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Joshi misses poll tutorial

New Delhi, Sept. 15: The “teacher”: BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu

The “pupils”: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and finance minister Jaswant Singh to ministers of state

The “classroom”: Naidu’s residence

It was tutorial time for the BJP’s central ministers as they gathered at the party chief’s residence this morning to take lessons on what they ought to do in the five states going to polls in November-December. Every minister turned up except those who were out of town, had prior engagements or were allegedly not informed.

Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie were in the first slot, Yashwant Sinha and Rajnath Singh expressed their inability to come because of official meetings but Murli Manohar Joshi — once a part of the BJP’s holy triumvirate — by his own admission, was not told.

“I did not know about this meeting,” the human resources development minister told a TV channel when asked why he was not among the 43 ministers present at Naidu’s residence today.

BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi maintained that Joshi or “his staff” was informed over phone by Naidu as were other ministers. “We learnt that he was busy with pre-arranged functions. So it was assumed he would not come,” said Naqvi.

This is the second occasion when there has been a mix-up — deliberate or unwitting — about Joshi’s presence in a BJP meeting after Naidu, a handpicked nominee of Advani, took over as president.

Some months ago, when the BJP chief had called a meeting of Uttar Pradesh leaders to discuss problems they faced with their former ally Mayavati, there was suspense on whether Joshi — considered the second-most important central leader from the heartland after Atal Bihari Vajpayee — was invited or not.

While sources close to Joshi insisted he would go, Naqvi said he would not. Ultimately, Joshi was the first to enter Naidu’s residence.

Naqvi told reporters the ministers were told to propagate schemes launched and funded by the Centre for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi and counter the Congress’ charge that their governments were getting short shrift for political reasons.

From now until October 15, the ministers have been asked to tour these states extensively and spend time with BJP workers.

The model code of conduct is expected to be enforced, which might make it difficult for the ministers to use official resources like vehicles and government guest houses for party work. The ministers were also told to work in closer coordination with “nationalist” organisations (read the RSS).

The slogan for the elections, Naqvi said, was: “Convert advantage BJP into victory BJP.”

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