The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mahajan floats March poll balloon

Hyderabad, Jan. 10: Elections as early as March appeared likely after BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan today said chances of Parliament being dissolved by the end of this month or the first week of February were “very bright”.

But late tonight, highly-placed sources said any decision on dissolving the House will be taken only after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee returns from Thailand after attending an economic summit in the second week of February.

The first BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) summit is scheduled from February 8 to 10 and Vajpayee wants to attend it as full-fledged Prime Minister and not as caretaker, the sources added.

Mahajan’s hint came barely a day before the BJP kicks off two days of crucial talks at its national executive, which is expected to discuss early polls.

“We prefer elections to be held within 45 days of the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. If dissolution comes by end of January or the first week of February, elections can be announced by February 15 and the process can be completed by March-end,” the BJP leader said at a meet-the-press programme hours before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reached Hyderabad.

By Makar Sankranti, which falls on January 14, “everyone in the country will know the fate of the 13th Lok Sabha and the infrastructure of the 14th Lok Sabha”, he added.

Mahajan said September, when the polls were originally scheduled to be held, is the “worst month” for conducting elections because of the monsoon. “Ideally, we think February is the best month for elections. Since it is not possible now to conduct polls in February, we want elections at the earliest possible time,” he added.

Sources said the job of the national executive has been made easy after the National Democratic Alliance authorised Vajpayee to decide how early the polls are to be called. The nod from the allies came at a meeting the Prime Minister chaired on Thursday.

BJP office-bearers and general secretaries tonight finalised the political and economic resolutions to be adopted at the executive. “We have finalised three resolutions — political, economic issues and another on the recent Saarc summit — which will be placed before the national executive for discussion and approval…” the party’s spokesman said after a meeting chaired by BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu.

In Delhi, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who will arrive here tomorrow, was confident that voters would give their mandate to Vajpayee for another five years because of the “feel good” factor in the economy. “The 21st century will belong to India as the ‘feel good’ factor translates into a ‘feel big’ factor,” he said.

Mahajan said the NDA would fight the elections on three issues: Vajpayee’s leadership, performance of the central government and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.

Mahajan said Sonia’s “nationality and ability” would certainly be questioned.


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