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After N-winter, thaw in PM-BJP ties?

If Wednesday’s meeting between Manmohan Singh and a high-level BJP delegation is any indication, the PM’s equations with the BJP might be in for change, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2007 03:18 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

If Wednesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a high-level BJP delegation is any indication, the PM’s equations with the BJP might be in for change.

For the first time in months, an interaction between top BJP leaders including Leader of Opposition LK Advani and party president Rajnath Singh with the Prime Minister on a contentious issue — the re-installation of a popular government and revocation of President’s Rule in Karnataka — has been described as “cordial.”

The BJP leaders left 7, Race Course Road with an impression that the prime minister appeared keen on a solution rather than deprive the saffron party an opportunity to form its first government in the South.

They also believed that the Law Ministry’s advice was in favour of their contention — to allow a popular government because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Bihar case.

Significantly, the PMO had fixed an audience with Singh in less than 12 hours after the BJP leaders made the request to discuss the Karnataka issue.

The PM also ensured that Home Minister Shivraj Patil was present during the meeting.

Though Advani preferred to be cautious in describing the outcome of the meeting, others did not rule out such exchanges paving the way for better

government-Opposition dealings and a smoother functioning of Parliament. The India-US civilian nuclear deal did not figure in the meeting.

The PM wanted the Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur to be given a few more days to decide on the plea of the JD(S) and the BJP be allowed to form the government despite their earlier break-up on the issue of transfer of power on October 3.

Though Wednesday’s meeting with the PM was part of a pressure-build up, the BJP leaders felt the prime minister was probably aware that BJP’s BS Yediyurappa had been able to muster the support of 129 BJP and JD(S) MLAs in the Assembly of 224.

When Singh suggested that the Governor should be given reasonable time, senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said, “Four days have passed since we handed over the letter staking claim for the formation of the government head by Yediyurappa. We have our apprehensions because of the statements by AICC spokesperson about the dissolution of the House.”

While Rajnath Singh said their fears were fuelled by the events of Jharkhand when the UPA won by one vote to form the ministry, Shivraj Patil said the Centre could act only after getting the report of the governor and was not standing in the way. Advani said the Centre would have to direct the revocation of the President’s rule.

Singh, who gave them a 30-minute hearing, however, did not commit any “specific timeframe” for lifting the President’s rule in the state to facilitate installation of the government, except for promising to go by the “spirit of the Constitution.”

Advani told HT that “I do not know about the changing equations between the BJP and the government. But the legal position is clear since the JD (S)-BJP have numbers. The Supreme Court ruling in the case of the Bihar Assembly dissolution is that shifting stands of political parties cannot be the ground for dissolving the Assembly.”

“Once the absolute majority of the legislators is in favour of forming a popular government, it would be improper for the Governor or the President to presume otherwise.”

First Published: Nov 01, 2007 03:16 IST