When a US diplomat meets a prime ministerial candidate during an election season marked with uncertainty, sparks are bound to fly. They did. On Wednesday, the chargé d’ affaires of the US embassy, Peter Burleigh, met the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) L.K. Advani.
A day earlier he had met N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Hyderabad. The US embassy termed the meetings “routine consultations”. There are few takers for this. Predictably, it has led to all-round speculation. There were suggestions that the envoy had told the TDP leader not to support the Left. The Left parties were quick to denounce “US imperialism”.
The meetings may have been “routine”, but their timing was anything but. The 2009 general election is widely expected to lead to a hung Parliament. The TDP is an important constituent of the Third Front, a formation held by many to be key in forming a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the Centre. As a result, the meeting was certain to fuel speculation. The US diplomat should have thought about the consequences of such a meeting.