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Desperate BJP scouts for more allies

By Nistula Hebbar in New Delhi
May 12, 2004 09:17 IST
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The Bharatiya Janata Party's middle-rung management is determined to form a National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre and is currently involved in pressuring Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to alter his stated position that he would prefer to sit in the Opposition if the alliance gets less than 250 seats in the Lok Sabha.

The party is working on the premise that it may have to form a minority government and is evaluating strategy from that point of view.

Currently managers are involved in making a crucial choice between picking up more seats to make up the shortfall caused by the debacle in Andhra Pradesh through the 'retail' or the 'wholesale' route.

The middle-rung's advice is that 'wholesale' cherrypicking of allies could be a better option, given that the NDA would prefer to see itself as a compact, watertight alliance rather than a disparate one cobbling together parties just to reach Raisina Hill.

One 'wholesale' ally could be one of the two Uttar Pradesh biggies: the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The BJP appears to be more comfortable with Mayawati's BSP. However, Mayawati is reported to have let the BJP know that the price for her support would be, among other things, more strident criticism by the BJP of the Mulayam Singh Yadav dispensation in UP.

In plain language this means she would eventually like to see the UP government dismissed.

The thinking in the BJP is that before seeking out any allies in UP, they should first make sure that they do a deal with the bigger of the two parties -- SP and BSP -- something that will be known only after the counting is over.

"As of now matters are just exploratory in UP, we want to wait till results are announced to go in for an alliance," said a party leader.

Another likely ally is the Asom Gana Parishad.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been asked to talk to the party in case it performs well on May 13. "Other north-eastern parties are expected to join the NDA coalition," said the leader.

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Nistula Hebbar in New Delhi