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BJP's nonchalance and Cong. reluctance forced Jaya climb-down - The Observer

N Sathiya Moorthy ()
July 8, 1998

Title: BJP's nonchalance and Cong. reluctance forced Jaya climb-down
Author: N Sathiya Moorthy
Publication: The Observer
Date: July 8, 1998

The 'resigned casualness' of the BJP, possible splits in the
AIADMK party as also the alliance, and the Congress'
unwillingness to form an alternative Government particularly with
her party in it. were all behind the AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha's
climb-down and her decision to support the Vajpayee Government,
according to Informed sources.

"She got the message a little too late for a face-saving, but the
BJP was resigned to its fate early in the current round," says
the source. "It was a policy, but might have also been a
strategy, but the BJP leadership decided early that it would not
yield further ground to the AIADMK. With the Congress unwilling
to take the risk, Jayalalitha did precisely what she had snubbed
alliance partner Vazhappadi Ramamurthy for, only a week earlier."

The sources also deny that any kind of a 'deal' had been struck
when Jayalalitha met Union Coal Minister Dilip Ray, and Defence
Minister George Fernandes, separately on Saturday. "If anything,
her party's announcement on returning to Parliament and
continuing to support the Vajpayee Government preceded the two

The source also faults the timing of Jayalalitha's meeting with
Buta Singh the same day. "If she thought that she would either
threaten or confuse the BJP leadership, she was mistaken. They
were no more interested in keeping the Government, and might have
been happier going back to the people, as the 'champions' of
principled politics.

Indications are that Jayalalitha's move was only a 'strategic
retreat', not 'total surrender'. In this contact, however, the
sources concede that the intervention of George Fernandes and
Akali Dal leader Surjit Singh Barnala would have a 'sobering'

"As friends of the ruling DMK, they, alongwith Telugu Desam
supremo N Chandrababu Naidu, had ensured that the Tamil Nadu
Government would not be dismissed. Now it is also up to them to
work out a via-media for Jayalalitha to feel less threatened by
the DMK regime, for her to leave the BJP in peace."

According to these sources, there was no question of any senior
BJP leader visiting Chennai for formal talks with Jayalalitha.
"That, if at all, will have to await her own visit to Delhi, to
hold talks with them." She would be received courteously, and
heard in patience. "Nothing more, nothing less," he adds, in an
obvious reference to the pending cases against the AIADMK supremo
and senior aides.

When the chips were nearly down, Jayalalitha discovered that the
Congress, and not the AIADMK, which could decide the fate of the
Vajpayee Government. She also discerned that not all her allies,
not even the once-loyal Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) with four
MPs, would stay with the AIADMK if she decided to part company
with the BJP.

"There were also open talks of desertions from the AIADMK's ranks
of Lok Sabha members," says the source. "Though nothing could be
confirmed, nothing could be ruled out, either. Even an AIADMK
withdrawal of support might have turn out to be a damp squib
under the circumstances. The price that AIADMK leadership would
have to pay for it would have been much heavier than others could

Jayalalitha was possibly misled by her advisors, both within and
outside the party. "Those inside feared the Karunanidhi
Government, and those outside had their own personal agendas,"
the source says adding, "By the time she discovered the truth,
she could do nothing but a climb-down, as the BJP by then had
lost its patience and hopes, and was resigned to its fate"

If Jayalalitha had withdrawn support, says the source, Vajpayee
might have happily walked to the 'Rashtrapati Bhavan', and laid
all his cards open before the President. Then it would have been
for the latter to decide on the future course, in which the
AIADMK would have been rendered quite irrelevant, adds he.'

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