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The rightful claimant - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
March 4, 1998

Title: The rightful claimant
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 4, 1998

If any party can claim to have the mandate to form a government
at the Centre, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party. It has not only
emerged as the single largest party but, together with its
allies, it needs the support of a little less than 30 more MPs
whereas the next party, the Congress, requires thrice that
number. Therefore, any attempt by any other party to form a
government will be a negation of the people's mandate. In the
given situation, the President has no option but to invite the
BJP to form a government. While it is for the BJP to find the new
supporters who can keep it in power, the party cannot lose sight
of the fact that its performance in the just-concluded elections
has not been all that spectacular. The party mainly has its
regional allies to thank for its present achievement. As a single
party, it has improved its position only by about a dozen seats.
It is indeed doubtful whether it could have got those extra seats
without its spectacular piggyback ride in Tamil Nadu, West
Bengal, Punjab, Orissa and, to a lesser extent, in Andhra Pradesh
and Karnataka. In fact, in states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra
where the party has been in power, it suffered a major setback
but for which it would have got an absolute majority in the 12th
Lok Sabha. This conforms to the party's tradition of never
winning a second time in succession in a state. Even in Uttar
Pradesh, where the situation was ideal for the BJP to sweep the
polls because of the likely split in anti-BJP votes, it just
managed to maintain its 1996 tally. The implication of the
verdict is that the BJP has little to gloat over. A lesson that
can safely be drawn from the verdict is that the voters' mandate
is not exactly for the BJP's election manifesto. For instance, on
the contentious issues of Mandir, Article 370 and a uniform civil
code, the BJP and some of its allies like the AIADMK, the Samata
Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Akali Dal have
contradictory viewpoints. Some of them. like the AIADMK have
even asked the BJP to put such issues on the back burner in order
to get on with the job of providing a stable government.
Besides, one of its traditional allies, the Samata Party, has
insisted on a common minimum programme to enable the party to
join a BJP-led government. Thus the BJP will not be in a position
to pursue any of its distinctive manifesto-related programmes
that will set it apart from the rest of the political spectrum.
That it is capable of doing so was proved during its 13-day
regime in 1996 when it did not refer to any of these vexing

The BJP's success will depend to a large extent on how it is able
to work with its allies. For the present, the preeminent party
has two options. It can either follow the Uttar Pradesh pattern
to prove its majority or win the confidence of a large section of
the people by providing a clean and effective government. The
drubbing it received in Rajasthan and Maharashtra should serve as
a warning that the people cannot be taken for granted. They will
be watching with bated breath to see how it cobbles together a
workable majority. The methods it employs for this purpose will
have a bearing on the kind of government it provides to the
nation. On that hinges its government's success and longevity.

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