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Shock waves in U.P. BJP circles
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) are eager for the induction of the latter into the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The BJP is on the lookout for another alliance partner to contest the crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, to be held in a few months from now, to improve its show and retain the power in the state. After its dismal performance in the Assembly elections in five states last month, the party has to prove that its hold in its fiefdom is intact. On the other hand, the RLD chief, Mr. Ajit Singh, is anxious to be in the ruling side though he claims that his party is joining the NDA to put pressure on the ruling coalition to concede his demand for the creation of Harit Pradesh, comprising the districts in western U.P.

But the induction of RLD into the NDA is unlikely to serve the desired purpose. Mr. Singh is facing stiff opposition within his own party to the move. The opponents of the alliance warn Mr. Singh that if he went ahead with the move, it may distance the Muslims and the farmers, who are the backbone of the party's support base, from the party. Many RLD leaders, including a senior Muslim leader and former union minister, Rashid Masood, have come out openly against the alliance move.

In western U.P., the RLD has been thriving on the support of the Muslims and the farmers. Though the Muslims accounted for only 17 per cent of the electorate in U.P., the figure for the western U.P. is nearly 30 per cent. The Muslim votes play a crucial role in over 75 out of 134 Assembly seats in 22 districts of western U.P. which comprises five divisions of Meerut, Agra, Saharanpur, Bareilly and Moradabad. There are over a dozen seats in western U.P. where the Muslim electorates accounted for more than 35 per cent. Among them Rampur (65 %), Bhartana (50%), Kundarki (46%), Hasanpur and Moradabad (42 % each) have a high concentration of Muslim population.

The opponents of the alliance move maintain that the Muslims are unlikely to shift their loyalties to the new coalition because of the presence of the BJP in it. They are pointing out that Singh himself had been criticizing the communal leanings of the BJP not so long ago. There are apprehensions among the RLD leaders that many Muslim leaders of the party may leave the party. The RLD's loss may be the gain of the Samajwadi Party, which claims to champion the cause of the minority community. There are rumours that many RLD leaders are already in touch with the Samajwadi Party leaders.

But the RLD leaders, however, rule out a split in the party if it allies with the BJP. The president of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the RLD, Kailash Nath Singh Yadav, asserts that all leaders, including those from the minority community, are solidly behind Mr. Singh. He said that among the leaders only Mr. Masood and Mr. Satya Prakash Malaviya, a former union minister, have voiced their opposition to the alliance move. He pointed out that the Muslim party leaders like the leader of the RLD in the state legislature, Mr. Kaukab Hamid, two legislators, and a Lok Sabha member had already extended their support to the alliance move. Mr. Yadav revealed that a large number of Muslim leaders had attended the meeting of the office-bearers of the RLD held in Bijnore on 29 May.

Mr. Yadav does not apprehend an exodus of Muslims from the party if it forges an alliance with the BJP. He pointed out that the Bahujan Samaj Party had joined hands with the BJP twice in the past five years to share the power in U.P. Yet there was no exodus of Muslims from the BSP. Many parties and secular leaders had shared power with the BJP but it had no impact on their support base among the minority community.

The opponents of the alliance move also fear that the RLD will lose its tag of being a farmers' party if it joined the ruling NDA, which is committed to implement the patent laws under the World Trade Organization (WTO). These laws are considered an onslaught on the farmers, who are already up in arms against them.

The state RLD chief Singh asserts that his party will join hands with anyone who supports his demand for the creation of Harit Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party has not shown any inclination to support the demand. He feels that no purpose will be served by forging an alliance with the Congress since it is not a force to reckon with in U.P. So the RLD can only look to the BJP and the BSP for launching a joint campaign in favour of the creation of Harit Pradesh. He points out that the BJP leaders had already expressed their preference for the creation of small states, including Harit Pradesh. But the political circles are a bit surprised at the sudden interest of Mr. Singh in Harit Pradesh. His opponents allege that his real intention is to get a cabinet berth at the centre!

The induction of the RLD into the NDA is being stoutly opposed by the Haryana Chief Minister, and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Mr. Om Prakash Chautala as the latter suspects that Mr. Singh will be a threat to his stature of being the lone Jat leader in the ruling coalition. Mr. Chautala had already threatened the NDA that his party might withdraw from the coalition if it agreed to induct the RLD into its fold. But it seems that the BJP and other leaders in the NDA have not taken Mr. Chautala's threat seriously so far.

The performance of the BJP in the six Assembly and one Lok Sabha byelections held during the regime of Mr. Rajnath Singh and Mr. Kalraj Misra in the past six months had been far from satisfactory. It won only two of the six Assembly seats and in the rest it was relegated to third or fourth places. More significantly, the party candidate had stood fourth place in the Lok Sabha bypolls in Shahjahanpur behind the nominees of the Samajwadi Party, Congress and the BSP. These trends had sent shockwaves in the BJP leadership which had forced it to frantically search for alliance partners to improve its performance in the ensuing Assembly elections.
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