Coming closer to the BJP

Print edition : September 11, 1999

THE Telugu Desam Party is going to the polls again with the Bharatiya Janata Party as an alliance partner after the gap of a decade. The two parties and the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) fought against the Congress(I ) in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections and in the 1985 and 1989 Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh.

After the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992, the TDP distanced itself from the BJP and moved closer to the Left parties. However, with the fall of two successive United Front governments, in the formation of which TDP leader and Chief Mi nister N. Chandrababu Naidu had played a key role, the TDP performed a somersault by extending "conditional and issue-based support" to the BJP-led coalition government that was formed after the 1998 elections. BJP leaders acknowledge his gesture with gr atitude. Critical of the TDP's stance, the Left parties parted ways with it.

MOHAMMED YOUSUF

The Congress(I) and the Left parties condemned the TDP's volte-face as opportunistic and as damaging to the secular fabric of the nation. Chandrababu Naidu, however, explained that the collapse of the United Front had narrowed his choice to either the Congress(I) or the BJP. As the TDP was founded on an anti-Congress plank, he opted for the BJP. He believed that if the Congress(I) came to power at the Centre, it would queer the pitch for his government in Andhra Pradesh.

Leaders of the TDP claimed that by not joining the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government or the coordination panel of the BJP and its allies, their party had refused to dilute its commitment to secularism. For the same reason, they say, the TDP still does not want to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), or a government it may form.

What then will be the TDP's role if the elections yield a hung Parliament? In the first place, TDP insiders discount the possibility of a hung Lok Sabha; they insist that Vajpayee will be re-elected Prime Minister with a bigger mandate. The TDP will cont inue to extend issue-based and conditional support to his Government without prejudice to its commitment to secularism and the welfare of minorities. According to party leaders, the close presence of a strong secular party, like the TDP would help checkm ate any BJP plans to revive the Hindutva agenda.

Chandrababu Naidu and Vajpayee, who shared platforms in Hyderabad, Bhimavaram and Bellary, heaped praise on each other.

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