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Early poll on mind, BJP calls allies
Big Four, NDA set meeting

New Delhi, Jan. 7: In a sign that the BJP leadership plans to advance the Lok Sabha polls to March-April, an NDA meeting has been called tomorrow to discuss the possibility of a vote-on-account in Parliament and fix a date for a session to get the proposals passed.

While Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani have already sounded the Telugu Desam Party, the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (United) on the possibility of early elections, the government has not yet taken the other allies into confidence.

Although Desam chief . Chandrababu Naidu, Sena boss Bal Thackeray and Dal (U) leaders like Nitish Kumar are for early elections, parties like the Akali Dal and the Indian National Lok Dal and a section of the Dal (U) are not too sure. Sources said Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal is opposed to polls in March-April and has suggested May for the exercise.

NDA convener George Fernandes spoke to Badal over phone this afternoon. Badal is learnt to have opposed holding of elections in March or April because farmers will be busy harvesting wheat at that time.

The defence minister requested Badal to attend the meeting tomorrow, but the former Punjab chief minister expressed his inability and said he had deputed Union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa to attend it on behalf of the party.

The BJP national executive meeting, scheduled for January 11 and 12 at Hyderabad, is expected to take a final decision on early elections. However, sources said, it was felt that a formal meeting of the NDA should be convened to sound the other allies so that “there is unanimity of view among all the NDA partners”.

But, with BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu saying the party is “ever-ready for the polls and with the feel-good factor now becoming feel-great”, the sources said the BJP is all set to plunge into “Mission 2004” with full steam soon after the Hyderabad meeting.

Tomorrow’s meeting, chaired by Vajpayee, will take place at his Race Course Road residence. Before the meeting, the Prime Minister will have a separate session with Advani, finance minister Jaswant Singh and the BJP chief.

As the meeting has been called at such short notice, the sources said all leaders who are in Delhi and others who can be reached will be invited.

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, a central minister without portfolio, left for Delhi this evening to attend the meeting.

The NDA meeting is likely to decide on the date of the vote-on-account. Indications are it is likely to be some time at the end of the month, NDA sources said.

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