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BJP poll nod to CM hopefuls

Bhopal, Oct. 28: The BJP’s chief ministerial candidates are free to contest the coming Assembly elections. This was stated today by party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu, on a firefighting mission here today.

The announcement ends speculation over the fate of Uma Bharti, the Madhya Pradesh chief ministerial aspirant, as well as that of Delhi’s Madan Lal Khurana, Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje Scindia and the Chhattisgarh duo of Dileep Singh Judeo and Raman Singh. All five leaders are MPs.

Naidu said BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan had not proposed that the five candidates should give the Assembly elections a miss and contest only if the party wrested power. Bharti and Khurana had shot down the proposal attributed to Mahajan, saying that their claim for the top slot in their state would not be taken seriously unless they contested the Assembly polls.

Naidu’s remarks have come as a shot in the arm for the Bharti camp, which said the sadhvi would probably contest from backward-dominated Bairasia — an Assembly segment that falls under the Bhopal parliamentary constituency that she currently represents in the Lok Sabha.

The BJP chief’s visit has helped the chief ministerial candidate in several ways. Naidu told state leaders hostile to Bharti to fall in line and accept her supremacy.

The day-long deliberations helped the sadhvi gain the upper hand in ticket-distribution, even though a final decision will be taken when top BJP leaders meet in Delhi on November 3.

Sources said it was apparent today that Bharti supporters were being favoured with poll tickets. This would leave rivals like Union ministers Vikram Verma and Sumitra Mahajan and state leaders like Kailash Joshi and Babulal Gaur little room to manoeuvre.

Elsewhere, the BJP is mulling an alliance with breakaways from the state unit of the Bahujan Samaj Party which split today. Supporters of BSP chief Mayavati and rebel leader Phool Singh Bariya fought pitched battles in Gwalior and Rewa today for the control of district party offices.

Naidu stuck to the official line that the BJP would contest on its own. “We do not believe in fishing in troubled waters. We stand on our own and do not need support from others,” he said.

The BJP chief even made a dig at chief minister Digvijay Singh for trying to court Mayavati. “Those who are unsure of victory are trying to forge an alliance but such a thing would not work,” Naidu said.

The BJP might say it is not considering an alliance, but party insiders admit they are in touch with Bariya, who walked out of the BSP, protesting against a possible electoral tie-up with the Congress. The state BJP is divided over allying with breakaway BSP leaders, saying Mayavati is the party’s main vote-catcher. A BJP functionary said: “The elephant symbol is well-etched among the weaker sections and it will be a formidable task to wean away these voters.”

Dissident BSP leaders held a public meeting here today and later announced they would approach the Election Commission for a new poll symbol.

Bariya was meant to attend the meeting, but could not make it here from Gwalior.

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