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Naidu poll plea

New Delhi, July 31: The BJP’s plans to advance the Lok Sabha elections to next February has worried the Telugu Desam Party.

The BJP’s key southern ally is not sure it can repeat its 1999 showing, when it won 29 out of Andhra Pradesh’s 42 Lok Sabha seats

An internal assessment by the Desam indicates a slump in the party’s popularity and mass base. An early parliamentary election would adversely affect the Desam’s prospects in the Assembly elections slated for October-November 2004.

Sources say chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu has recently requested deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani not to advance the elections.

Advani reportedly told Naidu that a decision on the dates has not been taken and asked him not to air his demand in public.

The Congress is likely to increase its Lok Sabha tally in the state from five seats at present to 10 or 14 seats, the Desam assessment says. This will have repercussions during the Assembly elections later in the year.

But the party is confident it can overcome the anti-incumbency factor and scrape through the state elections. The Desam politburo is divided over whether it should continue to support the BJP.

The BJP won seven Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats in the state in alliance with the Desam during the 1999 elections.

But with Sangh Parivar raking up controversial issues and the BJP and the Centre not faring well, some Desam members feel an alliance with the BJP may not benefit it. The Telegana Raksha Samiti is likely to eat into the votes of the Desam and the BJP, and to a lesser extent, the Congress.

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