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Resignation drama panics NDA
By S Ubaidur Rahman

The turn of events in the NDA and the BJP have not amazed anyone. It was being expected by political pundits. But it was certainly a surprise for the BJP leaders who were not expecting a knee jerk reaction from ailing Prime Minister AB Vajpayee. If prime minister’s offer to resign on 31 July stunned anyone it was only the NDA.

Atal Behari Vajpayee virtually walked out of a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party in the morning of 31 July after announcing that he did not find himself fit to lead the NDA in an effective manner that satisfied all the partners. Only after his departure party colleagues realized the enormity of the announcement. The Prime Minister had grabbed the mike and said, ‘Since I am the Prime Minister, I am responsible. I cannot manage the NDA. I have grown old. I am also unwell. I should leave the chair. That is why I have decided to resign.’

BJP leaders who had not expected anything of this sort stampeded to placate the ageing leader who single-handedly put together an alliance of competing parties and ambitious leaders to run the government. They had not imagined that the mukhota they had been so successfully exploiting for such a long time will ever protest over their behavior.

Everyone in the party and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was taking the prime minister for a ride on everything from Agra to UTI and the economic slowdown in the country. Even the smallest of issues were used to drag the Prime Minister’s name in open forums where even people of his own party thought it fit to criticize him and ridicule steps taken by him.

In post-Agra, when the prime minister’s authority was clearly seen to have been weakened, it all rose to a higher pitch. Hardliners in the BJP and RSS, including LK Advani, not only scuttled every move towards the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan to the point of forcing the prime minister to hastily abandon the signing of the final draft prepared with his consent by Jaswant Singh and other senior leaders involved in the marathon deliberations.

In the post-summit scenario the PM was not only ridiculed by every Tom, Dick and Harry, he was even openly criticized for his inability to drag Musharraf to a compromise on his on terms. The radius of criticism expanded with every passing day. His office was dragged in the UTI mess by none other than his own party colleagues and his alliance partners as well as the VHP.

This storm took its toll on the prime minister who has not been able to come out of the disastrous result of the summit that he took the initiative to convene with a deep-down hope to go down in the annals of history in the same league as Nelson Mandela and other great statesmen who changed the course of history and won a Nobel as a bonus.

BJP insiders claim that though the prime minister told the gathering that he cannot manage the alliance, he had no trouble from his alliance partners except one Rajya Sabha MP of the Shiv Sena who was making allegations against the PMO in the UTI case. The most important thing was the cornering of the PMO that irked Vajpayee. Another reason may be the allegations made against Vajpayee’s foster son whose name has also been dragged in the UTI case.

The panic in the BJP and the NDA was visible in no uncertain terms as everyone tried to placate the prime minister. Tributes showered on Vajpayee by Advani, Jaswant Singh and Farooq Abdullah could match any form of sycophancy.

Opposition parties have called it a stage-managed drama aimed to divert the attention from the UTI scam. The Congress has said in a scathing attack that matters of paramount interests cannot be wished away by political stunts.

Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy termed Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s move as hypocritical and accused the prime minister of trying to preempt any possible probe into the role of the PMO officials in the shady UTI investments. Congress leaders have been demanding Sinha’s removal from the office for presiding over the economic ruin of the country. Left parties also reacted on similar lines over the resignation threat of the PM.

Though no one in the opposition is taking the resignation threat seriously, the immediate response of the alliance partners and the BJP itself shows how all the NDA constituents felt over the thought of resignation of Vajpayee which could send then back to the opposition benches.

A fact that everyone in the alliance and the BJP accepts, is that Vajpayee and the opportunism of the alliance partners are the only two factors that keep the alliance going.

The Prime Minister’s resignation threat has made it clear how indispensible he is to the BJP. The outcome has ensured that in the immediate future there would be no threat to his authority within the NDA. But the development has severely damaged the standing of the BJP among its partners. Everyone has come to realize vulnerability of the NDA sans Vajpayee.
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