The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP singles out welfare plank for ballot battle

New Delhi, May 13: BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu has told party heads in the four election-bound states to focus their campaign on development and not get “distracted” by Hindutva-related controversies.

The BJP, he said, would have separate election manifestos for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, which are going to polls later this year, and added that the battle would be fought on state issues.

“Development will be our main plank because this suits us,” Naidu stressed.

The BJP chief feels the Congress will be on the “defensive”. “We have reports that, as we are highlighting development, awareness levels are also increasing. The quest for development is increasing because Congress governments created so much hype,” he said. “But there is disenchantment because people are not happy with the relief work undertaken by these governments.”

According to Naidu, Congress chief ministers had “everything to hide”. So, they were raking up controversies like trishul distribution in Rajasthan and Uma Bharti’s cake offering in a Madhya Pradesh temple to “divert people’s attention from development, governance and administration”.

“Therefore, we have now told our people to come back to development and focus attention on this,” he said.

This is the first time since its political rise that the BJP would use development as its central plank in an election. So far, its campaigns have revolved around emotive issues like the Ram temple or corruption (Bofors and the fodder scam).

Naidu signalled a major change of tack when he said elections cannot be fought on a “single” issue. “In all four states there is a desire for change…. The only thing is we have to gear up the party so that we can convince people of the need for a better administration.”

The other new element in the BJP’s strategy is that its campaign would not be personality-centric and demonise chief ministers as it did in Bihar to gain the upper hand over Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Naidu said the states have been asked to focus on specific issues. Some of the issues already identified are power, poor roads in rural Madhya Pradesh, lack of an effective public distribution system in Rajasthan, Ajit Jogi’s “authoritarian rule” in Chhattisgarh and “corruption in the power privatisation sector” in Delhi.

Even in Delhi, where a section of the media is already projecting chief minister Sheila Dikshit as a sure-fire success, Naidu claimed that the BJP’s feedback was the opposite. “Delhi is not just Sheila Dikshit, it’s also about the MLAs and how they relate to their voters,” he said.

Naidu said national issues, including those dear to the BJP like the Ram temple and Article 370, could figure in the campaign “but only as talking points”. “What’s the point of putting Ram temple in the Chhattisgarh manifesto'” he asked.

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