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Vajpayee government may last full term - Business Standard

David Devadas ()
March 12, 1998

Title: Vajpayee government may last full term
Author: David Devadas
Publication: Business Standard
Date: March 12, 1998

I wouldn't be surprised if Mr Vajpayee's government lasts its
full term. Almost 400 of the new members were not in the last
House, and there's no guarantee that as many would not be
replaced next time. The wife of one member says her husband
borrowed Rs 40 lakh to win, and he is surely not the only one.
It takes time to recoup such investments. So the bottomline for
most members, whatever their politics, is to avoid another round
of elections. And it's as clear as daylight that the non-BJP
alternative would be less stable than this one. Mr Vajpayee
already has the support of 265 members, and his party should win
the Patna scat in early April. Plus, Mr Sukh Ram may win the
Mandi seat and add his support. Plus, the TDP's dozen could turn
into full scale supporters, perhaps along with Mr Ola and three
or four of the Bahujan Samaj Party's five.

Those already on board are in any case a far more encouraging
number than Mr Rao had in June 1991. With just 237 supporters,
he sailed merrily along, while making radical policy changes, for
two years before he managed a majority. Mr Vajpayee may not be as
shrewd as Mr Rao but he has as much political experience, and is
taking care to tread as cautiously as he can. He intends not to
touch anything unacceptable to his allies - or even, if he can
possibly help it, to his antagonists. Plus, all the resources of
the vast Sangh family are being devoted to sustain his
government. Mr Vajpayee's status as the darling of the
establishment is unlikely to change and he will no doubt have the
fullest support of most officials, and of the other organs of the

His backers will no doubt create suitable conditions in a few
months for him to sack the Tamil Nadu and Bihar governments. That
would keep Ms Jayalalitha and Mr George Fernandes happy, and
serve another important purpose for at the Centre: help to change
the complexion of the Rajya Sabha when biennial elections are
held in two years to replace a third of its members. Until then
at least, the Rajya Sabha will be the danger zone for Mr
Vajpayee's government, for the BJP and its allies will be
hopelessly outnumbered there. However, the fever of antagonism is
unlikely to rise for the first year or so, and Mr Vajpayee can
postpone bills that may be unpopular.

In two years, the BJP and its allies should gain ground in many
state assemblies. Uttar Pradesh will be asked to elect a new
assembly as soon as the party is sure it can win a majority
alone. The administration will be in its hands this time, and
these recent elections have demonstrated the importance of that
for winning a few more seats than a party might otherwise have.
(I'm talking not only of UP, but also of Andhra, Bihar and

The Madhya Pradesh assembly should also see a sea change after
the elections that are due there this November. One estimate says
the BJP led in 232 of the 320 assembly segments in this round.
That points to a two-thirds majority. The BJP-Lok Shakti alliance
has demonstrated its strength in Karnataka, and should gain
numbers from the Janata Dal well before the assembly elections,
due there late next year. And Mr Chandrababu Naidu is already
steering his Telugu Desam, subtly but surely, towards an alliance
with the BJP for Andhra, which is also due for elections late
next year.

The United Front is unlikely to last once Mr Naidu leaves it. The
Asom Gana Parishad is set to precede him into the BJP fold. Mr
Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr G K Moopanar are sure to steer their
parties closer to the Congress. And, faced with Ms Jayalalitha's
attachment to the BJP, the DMK will have no choice but to follow
suit. The rump of the Janata Dal will most likely follow Mr
Naidu's example, specially since the leading Yadav politicians of
UP and Bihar will be on the other side.

The Left parties will no doubt be pushed by Mr Yadav and Mr
Moopanar into some sort of strategic partnership with the
Congress. That will help the BJP to retain the support of Ms
Mamata Banerjee, who leads seven members in the new blouse.

To top that the BJP's managers will surely try after a few months
to split the Congress party in Parliament, if only to be on the
safe side. That will be a tough task but not impossible, given
the fault lines within that party. A number of Congress leaders
are uneasy about the impact of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's emergence on
their careers. An even larger number is dismayed that Mr Sharad
Pawar is the only powerful leader in the new Parlimentary party.
If Mrs Gandhi backs him as the leader of the party in Parliament,
and gives. him an important say in decision making, a number of
other leaders may gang up against both of them. If she chooses
to concentrate, power in her own hands and this seems likely Mr
Pawar will be unhappy.

That could be dangerous for the integrity of the Congress. Mr
Pawar knows this Parliament is likeliest springboard to, power
and will not take marginal isation lying down. If any Congress
leader can split the parliamentary party, it is Mr Pawar. The BJP
would surely be delighted to gain Mr Pawar as an. ally. It could
then part company with the often troublesome Shiv Sena. In the
long term, that is the one party the BJP cannot afford to
strengthen. For the Sena uses the same tactics as the BJP, to
appeal to the same sort of voter, only more blatantly, more

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