Is Brajesh Mishra fuelling confusion within BJP ranks on nuclear deal?

April 28th, 2008 - 4:28 pm ICT by admin  

(News Analysis)

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Brajesh Mishra, a close aide of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has added to the confusion about the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s stance on the Indo-US nuclear deal by declaring his support for the pact in a media interview Sunday. Was Mishra, national security advisor to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), giving the nation a glimpse into Vajpayee’s mind even as the party’s prime ministerial hopeful L.K. Advani reiterated his party’s opposition to the deal?

Or was it just a personal conviction aired by a man who, in no small measure, influenced BJP’s foreign and national security policies between 1998 and 2004? Mishra, who shepherded India’s nuclear policy for six years, is not a BJP member.

“I think this is entirely his (Mishra’s) personal opinion. It has nothing to do with Vajpayee,” says political commentator G.V.L. Narasimha Rao who believes that Mishra’s line of thinking on the deal would not impact the BJP’s foreign policy.

“Mishra’s support does not indicate that he is airing Vajpayee’s views on the deal,” said Rao. “Vajpayee could have got politically more influential people like Yashwant Sinha or Jaswant Singh to articulate his views had he a different point of view on the deal.”

BJP has already done a u-turn on the nuclear agreement - a deal that was swung by the party in full media glare between Vajpayee and US president George W. Bush when the NDA was in power at the centre.

Now in the opposition, the BJP top brass have no hesitation arraigning themselves with their ideological and political adversaries in the Left and opposing the deal.

Both Advani and Mishra have been airing their conflicting views on this critical issue on television channels.

After Mishra restarted the controversy with his statement that India “should support the deal” in an interview to CNN-IBN, Advani in a separate interview to Asianet channel said: “No country can give in writing that it will not undertake nuclear tests in future”.

Vajpyee is no longer a face visible in the public domain. Ailing and confined at home, he is out of media reach. It is a tempting thought that the former prime minister has chosen his close associate to join issue with his party on a deal which carried the stamp of his premiership.

On the other hand, the argument that Mishra is expressing a ‘personal’ concern cannot be jettisoned.

Yashwant Sinha, a senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister in the NDA government, had similarly said something stunning at the peak of the Tibet-China collision over the journey of the Olympic torch.

At a seminar hosted by an organization close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Sinha said he stood for Tibet’s complete freedom from China - a line of thinking that clearly was at odds with the BJP’s public stance on Tibet.

The party, when it was in power, maintained the view taken by successive regimes in Delhi - that Tibet was part of China.

Like Mishra’s comments now on the nuclear deal, Sinha’s abrupt statement on Tibet had set off speculation.

Was there a re-think in the BJP on foreign policy issues?

More important, how would the party negotiate these ticklish issues if it came to power in the 2009 general elections?

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