The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Onward to villages for image makeover

New Delhi, Sept. 24: Scarred by a series of scams and sandwiched between swadeshi and videshi lobbyists, the BJP is embarking on a drive — from September 25 to October 1 — to bolster its image before the elections in 10 states scheduled next year and the parliamentary polls in early 2004.

The multi-pronged strategy involves expanding the party’s social base, countering the campaign against the Vajpayee government’s “misgovernance” and redressing problems faced by people at the village level where the BJP or its allies are in power, as well as attacking the governments of states where the Congress is in power.

The campaign — christened as Gaon Chalo — will involve two lakh bicycle-borne party workers in 4.5 lakh villages spread across 30 states and Union territories.

It will, however, be a quiet campaign at the local level and senior members of the BJP said no speeches of leaders would be allowed.

Gujarat has been left out of the campaign because of chief minister Narendra Modi’s Gaurav Yatra. Kashmir has also been bypassed because of the elections in the state.

A questionnaire will be given to each villager to ascertain whether he or she is happy with the performance of the local administration. The questions will also aim to assess the satisfaction level of villagers with welfare schemes, drawbacks if any, as well as suggestions for improvement.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu will flag off the campaign from Bhangarola in Haryana on September 25, the birth anniversary of RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Union ministers, state and district presidents of the party, MPs and MLAs and other local leaders will sell the “party with a difference” during the campaign, which is a brainchild of Naidu.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee will not lend his weight, according to Shivraj Chauhan, national secretary in-charge of the campaign. Chauhan, however, did not rule out the possibility of L.K. Advani chipping in.

The party has held five zonal meetings in Bangalore, Jaipur, Bhopal, Calcutta and Guwahati to discuss strategies to expand its social base. However, if the speeches at these meetings (which mostly targeted the Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi) are any indication, the party still seems to be groping in the dark for an effective strategy.

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