The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal, Advani & Modi lead BJP line-up

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The BJP has drawn up an itinerary for its top three campaign leaders in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

From November 18 to 24, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will travel to poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi and address 14 public meetings. His deputy L.K. Advani will spend an additional three days on the election trail and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi will be out of Gandhinagar for 10 days.

The decision was taken at a strategy session this morning at the residence of BJP general secretary and overall election in-charge Pramod Mahajan.

Advani later told reporters that “good governance” would be the poll’s principal campaign plank. BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu seconded the proposal, saying: “Elections will be fought not just on (the basis of) personalities but big issues like the feel-good factor generated by the NDA government.”

But the campaign schedule leaves little doubt that the Prime Minister is still the party’s USP.

The BJP decided that the leaders would address only one meeting a day in a particular state and then fly to another.

Having decided to allow its chief ministerial candidates to contest the elections, sources said, the BJP is likely to field Vasundhara Raje from an Assembly segment of Jhalawad, her parliamentary constituency. Madan Lal Khurana will probably contest from a segment in his Sadar Lok Sabha constituency while Uma Bharti has been asked to identify a seat of her choice.

However, the Chhattisgarh issue still remains unresolved. The state has three prospective candidates — Dilip Singh Judeo, Ramesh Bais and Raman Singh. “None of them is a tribal so we don’t want to project a chief minister as the fight will be converted into a tribal versus non-tribal one,” a source said.

Among the decisions made today were that no MP, barring the chief ministerial nominees, would be allowed to contest. The BJP was reportedly inundated with applications from Lok Sabha MPs looking to secure their political future by bagging an Assembly seat, now that the present Lok Sabha term is about to end.

Leaders attending today’s session felt that sitting legislators should be renominated to stave off a rebellion. “We are in the Opposition in all these states. It is to the credit of the sitting MLAs that they bucked the negative trend against the BJP in the last elections and wrested their seats. How can we deny them tickets'” a source asked.

At a post-Diwali lunch hosted by Khurana, Advani said: “From 1997, our effort has been to shift the focus of election campaigns from political issues to governance. Our message to the voter was if the incumbent party has given you a good government, return it to power. If not, vote for change. We have gained some success because even Opposition parties have started talking of governance.”

Naidu rubbished the findings of a recent pre-poll survey that projected the Congress as being comfortably placed in Rajasthan and Delhi, trailing in Madhya Pradesh and neck-and-neck with the BJP in Chhattisgarh.

“The BJP will win all four states, including Delhi, because of the feel-good sentiment for the Centre and the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress-ruled governments,” the BJP president declared.

BJP sources, however, sounded less optimistic and said that while Madhya Pradesh was a “sure shot victory”, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were “dicey” and Delhi, “not good”. In Rajasthan, the sources added, the BJP never secured a majority even at the best of times.

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