Vol 2, PW 24 (23 Dec 98) People & Policy

The ruling BJP government in Delhi has a new supporter.

His name is Vazhapadi Ramamurthy, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas. On Saturday, 12 December, Ramamurthy formally cut his links with the Tamil based AIADMK of former Chief Minister, Jayalalitha which propelled him into the job when the BJP came to power nine months ago.

However, far from weakening his position, Ramamurthy has strengthened it. Days before his announcement, Ramamurthy held a meeting with Prime Minister Vajpayee, in which he offered his resignation.

The PM rejected the offer. Vajpayees decision was not taken out of any great affection for Ramamurthy.

It was taken with a clear political objective: to weaken the hand of his arch tormentor, Jayalalitha, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and leader of the AIADMK. Last month, Jayalalitha announced she was disbanding the AIADMK-led front of 27 MPs that helped Vajpayee win a vote of confidence after the general election.

Until his defection, Ramamurthy was one of Jayalalithas 27 disciples. Jayalalitha is now left only with a rump block of 18 MPs in parliament.

This has made the BJPs task easier. It has begun to consciously snub her in favour of her former allies in the AIADMK-led front.

The net result is that Vazhapadi Ramamurthy is likely to remain oil minister for the duration of this government. The only question remaining is: will he remove the picture of Jayalalitha that adorns his office wall