Thursday, April 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Let TDP part ways, feels BJP section
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
With the Telugu Desam party (TDP) finding itself at a loose end in seeing the back of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a powerful section in the BJP believes that the regional party is free to part ways with the NDA if it so desires.

This section insists that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu cannot hobnob with the Congress and other Opposition parties on the issue of Mr Modi’s dismissal while professing to extend outside support to the Atal Behari Vajpayee government at the Centre.

Taking up the BJP’s cause, Union Rural Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu is believed to have categorically told the TDP MPs in Parliament that the Vajpayee government is prepared for a snap general election in the worst case scenario. Mr Naidu emphasised that the TDP must decide whether it is with the BJP-led NDA or not.

He accused the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister of taking a stand without leaving any escape route even though Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had telephoned Mr Chandrababu Naidu and apprised him of the situation and the decision taken at the just concluded National Executive of the BJP in Goa.

Mr Venkaiah Naidu took exception to Mr Chandrababu Naidu adopting a nonchalant attitude to the invitation extended to him by Mr Vajpayee to come to the national capital for discussions. The Union Minister impressed upon the TDP MPs that even now the situation could be retrieved but the ball is in Mr Chandrababu Naidu’s court.

Clearly, both the BJP and TDP are involved in their own political gamesmanship. It is contended by the BJP that for once, the shrewd and wily Mr Chandrababu Naidu has got himself entrapped in the effort to catch the imagination of his constituents.

There are ample indications that pressure is mounting on the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister to end the TDP’s alliance with the BJP, though Mr Chandrababu Naidu is not known to take such political decisions in a jiffy. Significantly, the TDP’s biannual “Mahanadu” or “grand assembly” scheduled to be held in all the 294 Assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh is fixed for May 27.

As of now, it appears that both the BJP and the TDP are biding for time. The TDP Parliamentary Party has expressed happiness that the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat has deferred dissolving the assembly and going in for fresh elections.

The TDP just as other formation in Parliament is acutely aware that even if it withdraws support to the Vajpayee government, there is no threat to the NDA government in terms of the critical arithmetic. And in any case the Bahujan Samaj Party and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK are anxiously waiting in the sidelines to jump on to the NDA bandwagon.

Mr Chandrababu Naidu, with a solid block of 28 MPs in the Lok Sabha, has had a field day all along in securing his pound of flesh from the Centre for Andhra Pradesh. If the Chief Minister calls it quits now with Assembly elections due in 2004, the Centre’s more than benevolent attitude towards Andhra Pradesh may come crashing down.

At the same time, Ms Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is keenly watching the developments. She is in constant touch with Mr Chandrababu Naidu in Hyderabad and has expressed her unqualified support to the Andhra Pradesh chief in whatever decision he takes.

The TDP MPs in Parliament are a sullen lot unable to speak their mind to their leader in Hyderabad. Like their colleagues in all the other parties and groups in Parliament, the TDP MPs are against a snap election especially as the TDP’s popularity graph in Andhra Pradesh is on the wane. 

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