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It's advantage BJP in last round of polls - The Indian Express

Neerja Chowdhury ()
February 26, 1998

Title: It's advantage BJP in last round of polls
Author: Neerja Chowdhury
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 26, 1998

The fallout of last week's political nautanki in Uttar Pradesh,
which has delineated post-poll alignments in the country, is a
mixed bag.

In the short run, the unhappy events in UP have broken the
momentum that was being built by Sonia Gandhi. Bharatiya Janata
Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Atal Behari Vajpayee
has dominated the small screen for the last one week, relegating
Sonia to the backseat in an election which is influenced by TV to
a very large extent.

It is a widely held view that these events must have had the
approval of 10, Janpath, given the pre-eminent position Sonia now
enjoys in the Congress.

Moreover, UP has been an area of special interest to her, being
the home State of the Gandhi-Nehru family.

The projection of Jagdambika Pal, a protege of Arjun Singh, as
Chief Minister in preference to Naresh Aggarwal, helped reinforce
this impression, since Arjun is close to 10, Janpath.

UP may well influence the undecided voter in favour of the BJP in
the last round of polls on February 28 due in States like Madhya
Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Ohm, where the party has high
stakes.

Public memory being what it is, the recent sins of Romesh
Bhandari will tend to cover those committed by the BJP four
months ago.

The non-BJP parties mounted an operation which was hamhanded. The
main point they wanted to make, that the BJP was not capable of
running a Government for long, fell flat, with the intervention
of the courts.

In the long run, the lineup that took place on February 21 in
Lucknow spells trouble for Kalyan Singh.

The floor test tomorrow will only be the beginning of his woes.
>From now on he will have to rule looking over his shoulder all
the time to ensure that the Loktantrik's obile MLAs do not go
astray again.

There is a view in the party that if he crosses the Thursday
hurdle, Kalyan should seek a fresh mandate and that this would be
a cleaner option for the party already facing flak for the
unprincipled manner in which it formed a Government in Lucknow
four months ago. As days go by, the party will face increasing
pressure from its constituency of the middle class.

But an early poll is not much of an option for Kalyan. It is
bound to bring together the Congress-SP-BSP on a common platform
next time and the seeds for this alliance were sown last week.
Such a tie-up would have the BJP on the run in UP.

Kalyan's task is going to get increasingly difficult as time goes
by. After all, Naresh Aggarwal jumped to the other side, because
he was unhappy with the Chief Minister's "arrogant" style of
functioning.

With a reputation for being personally clean, Kalyan is known to
be "tough and inflexible", a euphemism for not allowing his
Cabinet colleagues who broke away from the Congress "a free hand"
to rule in the inimitable style they are used to.

Kalyan will, therefore. have to contend with the pressures from
his colleagues which will require all his skills at realpolitik
on the one hand, and pulls from the party high command, which is
chary of going the whole hog with "pragmatic" politics because of
the ignominy it invites for the party.

If there is one episode which has cost the BJP its USP, it is the
jumbo Cabinet of Kalyan, containing defectors and history-
sheeters.

Aware that he may be in trouble before long, Kalyan had wanted to
do business with Ajit Singh, which would have ensured him the
support of eight more MLAs of the Bharatiya Kisan Kamgar Party
(BKKP).

But the central leadership ruled otherwise with Advani allotting
party ticket to Som Pal against Ajit Singh in Baghpat. The talks
with the BKKP leader fell through, naturally.


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