| Advani at the BJP rally in Bhopal. (AFP)
Bhopal, March 15: India is in the semis and all’s well with the BJP.
Far fetched' Not in L.K. Advani’s scheme of things.
Comparing the BJP with the Indian cricket team, the deputy Prime Minister today predicted that his party would win the 2004 general elections just like Sourav Ganguly’s boys would lift the World Cup.
Advani, who was addressing a mammoth rally in the Madhya Pradesh capital to project Uma Bharti as the future chief minister, said the coming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi were a “semifinal” for the party before the all-important final — the 2004 general elections.
“I am predicting here that the Indian cricket team would lift the World Cup and, like them, we would win the semifinal and final,” he said.
Though the deputy Prime Minister avoided making personal comparisons, party workers were heard labelling him Sachin Tendulkar for his Ayodhya rath yatra and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee Sourav for carrying the team along.
Advani showered lavish praise on Vajpayee and said the significance of his regime should be gauged from two factors. On March 19, he said, Vajpayee would complete five years in office, a feat only four others have accomplished — Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao, all from the Congress.
Vajpayee, he said, had shattered the myth that the Congress alone was fit to provide political stability. The second myth that he shattered was the notion that coalitions do not succeed at the national level, Advani added.
Advani also emphasised the importance of motorable roads, one of Vajpayee’s thrust areas. He remembered his rath yatra of 1990 and said he measured a state’s development by the quality of roads. “Roads are like thermometers. You can judge a state’s progress by the quality of its roads,” Advani said.
Without naming chief minister Digvijay Singh, Advani attacked him twice, wondering how senior politicians could say that elections are not won on development issues like roads, power and water supply, schools and hospitals. “Is this the outlook of the political masters' Please judge them if they are fit to be in government,” he said.
Advani targeted the Digvijay regime for “engineering” large-scale irregularities in the electoral rolls. He said it was “unprecedented” and “unheard of” that the Election Commission had asked for the suspension of senior officials like district collectors eight months before Assembly polls.
The irregularities in electoral rolls, he said, were as heinous as rigging or “match fixing” in cricket.
Advani openly rooted for Bharti as the future chief minister, saying she would lead the party’s campaign in the state. Almost instructing state BJP chief Kailash Joshi, he said the state unit should make video copies of Bharti’s speech and circulate them.
Bharti, buoyed by Advani’s support, launched a frontal attack on Digvijay. She levelled a series of allegations, including a charge that all terrorists and anti-national activists had links with Bhopal.
She claimed that be it the Akshardham attack in Gujarat or the case of Abu Salem’s forged passports, the criminals had some link or associates in Bhopal.
At times, Bharti sounded a bit frustrated. For the first time, she decided to go public on her brother, Swami Prasad Lodhi, a suspended BJP MLA now set to join the Congress. She said she was appalled to read in newspapers that her brother would be reciting the Bhagwad Gita at Digvijay’s house. “Let the guru-chela seek salvation,” she said, claiming that she had requested the state BJP chief to initiate disciplinary action against her brother for “indiscipline and corruption”.
Bharti also took a dig at Digvijay’s projection of himself as a “global personality” for putting Madhya Pradesh on the information technology map. “I do not care if he is a global personality,” she said. “Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen are doing a fine job as global personalities. If Digvijay wants to join them in theatrics, he is free to do so.”