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BJP put on election alert

New Delhi, Aug. 3: A day after deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani floated the idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections across the country, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu pushed it forward.

He told the party to be “prepared for polls anytime now and seek a renewed mandate based on Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s performance and his ability to lead a coalition government”.

At a BJP state council meeting in Hyderabad, Naidu said by the end of 2003, party activists should complete their mass contact programme called the “gaon, gaon chalo, ghar, ghar chalo abhiyaan (go to every village, every home)”.

His call — coupled with the trial balloon floated by Advani — was construed by his colleagues in Delhi as a “sure” indication of Lok Sabha polls by February.

BJP sources clarified that the issue had yet to be discussed formally in the parliamentary board or the national executive, but an influential section believed that in early polls the party can:

• Take advantage of the good monsoon.

• Cash in on the NDA’s “unity” as against the Opposition’s divisions.

The sources said the selling point would be that given the inevitability of coalitions, it was “safer” to vote a “tried, tested, trusted” combine like the NDA.

• Pre-empt plans of the VHP to rake up Ayodhya.

• Swim with the “positive” outlook for the five states going to polls in November.

Even the BJP sources, however, felt implementing Advani’s idea was “impractical” for the moment given that most Assemblies have a term extending far beyond that of the Lok Sabha and the BJP and its allies were in power in too few states to be able to bring polls forward.

Only three states (other than the five going to poll in November), Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, will have elections any time soon. That is why Advani said he had sounded the poll panel and the Telugu Desam, a BJP ally ruling in Andhra.

The sources wondered how — assuming the Desam is brought around — the Congress, in the saddle in the other two states, could be persuaded.

For such an idea to work, it would have to be accompanied by a proposal Advani has mooted in the past: a fixed term for the Parliament and Assemblies.

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