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Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani signals return to Hindutva trident

New Delhi, Jan. 20: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has exhorted the BJP to go to the next round of the electoral battle on the issues of the Ram temple, common civil code and abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, which were put in cold storage when the NDA coalition was stitched up.

Addressing a strategy session of central functionaries and state units of poll-bound Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi today, Advani urged them to be upfront on the Hindutva agenda and not feel “embarrassed” about it.

BJP sources said the deputy Prime Minister made it clear that there was no “contradiction” between the party pursuing its own ideology as well as agenda and following the NDA’s national agenda of governance at the Centre.

In reply to a question from a state functionary, Advani is learnt to have said that the NDA allies had been informed that the national agenda was created solely as an instrument of governance and the BJP would fight elections on its agenda in states where it was on its own.

He also described the Ram temple, common civil code and Article 370 as “national” issues. Advani was quoted as saying that the Gujarat victory had shattered the perception that Hindutva had become “irrelevant”.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, BJP general secretary and spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi would be one of the star campaigners in the Assembly elections.

Asked if the three issues would click in a state election because the Centre alone was empowered to legislate on them, Naqvi was evasive.

The decision to go on the front foot was the result of an internal assessment that in Congress-ruled states, Hindutva could have almost the same degree of success as in Gujarat.

The BJP’s reading was that it was “trickier” to forge a pan-Hindu identity in states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which are dominated by casteist parties.

Party sources said the reaction to alleged communal provocations in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh was “proof” that Hindutva was getting back on the political landscape. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh’s “soft” responses on the subject further supported the BJP’s reading, the sources said.

They added that the Assembly elections would be an opportunity to test if the Hindutva card paid electoral dividends outside Gujarat. If it did, they said, the next Lok Sabha elections would be dictated by the Hindutva plank as the party feels that it has an upper hand over its allies.

“Most of our allies probably have no choice but to throw in their lot with us in 2004. That gives us more elbow space,” the sources said.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu had gone on record several times to say his party would aspire to get at least 300 seats on its own in 2004.

Privately, party strategists conceded that the target was “vastly exaggerated” and added that there was growing pressure from the rank and file to resurrect Hindutva.

But to pre-empt charges that the party was playing the communal card, the state units were directed to also focus on region-specific issues like religious conversions (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh), atrocities on Dalits (Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan), corruption and the image of the Congress chief ministers.

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