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PM primes party for poll & dirt

New Delhi, Dec. 3: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today called on party MPs to start preparing for the Lok Sabha polls, but suggested that the elections would be on schedule.

Addressing the parliamentary party meeting this morning, he said: “There is one year still left for the Lok Sabha polls but all of you must begin the preparations in right earnest. It is important for MPs to be in live contact with their constituencies.”

Quoting Vajpayee, BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra said the Prime Minister warned MPs that the Congress might resort “to some trick or the other to tarnish our image”. “Therefore, you must be constantly alert,” he said.

Sources said MPs were advised to keep a “low profile” and not attract attention or public censure for “ostentatious lifestyles”. For instance, they were told not to put up in fancy hotels or use official perks while visiting their constituencies. They were also asked to publicise the “achievements” of the Centre and not allow the Congress to score points on governance and development.

“The Delhi government has taken credit for the Centre’s achievements,” Vajpayee said in the context of the battle between the BJP and the Congress to claim credit for the metro rail and the mandatory switchover to CNG fuel in public transport in the recent election campaign.

The BJP’s perception is that its Delhi leaders allowed the Congress to snatch “victory” in a game its government was not even playing.

On the Assembly elections, whose results will be declared tomorrow, Vajpayee is believed to have sounded cautious. “We hope it would be favourable since we are zero in the four states and whatever the outcome, we will gain,” Malhotra quoted him as saying.

Exit polls suggest the Congress will retain Delhi, the BJP will take Madhya Pradesh while Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are too close to call.

Vajpayee said communalism had no role in the elections. “Communalism was not converted into an issue and this is a good thing. In fact, we did not have any ideological differences with our rivals (in the elections),” he said.

He referred to the Dilip Singh Judeo cash-on-camera scandal obliquely. “In Chhattisgarh, an effort was made to tarnish our image but the Congress did not succeed,” he said.

The sources said there were several reasons why the Lok Sabha polls would be held on schedule in September 2004. “The Prime Minister is in no mood to advance them. Besides, the Election Commission is most unlikely to oblige us with an early date.”

Even if the BJP wins three of the four states or all of them, “there is no question of bringing forward the polls”, they added. One reason is the state of the party in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

In the just-concluded Assembly bypolls, the BJP came a poor third in the two Uttar Pradesh seats that went to the Samajwadi Party. In Bihar, it managed to retain only Sitamarhi with Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal picking up the other two.

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