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Mahajan eyes Delhi comeback

New Delhi, Sept. 17: Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley were the BJP's most visible faces and articulate speakers before the Lok Sabha elections.

After the shock defeat, Jaitley stayed afloat as a spokesperson and the party's Bihar strategist. But Mahajan faded away following whispers that his hi-tech campaign had harmed the BJP. He grounded himself in Maharashtra, rarely seen or heard.

So when Mahajan turned up in the capital yesterday, ostensibly to attend the central election committee meeting on finalising Maharashtra candidates, the BJP headquarters were awash with speculation that there was 'more' to his appearance.

And what was that' It was to signal that things are on track in Maharashtra, that it was entirely Mahajan's show. But in his own words, regardless of how the BJP-Shiv Sena combine fares in the October 13 elections, he will be back in Delhi three days after that.

'On that date, my shetriya sanyaas (regional renunciation) will be over,' Mahajan told newspersons during a free-wheeling interaction.

He was asked what his plans are in the light of talk that he could be a 'consensus' chief minister if the BJP-Shiv Sena wins and the Raj Thackeray-Uddhav Thackeray fight for chief ministership has not been resolved by then. It is also being speculated that M. Venkaiah Naidu's position as BJP chief is shaky.

But Mahajan says he is not in the running for either post. 'For the last several years, there was this talk that I would be the CM because of my excellent rapport with (Sena chief) Balasaheb (Thackeray). But I believe he will not give up the post for the BJP. As for Naidu, he will not allow himself to be dislodged that easily. He has another two-and-a-half years left.'

Nor did he expect a 'reward' if he swings Maharashtra BJP-wards.

'I have my share of sympathisers and detractors in the party. Even when I have delivered the goods, when was I given a great reward' I am professional about these things,' he says.

The BJP leader said the battle to wrest Maharashtra from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine would be 'stiff', adding that this point had been repeatedly hammered home to the cadre as 'reality and strategy'.

'We went to the (December 2003) Rajasthan (Assembly) polls as the underdog and won. Here too, we don't want to hype up anything because our workers should not become complacent,' he said. Mahajan said his use of SMS and Atal Bihari Vajpayee phone-ins during the Lok Sabha elections had made workers 'sit easy'. 'They thought technology would take care of hard work,' he said.

Mahajan said the Maharashtra campaign will focus on lack of electricity for villages, farmers' suicides and malnutrition deaths and not Veer Savarkar and Uma Bharti's 'tiranga' yatra. His rationale is that when the Congress made the controversial James Lane book on Shivaji an election issue, it failed. 'And Shivaji is a thousand times more powerful than Savarkar. There are no followers of Savarkar left in Maharashtra. A leader is as powerful as the reaction his moves evoke among his followers,' he said.

The other 'surprise' is that BJP 'stars' like Vajpayee and .K. Advani will be used sparingly as will Narendra Modi, Naidu and Uma. Instead, 25 meetings have been lined up for Sushma Swaraj.

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