Vidya Subrahmaniam

NDA CMs invited to Delhi for strategy session

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party has invited the Chief Ministers of the National Democratic Alliance to Delhi on July 17 for a strategy session ahead of the trust motion to be moved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Top BJP leaders have already held two rounds of discussions on the trust vote at L.K. Advani’s house on July 14 and on July 15.

The party has issued a whip to its MPs to vote against the government and also directed them to reach the capital by July 20 well in time for the Parliament session commencing on July 21.

Briefing the press, spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad wondered about the priorities of the government which had ‘got caught’ in corporate disputes at a time the country was in the throes of “burning problems” such as spiralling prices and fertilizer shortage. ‘Under pressure’ from its new-found allies, the government is concerning itself with ‘corporate warfare.’

Mr. Prasad said all this had led to the question: “If the nuclear deal is in the national interest what is the current national interest rate?”

He also took the Samajwadi Party to task for its claim that Mr. Advani was more dangerous than George W Bush. The SP, he said, had organised a hartal against President Bush in Delhi and Mumbai when he visited India in March 2006. Party workers had beaten the President’s portrait with chappals and Mulayam Singh had refused to accompany Laura Bush to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.

Mr. Prasad also refuted a PMO-sourced story, carried in some papers, which claimed that Mr. Advani told Dr. Manmohan Singh he had been unable to carry his colleagues on the nuclear deal. “This is baseless. If the Prime Minister has the courage, let him say this upfront, instead of conducting a whisper campaign.”

He said that in 2007 Dr. Singh had met Atal Bihari Vajpayee with a letter seeking his support for the deal. The BJP placed this request at a formal meeting attended by Mr. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Brajesh Mishra. The participants discussed the proposal threadbare, sought the guidance of Mr. Vajpayee, and came to the conclusion that the “deal in its present form is not in the national interest because it compromises our sovereign rights.

“It is a misleading whispering campaign by a tottering government.”

Earlier party leaders, Venkaiah Naidu and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, claimed that the government would be defeated on the floor of the House. Mr. Naidu said the BJP was “seriously doing its homework.” He said two MPs from the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam as well as several smaller parties were in touch with the BJP. He said the National Conference was upset with the UPA because of its overture to Mehbooba Mufti, and similarly the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Shibu Soren was annoyed at his exclusion from the Cabinet.

Asked if he saw no harm in voting with the Left parties, Mr. Naidu said: “If Karat or Bardhan is travelling in the same train, will I get down?”

Mr. Naidu said the Congress had voted with the BJP to oust V.P. Singh in 1990, and more recently voted with the BJP to have the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council revived overriding the Left’s objections.

Mr. Malhotra alleged that the Congress was pulling out all the stops to buy support: money power, allurement to corporate houses and ministerial berths. “For all this, the party’s numbers will not cross 250 on the floor of the House,” he said.