India’s political kaleidoscope comes aliveApril 3rd, 2009 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) India’s splintered and confused state of politics came to the fore Friday as the BJP issued its election manifesto, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav addressed their first joint meeting in years in Lucknow, and the Congress scored a point as veteran Sharad Pawar kept away from a rally of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Left parties.
With less than two weeks left for the staggered Lok Sabha elections to start, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) struck to its pet Hindutva agenda but quickly added that this was not binding on its allies without whose support it cannot hope to reclaim power it lost five years ago.
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, said the party desired a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and axing of article 370 of the constitution giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state.
But in a sign of the BJP’s limitations, he told reporters after releasing the manifesto here that an agenda of governance would be framed in consultation with all members of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Advani underlined that the manifesto reflected the BJP’s thinking. “We will send it to (the allies) and ask (them what) they agree with and then jointly prepare a NDA agenda.”
Advani’s comments follow a public declaration by BJP ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) that a government of the multi-party NDA would never embrace Hindutva, come what may.
Also in New Delhi, the Congress seemed pleased after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar gave a slip to a rally of the Communists as well as Orissa’s ruling BJD at Bhubaneswar although his party’s state unit was in full attendance.
A day after the Congress said it would be better if Pawar did not share a platform with those opposed to the Congress, the Maratha leader chose to give a telephonic message instead.
“I would have liked to address the rally but could not because of a technical snag in the aircraft,” he said before the telephone line snapped suddenly.
Even as pundits wondered if Pawar had taken a U-turn, the NCP leader maintained in Mumbai, his power base, that his party had the right to have understanding with regional parties since the Congress had turned down its appeal for a nationwide seat-sharing pact with its allies.
The Bhubaneswar rally brought together the BJD, which last month ended a 11-year-long relationship with the BJP, and its new friends, the Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and NCP.
BJD leader and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik blasted the BJP for allegedly fomenting communal divide. “Orissa is a peaceful state but the BJP and its affiliates are trying to destroy communal harmony,” he said.
But Advani insisted in New Delhi that the so-called Third Front did not stand a chance in the April-May elections and that any government in India would be linked either to the Congress or his party.
In Lucknow, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) joined hands with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav to declare that their newly forged friendship would last beyond the Lok Sabha elections.
But Railway Minister Lalu Prasad quickly added that he and Paswan were still with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and Manmohan Singh was their choice for prime minister. The RJD and LJP have however dumped the Congress in the fight for Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabhs seats after quarreling over a seat-sharing pact.
Between them, the RJD, LJP and Samajwadi Party are influential in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, three populous states in the crucial Hindi heartland that together account for 134 Lok Sabha seats.
According to analysts, by coming together, the three parties hope to expand their vote bank and strengthen their bargaining power vis-a-vis the Congress in a widely expected hung parliament.
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