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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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NDA to decide P.C. Thomas' political future

By Biju Govind

KOZHIKODE, JULY 30. Mounting differences of opinion within the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is marring the chances of the ousted Kerala Congress(M) group leader, Mr. P.C. Thomas, joining the Cabinet of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.

It is learnt that the two dominant factions of the BJP in the State have sent conflicting signals to the Central leadership regarding the induction of Mr. Thomas, the expelled leader of a party that is in power in Kerala and founder of the nascent Indian Federal Democratic Party (IFDP).

Insiders in the BJP say that the diametric views expressed in the party have put the Central leadership in a tight spot even though the national president, Mr. Jana Krishmoorthy, had categorically stated that the entry of any party into the NDA would not ensure an automatic berth for its members in the Cabinet.

Sources said that the faction led by the BJP State president, Mr. C.K. Padmanabhan, and general secretary, Mr. P.P. Mukundan, has appraised the national leadership that the BJP could gain immensely in the State from the induction of Mr. P.C. Thomas into the Union Cabinet. His entry could be best utilised as a platform to further the party's political interests in the rubber belts of Kottayam and Ernakulam.

The BJP could make inroads into these two Central Travancore districts which are dominated by the Syrian Catholics, a powerful socio-economic group with tremendous political influence in the State. Mr. Thomas had claimed that he has the support of some Bishops as well and this would definitely create a positive image for the BJP in international circles. Mr. George Fernandes' post as convener of the NDA has helped the BJP face many hostile situations concerning atrocities against religious minorities in the country, sources pointed out.

On the other hand, it is learnt that Mr. Raman Pillai, former State BJP president, and the Union Minister of State for Railways, Mr. O. Rajagopal, are toeing the line of the hawks in the Sangh Parivar. The RSS considers the coming of the IFDP, a conglomeration of some motley groups into the NDA as some sort of an `unholy alliance'. The RSS bigwigs perceive that the association of the BJP with the IFDP would mean that the cadre- based party would be stooping to the level of other parties in the State, sources said.

Besides, the induction of Mr. P.C. Thomas into the Cabinet would mean that Mr. O. Rajagopal, a senior leader in the State, has been snubbed as the latter is only a State Minister in the Union Government. This would, in a way, be a shot in the arm for the Padmanabhan-Mukundan faction, thus, snowballing the factional war further in the State.

Knowing fully well that the internal feuds in the BJP may hamper his career as well as open up the way for Revenue Minister, Mr. K.M. Mani, to drive him into a dead end, Mr. Thomas has approached Mr. O. Rajagopal for sorting out the issue.

Both the leaders recently met in New Delhi, though they have denied media reports that the meeting was in connection with a ministerial berth for Mr. Thomas.

Mr. Thomas had said that his party had members from four States and was seeking the status of a national party. His joining the NDA was definitely not for a ministerial post, he said.

However, the statement of Mr. Jana Krishnamoorthy that ``the credibility of the NDA would be affected unless the business of automatic Cabinet berths to all the entrants is revised'' is posing problems for the IFDP. However, the induction of the Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Mr. Ajit Singh, into the Cabinet, would be helping the case of the IFDP and Mr. Thomas himself.

Mr. Ajit Singh, son of the late Prime Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh, holds considerable clout in the Jat belt especially in Western Uttar Pradesh. The BJP does not want to lose Jat votes by antagonising a Jat leader at a time when Assembly election were round the corner in Uttar Pradesh.

Sources point out that the situation in Kerala is different from U.P. The State BJP has little to gain with the induction of Mr. P.C. Thomas into the Cabinet as there are no political battles to be fought in a State like Kerala where the Assembly election is already over. The fate of Mr. Thomas will be entirely in the hands of the NDA Committee when its meets in due course, sources added.

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