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HVK Archives: Longer innings for Vajpayee this time

Longer innings for Vajpayee this time - Free Press Journal

Virendra Kapoor ()
March 25, 1998

Title: Longer innings for Vajpayee this time
Author: Virendra Kapoor
Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: March 25, 1998

Mulayam Singh Yadav and other professional secularists
notwithstanding, Atal Behari Vajpayee's second innings as Prime
Minister will be much longer than his first in June 1996. That is
one prediction which is least likely to go wrong in these
politically uncertain times. For to repeat the thirteen- day
fiasco of a Vajpayee-led administration yet again would
inevitably result in foisting the thirteenth parliamentary
election on the country sooner than later.

Newly-elected members, including Yadav himself who no more has
the controversial occupant in the Lucknow Raj Bhawan to bail him
out of a tough electoral battle, cannot be expected to terminate
their parliamentary careers even before they have had the
opportunity to savour the perks and privileges of being hon'ble

The self-serving secular-communal divide in the polity, which
provided the ideological fig leaf to the hastily launched United
Front to grab power in the last hung Lok Sabha, is bound to
disappear once the Vajpayee Government consolidates its position
after winning the all-important trust vote later this week.

Ironically, the final hurdle in Vajpayee's ascendancy to the
prime ministerial 'gaddi' was removed the moment Sonia Gandhi
reclaimed the control of the Congress Party for the Nehru- Gandhi
family. Left to himself Sitaram Kesri would have done his worst
to realise his belated dream to become prime minister. With the
self-professed purveyors of secularism like Yadav and his Marxist
mentor Harkishan Singh Sujreet able and willing to do a deal with
him, yet another farcical attempt at government-making was bound
to be tried, albeit in reverse order with the UF supporting a
Congress Government from outside this time. Surjeet's war cry to
stop the communal BJP from coming to power at all costs however
failed to rally the non BJP forces.

There was much confusion in the United Front itself with
Surjeet's own party, CPI(M), rapping him on the knuckles for
having spoken out of turn. Yet as the BJP fell tantalisingly
short of a simple majority, the nascent moves for a UF-Congress
understanding on government formation were revived.

And these might well have succeeded were it not for the ill-
mannered coup that Sonia Gandhi's cohorts in the Congress Party
mounted successfully against Kesri. Kesri found himself hounded
out of the Congress President's office. The legatee of the Nehru-
Gandhi family had come forward to reclaim what she considered the
precious family heirloom. She was now the sole leader of the
Congress Party.

Pawar's ambition

The Maratha chieftain, Sharad Pawar, too had begun to entertain
the ambition of ruling India after the relatively good showing of
the Congress Party in the parliamentary polls in his State. But
he too found himself cut to size when after mercilessly ejecting
Kesri out of the Congress President's office, Sonia Gandhi denied
Pawar the chance to become the leader of the Congress
Parliamentary Party. In one fell swoop, Rajiv Gandhi's widow had
put paid to the ambitions of several Congress leaders to wield
ministerial power.

Henceforth she would be the supreme boss of the Congress. Party a
la Indira Gandhi. Since she wasn't ready as yet to become prime
minister herself, there was no way she would countenance a lesser
Congress leader to occupy that exalted slot. So she went and
told the President, K. R. Narayanan, that her party was ready
to sit in the opposition. Pronto, the way was cleared for Atal
Behari to take his 'baari' at playing the chief executive officer
of the land!

Sonia Gandhi's bloodless coup not only helped establish her vice-
like grip over the Congress Party, but it also prevented much
blood-letting. For without her intervention a bitter leadership
struggle would have left the Congress Party badly mauled. Both
Pawar and Kesri were desperate to lead the CPP. Both wanted to
stitch up a governmental alliance with the support of the United

Pawar reportedly had his pipeline open to a sullen Jayalalitha
whose amour proper was hurt when other leaders of the BJP led
alliance failed to treat her like the imperious empress she is
prone, to play in Tamil Nadu.

But much to the chagrin of Kesri and Pawar, Sonia Gandhi's coming
nipped these moves in the bud. The Congress Party was spared a
bitter leadership struggle and a still-born Vajpayee Government
was able to emerge from the incubator after Jayalalitha came
forward to breathe life into it.

Even as the advent of the Vajpayee Government helped to unite the
Congress Party under its newly-anointed supreme leader, it
virtually sounded the death-knell of the United Front. Despite
the brave talk by Surjeet and Yaday, it is highly unlikely that
the UF would survive in its present form after the Vajpayee
Government had won the vote of confidence later this week.
Already, the Asom Gana Parishad was knocking at the door of the
BJP for an electoral alliance.

The AGP may have failed to win a single seat in the Lok Sabha but
for the sake of its survival in the coming Assembly poll in the
State it was ready to dump the 'secular' UF in order to enter
into an electoral alliance with the 'communal' BJP Without the
BJP, the AGP stood no chance of worsting the Congress Party in
the Assembly poll due in the near future. Ditto for the Telugu
Desam Party.

UF's relevance questioned

Because Chandrababu Naidu has a dozen MPs and Prafulla Mahanta
none, the former's cosying up to the BJP is being made out to be
a treacherous act by, the secularist brigade. However, insofar as
in the post-poll situation both leader have questioned the very
relevance of the, UF, their crime is the same.

Given the pull of power, there is every likelihood of several
minor groups gravitating towards the ruling BJP-led alliance in
the coming months once the latter has crossed the psychological
hurdle of the confidence vote. If Narasimha Rao's minority
government with only 231 members to begin with could stay afloat
for a full five-year term, the Vajpayee Government with 264
members wasn't in such a hope less situation as was being made
out by its secularist baiters.

The more important question that should engage the attention of
Vajpayee was not about the survival of the Government but about
its ability to deliver. That he made a false start when against
his better-judgement he allowed the voodoo economists of the
Swadeshi variety to 'drop' Jaswant Singh from his Cabinet is
undeniable He has retrieved the situation somewhat by making
Singh the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. But the
Prime minister is credited with the view that Singh alone fills
the bill as Finance Minister, And he seeks to install him as one
soon after the biennial elections to the Rajya-Sabha from
Rajasthan in June. Hope fully, Vajpayee would have his way
despite the Swadeshi naysayers. That alone -would send the signal
that he is his own boss in the Government headed by him.

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