Vajpayee?s forked tongue

Updated on Apr 17, 2004 08:21 PM IST

With his recent remarks in Lucknow about the reasons why he is in the electoral fray, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has consolidated his reputation as being our flip-flop man.

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With his recent remarks in Lucknow about the reasons why he is in the electoral fray, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has consolidated his reputation as being our flip-flop man. Not a week ago, while releasing the NDA manifesto, the PM stated that the time for him to quit had not arrived. However, after filing his nomination, Mr Vajpayee said he was reluctant to fight the election this time round but was persuaded to do so by “friends, colleagues and alliance partners”.

The two statemenys were made only a week apart. Of course, by now the country has come to expect Mr Vajpayee to have two different versions ready for most things tricky. Nevertheless, it is his brief elaboration of the Lucknow statement that is likely to provoke conjecture. The PM reportedly said he was contesting the election to head off ‘instability’. We shall never know if he meant tremors within the BJP if he was not in the race, as there might well be a fight for the top slot in his absence. Or, did he mean that he alone was acceptable as leader to all in the NDA?

Whatever Mr Vajpayee’s intent, this is the first hint from the highest leadership that allowance should be made for ‘instability’ in the post-election period. Obviously, the anxiety is not about ‘instability’ arising from policy issues or the international context. One may surmise the PM’s concern is with the state of intra-NDA relations. This would mainly depend on the post-poll arithmetic — the NDA numbers as well as the BJP’s strength within the NDA. In one of his recent observations, Mr Vajpayee noted that he should have no hesitation in seeking more allies after the election. This could be an oblique hint at the possibility that the NDA might not be strong enough to have a majority of its own.

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