Mr Vajpayee’s fire-fighting operations to keep the trusted TDP with a solid block of 28 seats in the Lok Sabha on his government’s side has earned the NDA a direly needed reprieve. The TDP is supporting the Vajpayee government from outside and has literally kept the NDA afloat all along.

That has brought to nought intense speculation that the TDP might withdraw support to the NDA if the BJP did not replace Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has been in the eye of a storm since the Godhra carnage of February 27 and the subsequent communal riots.

The Prime Minister apprised Mr Naidu of his party’s stand on the continuance, or otherwise, of Mr Modi as Chief Minister and maintained that directions had been given to maintain communal harmony in Gujarat. Mr Vajpayee sought to put the record straight that neither the BJP nor any constituent of the NDA had belittled the criticality of the TDP in ensuring the stability of the Vajpayee government.

Simultaneously, Union Defence Minister George Fernandes, who is also convener of the NDA, met TDP Parliamentary Party leader Yerran Naidu during the day and emphasised that the coalition government was not veering away from the National Agenda of Governance (NDA).

On his part, Mr Yerran Naidu expressed the TDP’s disapproval of the manner in which Mr Modi had handled the situation in Gujarat and regretted that the communally surcharged atmosphere in Gujarat had not been brought under control even six weeks after the torching of Ram sevaks on February 27.

Mr Yerran Naidu reiterated the TDP’s demand that Mr Modi should be sent packing as Chief Minister as the issue at stake was maintaining the secular fabric of the country. He also said that his party was against holding Assembly elections in the immediate future as going through with the democratic process at this juncture would be nothing short of a sham.

The BJP-led NDA and the TDP are involved in their own brand of political brinkmanship, with both keen to finding a face-saving device. Highly placed BJP sources said they appreciated the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s compulsions, considering the fact that the minorities constituted nearly 15 per cent of the population of the southern state.

Sources in the TDP said the BJP leadership sought to impress upon them that by demanding Mr Modi’s head, they were virtually playing into the hands of their main enemy — the Congress. At the same time, they affirmed that the TDP had not even considered withdrawing support to the Vajpayee government.

The TDP prides itself on being a secular party and it is contended that it cannot ally itself with any party or grouping which deliberately targets the minorities or follows the ideology of the RSS or the Vishva Hindu Parishad.

As TDP supremo, Mr Chandrababu Naidu would rather go slow on the Lok Sabha Speakership after the death of G M C Balayogi in a helicopter crash last month. Even though the Speakership has been offered once again to the TDP, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister might rather wait for a conducive climate before deciding on it.Back


TDP firm on Modi’s removal

Hyderabad, April 15
Keeping his political options close to his chest, TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu today vowed to continue his fight for the removal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the interests of protecting the “national pride and secular values”.

Mr Naidu, however, remained non-committal on the question of his party withdrawing support to the NDA government on the issue, saying that “We are watching the situation from time to time. We will let you know”.

To persistent queries by reporters on the options before his party in the wake of the BJP’s blunt rejection of the demand for change of guard in Gujarat, he said: “We have taken a principled stand. There is no change in it. We will continue to raise them in Parliament”.

Asked what could be the logical conclusion to his party’s stand-off with the BJP on Gujarat, he said “You are interested in the logical conclusion and I am interested in solving the problems”.

When pointed out that the BJP leadership had categorically rejected his repeated demand for Mr Modi’s replacement, the TDP supremo said “In politics, every party will have its own stand. They (BJP) have to address all these things”.

Taking potshots at the BJP for suggesting that Gujarat’s leadership issue was its internal matter and had nothing to do with the NDA, he said “It is not correct. What has happened in Gujarat is an issue of national importance as the country’s interests, pride, image and secular values are involved here”.

Asserting that his party was “not interested in power” and its outside support to the NDA government was based on strict adherence to secularism, the Chief Minister said he would continue to “Fight till the change of leadership was effected” in Gujarat. PTIBack

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