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Vajpayee magic crosses Vindhyas - The Economic Times

P R Ramesh ()
February 3, 1998

Title: Vajpayee magic crosses Vindhyas
Author: P R Ramesh
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: February 3, 1998

The 'Vajpayee magic' and an alliance that has defied the
perception that its electoral appeal was limited to the northern
states, appear to have given the BJP a firm foothold in Tamil
Nadu.

The BJP's top two - Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee Mr L K Advani - who
participated at the AIADMK-led front's rally in Chennai's Marina
Beach on Sunday have reasons to feel happy as it was the first
formal occasion where its allies (who represent different
interest groups in the state) came upfront in the defence of its
agenda and in support of its claim to form the next government at
the Centre.

Encouraged by the tremendous response in Andhra Pradesh and
Karnataka, the two leaders predicted that he wind that has
started blowing from the south is sure to catapult the party to
power=94. The rally at Hyderabad, the leaders said, indicated a
perceptible change in favour of the BJP.

Mr Advani, who described the alliance in Tamil Nadu as
significant, said the political deal that his party has struck in
Tamil Nadu has kicked the bottom off the thesis that the BJP's
agenda has no takers in the Dravidian land. "It has smashed the
artificial north-south divide created by our adversaries, " Mr
Advani said.

The BJP's willingness to do business with the regional
formations in the state is significant for two other reasons. For
one, its adversaries have been terming its electoral success as
one that points to Hindu pervasiveness in India. The past
"divisive" agenda of the party, which made this charge sound
credible has been a major impediment for its growth.

For another, the wholehearted support extended to the BJP's claim
for the seat of power at the Centre by parties like the MDMK,
which still has strong Dravidian moorings, is sure to show that
the portrayal of the BJP as seriously threatening the secular
tradition of democracy is exaggerated.

On its part, the BJP - which senses that it is the local issues
and appeals along narrowly defined ethnic and other similar
considerations that are more effective - has been expressing its
willingness to work in the new milieu.

At the Chennai rally, both leaders of the BJP, who rammed in this
point frequently, also assured their audience that the regional
aspirations would get priority in their dispensation.

The 'Vajpayee magic' appears to be another factor that is giving
the party the extra push. The milling crowds, who welcomed Mr
Vajpayee with full-throated zindabads at the Chennai rally on
Sunday clearly indicated that he has become the most acceptable
face in the run-up to the election.

Mr Vajpayee, who struck an emotional chord with the audience when
he recalled his association with Anna Durai and various other
leaders of the state also took care to reciprocate their
feelings.

"I am proud to associate myself with a formation founded by a
patriot, Anna Durai," he said.

The leaders of the combine, on their part, lapped up the
endurability of the BJP's prime ministerial nominee's image.

The BJP leaders also made it a point to assert their fidelity
towards the combine. Mr Vajpayee and Advani, who stressed that
political expediency was not the consideration that led the party
to wrap up a deal with the southern parties, said that the BJP
would live up to the agreement.

In the neighbouring Karnataka, the party is expecting a political
windfall. With the Janata Dal in the state, which had replaced
the Congress(I) as the principal force facing an organisational
meltdown, the party expects challenge only from the Congress(l)
in most of the seats.

The tie-up with Mr RK Hedge, it is hoped, would bring in the
influential Lingayat community to its fold.


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