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BJP pits Atal against free-for-all

New Delhi, April 27: The BJP has decided to play the “stability and Vajpayee” card with fresh vigour to counter the spurt in activity in the Opposition camp following the exit poll projections after the first two rounds of voting.

Having pushed the line “Atal Bihari Vajpayee versus a question mark”, the party’s latest poser to voters is: “Should India continue to have a stable government under the able and undisputed leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or an unstable ragtag government where the fight for prime ministership has already begun'”

With most exit polls pointing towards a decline in the National Democratic Alliance’s seat share without a corresponding accretion to the Congress’, the possibility of a hung Parliament looms on the horizon.

Aware of this, kingmakers in the Opposition — the CPM’s Harkishen Singh Surjeet and the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar — have been talking about putting together a United Front-clone of non-Congress, non-NDA parties.

“As predicted by the BJP, the unseemly race for prime ministership has already begun in the Opposition camp, even though there is no chance whatsoever of the formation of a non-NDA government,” BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu said today.

“Even before the second phase of polling was over, PM claimants were emerging from the other camp. There’s a gentleman from Maharashtra and two gentlemen from Bihar who have put themselves in the race,” he added in a clear reference to Pawar, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan.

“The BJP’s appeal to the people is simply this: Thank you for your faith in us. But give us a decisive majority. We need a bigger mandate to accomplish the many big tasks that we have set for ourselves for the next five years,” Naidu said.

Speaking in Lucknow, Vajpayee leant his voice: “You have to make up your mind. Don’t be distracted by the (poll) predictions. Development agenda always runs a government and if I have done anything, I will win.”

Asked if the party would downplay its campaign theme, spun around the “India Shining” and “feel-good” slogans, Naidu ducked. “India is shining and (the) BJP is also shining. I am only appealing to people to give us more than 300 (seats).”

The BJP chief urged people to see the larger picture and not get swayed by local issues. His exhortation came in the wake of internal reports that in many places in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, voters were going by the candidate’s image or the work done by the outgoing MP, and not “achievements” like Vajpayee’s Pakistan initiative.

Asked if his appeal was the fallout of yesterday’s exit polls, Naidu said: “There’s no need to react to exit polls. My job is to appeal till the last minute.”

Party sources contradicted the scaled-down extrapolations of the exit polls and circulated their own findings, which gave the NDA 83 of the 136 seats where polling was held yesterday. Of these, the BJP expects to get 53.

According to their estimates, in the second round, the BJP has swept Karnataka (10 of 13), Jharkhand (seven of eight), Orissa (nine of 10) and Goa (two of two). It loses one seat from 1999 in Uttar Pradesh (12 of 32) while, by the party’s own admission, the Sena-BJP combine is poised to get only nine of the 24 seats in Maharashtra and 12 of the 21 in Andhra.

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