New Delhi, Dec. 4: The celebrations haven’t yet stopped, but calls for an encore have started pouring in.
As the trend became clear, leaders of the National Democratic Alliance and supporting parties began calling up Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley to congratulate the two ace strategists and ask for a repeat performance for the bigger war ahead — next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Mahajan is credited with turning defeat into victory in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, two states where the BJP was not in the reckoning even a month ago. The former minister, who returned to the organisation as a general secretary, had been designated overall in-charge of the Assembly elections with special responsibility for these two states.
Jaitley, who was reinducted into the cabinet after a short stint in the party organisation, was asked to look after Madhya Pradesh. Before he arrived on the scene, chief minister Digvijay Singh had his BJP rival Uma Bharti in knots over Hindutva-related controversies. But once Jaitley was on the Bhopal battlefield, armed with facts and figures on the state’s development, Digvijay was on the defensive.
Among those who called up the BJP duo today were Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party leader . Chandrababu Naidu, defence minister George Fernandes and railway minister Nitish Kumar, both of the Samata Party, food minister Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and S.S. Dhindsa of the Akali Dal. BJP sources said Thackeray was the first to call Mahajan today.
The sources maintained that in these elections, the BJP Big Two — Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy Lal Krishna Advani — had virtually no role to play in poll management except for ratifying the list of candidates. The nuts and bolts of electioneering were managed by Mahajan and Jaitley with their respective teams.
“It was the first polls conducted by GeNext. The success proves that the BJP is competent to run polls for the next 20 years,” the sources said.
With stiff resistance to the projection of Vasundhara Raje and, to a lesser extent, Uma as chief ministerial candidates from the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh units, Mahajan and Jaitley created their own team of backroom boys for assistance.
The sources said Mahajan hopes to use the “Rajasthan model of poll management” for the Lok Sabha polls. Its features are careful selection of candidates, extensive use of poll data and inputs, including regular surveys of big samples, accommodating all social groups, “pumping” up rebels of rival parties and keeping the campaign focused.
The sources, however, stressed that the Mahajan-Jaitley success was unlikely to cause a churning in the BJP or upset the position of the party’s president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, who will have to seek re-election this month.
Sources close to Mahajan maintained he was “very happy to continue in his present capacity”. They said he is already working on a “grand strategy” for the 2004 parliamentary polls that would ensure an increase in the BJP’s strength and involve seeking allies in places where the party is weak.