Debating India

Allies eye slices of power pie

Mohua CHATTERJEE

Thursday 20 May 2004, by CHATTERJEE*Mohua

NEW DELHI : With the uncertainty on the leadership over, constituents of the United Progressive Alliance are gearing up for what may turn out to be tough negotiations for important berths and representations in the government.

Even as NCP sources indicated that Sharad Pawar is going to be a claimant for the defence portfolio that he handled under Narasimha Rao, RJD wants the politically crucial home ministry for its strongman, Laloo Prasad Yadav. RJD backed up its demand by pointing out that Laloo Yadav has been the most consistent ally of Sonia Gandhi and that it was his partnership with Congress which enabled the latter to counter the perception that it was not isolated.

Apart from this, the RJD also contends that Laloo Yadav replacing Advani as home minister would send out a powerful "secular" statement. There may be reservations on including Laloo in the ministry on the ground that he has been chargesheeted for which he had to reluctantly abdicate his chief ministership. But RJD argues that chargesheeted ministers were present in the NDA government too and these included Deputy PM L K Advani.

The RJD chief himself refused to comment on the subject, but asserted that working out a power-sharing formula would not be difficult since all the members of the alliance were opposed to BJP and had an equal stake in the cohesion of the new dispensation. "You people are going to be disappointed," he said, when asked if the competing claims for portfolios could generate bitterness and acrimony.

His flock in RJD, however, is not ambiguous in staking the claim for the home portfolio for their leader. "He has been steadfast in supporting Sonia Gandhi," one of the party MPs said.

Apart from a weighty portfolio for their leader, RJD is also preparing a charter of demands to be included in the common minimum programme.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Thursday, May 20, 2004.

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