BJP-Samata standoff on Manipur continues

NEW DELHI, MAY 20. The stand-off between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samata Party, its NDA ally, continued today with the latter expressing dissatisfaction over the BJP's promise to support the Radha Binod Koijam Government in Manipur, which faces a trust vote tomorrow.

The Samata Party leader and NDA convener, Mr. George Fernandes, met the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, here after the BJP chief, Mr. K. Jana Krishnamurthi, promised to continue support to the Samata-led People's Front coalition government in Manipur. The BJP president, who is attending a party meeting in Mussoorie, is reported to have said that the party would not form a government in Imphal. Yet, in the absence of a whip, the Samata fears the 26 BJP MLAs in the 60-member House may not go with the high command's directive. The Samata has 13 MLAs.

The Samata has convened an emergency meeting of its national executive tomorrow on continuing in the Vajpayee government in the absence of trust between the coalition partners, which could result in the country's only Samata-led government losing power.

Last week, Mr. Krishnamurthi assured Mr. Fernandes and others of the BJP's desire not to disturb the present arrangement. The Samata insists that if the BJP does not back its word to Mr. Fernandes through a whip to its MLAs in Imphal, the end result would be different. This would also violate the coalition dharma of not poaching on each other's territory. In addition, the Samata could strike back by removing the props which keep the Babulal Marandi-led BJP government in Jharkhand going.

The Samata general secretary, Dr. Shambhu Shrivastava, maintained that until the BJP issued a three-line whip to support the vote of confidence, Mr. Koijam is seeking tomorrow, the assurances sounded empty and may not translate into actual support on the floor of the House.

Despite assurances, the situation in Imphal seems to be tilted against Mr. Koijam

The Samata apprehension was also based on the charge that nearly 34 MLAs were being held by the Speaker, Mr. S. Dhananjoy Singh, whose replacement the dissidents claimed was being engineered by Mr. Koijam. Reports reaching here suggest that a section of the 26 BJP MLAs, 18 of whom had recently crossed over from the MSCP, were not willing to go by the party directive and insist on showing Mr. Koijam the door.

PTI reports:

Meanwhile, the Samata president, Ms. Jaya Jaitly, said, ``we had written to them (BJP) yesterday to issue the whip. But they are refusing to do so... we will take the decision in this regard at tomorrow's (national executive) meeting.''