NDA meet to review poll setback today

NEW DELHI, MAY 20. Leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will meet at the Prime Minister's residence tomorrow evening to review the political situation in the aftermath of the adverse electoral results in the recent Assembly polls.

Though the leadership has been maintaining that the results will have no bearing on the Centre's stability, the impression that the NDA is on the decline has gained ground, and this will have its own repercussions.

The meeting has been called taking advantage of the expected presence of Chief Ministers here tomorrow for the conference on agricultural issues related to the impact of the WTO.

Though the expansion of the NDA by taking on board some more partners has been talked about, it has not been discussed formally. The meeting will enable the Prime Minister to sound his coalition partners out on the prospects of a larger NDA.

When the BJP entered into an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam, it was announced that the AGP would also join the NDA at the Centre. The BJP has also been trying to strike a deal with the Rashtriya Lok Dal of Mr. Ajit Singh in Uttar Pradesh, a move being strongly opposed by Mr. Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal which is already in the NDA. It is also hoping for splits in the Trinamool Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Naturally, all these would-be entrants would expect their share of seats in the Cabinet. The timing of the much-talked-about Cabinet expansion is being linked to the concretisation of developments in the Trinamool, the RJD and the RLD.

Yet another subject of concern is the irritation that has crept into the relations between the BJP and the Samata Party in connection with developments in Manipur. Significantly, this matter could come to a head tomorrow when the Manipur Chief Minister is scheduled to seek a vote of confidence. If the BJP fails to support the Samata Chief Minister, it could spell trouble - the Samata has threatened to pull the rug from under the feet of the BJP's Chief Minister in Jharkhand where the Government has the Samata's support.

With Mr. George Fernandes, Samata Party leader, continuing to be the NDA convener, the Manipur developments if not handled with care could spell more trouble for the BJP.

The bottomline is that after the disastrous poll results for the NDA, the Prime Minister can no longer afford to take his partners for granted, and this would call for more frequent consultations. The meeting will also be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to interact with his coalition partners before he goes in for surgery on his right knee in early June.