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Naidu poll snub to BJP

New Delhi, March 21: In a snub to BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, key ally and Telugu Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu today said it was too early to decide on a pact for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

While the BJP announced a formal tie-up with the Trinamul Congress for the panchayat and Parliament elections, Chandrababu appeared cagey and irked with the BJP bid to announce a “strategy” prematurely.

Venkaiah, who addressed newsmen yesterday to mark the achievements of five years of NDA rule, had said coalition rule was a success and the BJP had started poll discussions with alliance leaders.

“We had a detailed discussion with Chandrababu Naidu,” he said.

But the Desam chief today indicated otherwise. “It is too early to reveal (the strategy) as elections are far away,” he said.

Neither confirming nor denying his poll discussions with A.B. Vajpayee and senior BJP leaders, Chandrababu said: “It is not the time to speculate, it is also not the time to disclose all these things.”

Chandrababu had a meeting with the Prime Minister on February 16, at which deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, NDA convener George Fernandes and Venkaiah were present. Unlike earlier occasions, Desam parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu did not accompany Chandrababu.

Sources said the Desam chief told Vajpayee he was not in favour of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Andhra Pradesh Assembly as it would not be advantageous to the NDA.

As he did not want to advance the Assembly elections, he suggested that the parliamentary polls be brought forward. At that time, the BJP leadership, unaware of what was in store in Himachal, did not reject the proposal.

Chandrababu, who came here today to seek drought relief measures, called on the Prime Minister. Advani and Union ministers Sharad Yadav and Shahnawaz Hussein also attended the meeting.

Later, he called on petroleum minister Ram Naik and requested him not to hike LPG prices. “I requested them (the central leaders) not to increase LPG prices. This is not the time,” Chandrababu said.

The Desam chief said Andhra was reeling under the worst drought in 40 years. He had requested Vajpayee to release 20 lakh MT of foodgrain and financial assistance of Rs 2,374 crore, he added.

The task force on drought headed by the deputy Prime Minister, which met last week, had announced 19.39 lakh tonnes foodgrain as fresh drought relief to over six states, including Andhra which had been given only 3.18 lakh tonnes.

The task force is meeting again on Sunday to go into the issue of fresh drought relief to states, including Andhra and Rajasthan.

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