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In this team, a senior missing

New Delhi, April 11: L.K. Advani 20 days, Murli Manohar Joshi 10, Rajnath Singh 28, Kalyan Singh 30, Sushma Swaraj 14.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Zero so far.

The campaign schedule of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh has thrown up as big a surprise as India’s scorecard at the World Cup: what happened to the master orator who has never shied off a poll podium'

Campaigning for the second phase of the seven-round Uttar Pradesh polls came to an end today without the former Prime Minister making a single trip to the state.

Sources said BJP poll managers have been trying to persuade their star campaigner to give a commitment for the third phase. Vajpayee may eventually campaign, but so far no dates have been given.

His absence is a cause for concern for the BJP, especially because of his ability to mobilise Brahmins in the heartland. With strong contender Mayavati’s BSP fielding the maximum number of Brahmin candidates, the BJP’s poll strategists are anxious about which way the community would vote.

Brahmins constitute about 9 per cent of the state’s electorate and Vajpayee is the tallest Brahmin leader in the BJP.

Party leaders are wondering whether a wound caused by a caustic comment by Kalyan when he was a dissident is still raw. Kalyan, who is now back in the BJP, had then said Vajpayee is a “tired” Prime Minister who ran the country with the help of “retired” bureaucrats.

More worrisome for the party is another possibility: the communal twist to the campaign.

“There is an inflammatory CD that the BJP has been formally accused of circulating. Besides, there are certain objectionable advertisements. Perhaps Vajpayeeji has decided he should stay away as much as he can,” a source said.

Never a reticent campaigner, Vajpayee used to revel in public meetings. Such was his enthusiasm that he campaigned during the municipal polls, too.

The BJP’s other regular campaigners, such as Advani, Joshi and Sushma, have been making regular forays into Uttar Pradesh. Advani has lined up 120 rallies and meetings in 20 days.

Rajnath and Kalyan are addressing election rallies in virtually every Assembly segment of the state.

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