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PM delinks poll from Delhi

New Delhi, Nov. 16: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said the Gujarat poll would not be a referendum on the Centre.

At an informal luncheon for reporters at his residence on National Press Day, he said the BJP would win but ruled out calling a mid-term poll at the Centre should this happen. “Don’t you want me to complete my five years'” he asked the journalist who posed the question.

The Prime Minister said he would campaign in the election if asked to. “The tour programme of the leaders has yet to be finalised. If they ask me, I will go,” he said, setting at rest speculation that he might keep off.

Vajpayee appeared to have softened a bit towards the VHP from yesterday, when he had said the Election Commission’s directive on banning the Vijay Yatra should be respected.

Asked about the Sangh affiliate’s open defiance of his appeal, he said: “We have fulfilled our responsibility. I suppose they also have to fulfil their obligation.”

But a little earlier, queried on the “Mahabharata” in the Sangh parivar, he said: “Wait for the real Mahabharata to start after the Gujarat elections.” The reply left those present wondering if the Mahabharata would be fought between the BJP and the Congress in the national arena or within the parivar or the BJP.

The Prime Minister, however, sought to play down the perceived differences between him and the BJP. When it was pointed out that party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and spokesman Arun Jaitley had described the order as “unprecedented” and “inappropriate”, he said: “But basically, in a roundabout way, even my statement said the same things as the statement the BJP had issued.”

Yesterday, Vajpayee had said that “on the face of it”, the decision might look wrong. “But given the circumstances in Gujarat, the ban order is correct.”

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