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TDP majority against support to Congress - The Observer

K Sreedhar Rao ()
March 6, 1998

Title: TDP majority against support to Congress
Author: K Sreedhar Rao
Publication: The Observer
Date: March 6, 1998

Majority of the newly-elected Telugu Desam Party MPs, at a
meeting convened by party leader N Chandrababu Naidu here on
Thursday evening, endorsed the party's decision not to support
the Congress.

Mr Naidu, who chaired the meeting. later told the Press that a
final decision on the future course of action will be taken only
after the elections in Jammu and Kashmir are over. Mr Naidu, who
has already been authorised by the party's politburo to take a
final decision, is expected to declare whether his party will
support the BJP-led coalition, or stay neutral inside the
Parliament, by March 10. He is also expected to leave for New
Delhi on Friday for consultations with UF leaders. Earlier on
Wednesday, a section of the TDP politburo favoured the view of
facilitating the installation of a BJP-led coalition Government,
if need be with Invisible support.

Yet, given the divergent opinions expressed at the meeting as
also the danger of losing the support base of Muslims, Mr Naidu
postponed a decision.

The marathon two-phase session of the TDP politburo held at the
Chief Minister's residence carried on into midnight, while Mr
Naidu tried to assess the political impact that a decision
supporting the BJP would have on his own party, in view of the
State Assembly elections scheduled for 1999.

Mr Naidu was, however, under pressure from his party colleagues
including some newly elected members to extend support to the BJP
so as to keep in tune with the public mood and sentiment.

He expressed his displeasure against CPI (M) general secretary
Harkishan Singh Surjeet for coming out with his plan without
taking Front constituents into confidence and indicated the same
to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister S Jaipal Reddy.

Mr Naidu reportedly also told DMK leaders that they could not
face the people if they supported a Congress-led Government.
Even at the core committee meeting of the UF, Mr Naidu is
expected to raise these issues. He is also said to have been
displeased by Mr Surjeet's and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav's defence
of UP Governor Romesh Bhandari's actions. Bypassed on these
important issues, Mr Naidu is also said to be entertaining the
idea of leaving the UF.

He reportedly made it clear to Mr Jaipal Reddy that he would not
support the Congress as it would create problems for him in the
State politically. And if the UF again tried to prevent the BJP
>from forming the Government, they would lose the sympathy of the
people, Mr Naidu felt.

A senior party TDP leader, who is also a politburo member, told
this newspaper that the TDP was prepared to sit in the Opposition
without supporting any combination. The second alternative
conceived was to support BJP from outside by abstaining from the
vote of confidence and extending support as and when issues

Most members preferred the second option, as they felt that it
would benefit the state in the long run politically and

According to party sources, some party leaders had suggested that
TDP insist that BJP drop issues like Ayodhya, Article 370 and
Uniform Civil Code as a precondition for extending support.

TDP leaders also dwelt at length on the dangers of extending
support to the Congress, especially in view of their loss
politically after the formation and fall of two successive UF
governments. The Muslim factor also came up for discussions. A
section of the TDP refused to believe that Muslims would vote for
TDP en bloc. They cited voting trends indicating that the Muslim
had voted for Congress throughout coastal AP and that in other
parts of the State, the voting pattern was divided between the

Some leaders, particularly legislators from Guntur where the
Telugu Desam was totally washed out, sent a message to Mr Naidu
through a minister to support the BJP. Meanwhile, the state BJP
leaders are none too happy with the developments. The BJP ran a
tirade against the Telugu Desam president during electioneering
and seemed unable to digest the fast changing political scenario.

Even though they had sent indirect feelers to Mr Naidu local BJP
leaders feel that an understanding with Telugu Desam would sound
the death knell for the BJP in the State.

The BJP is trying grow as a alternative to both Telugu Desam and
congress and feels that this move would push the party back to
the days of the NTR-BJP alliance in 1985; NTR had occupied the
vacuum created by Congress by stepping on BJP and likewise Mr
Naidu could do the same now.

In a significant development leading Telugu daily Eenadu, a
strong TDP sympathiser advocated that TDP extend support to BJP
at the Centre which promised stable government. It called upon Mr
Naidu to take a quick decision and suggested that TDP give
outside support to a BJP government.

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