The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu poll push

New Delhi, Oct. 9: The relatively smooth conduct of the Jammu and Kashmir elections has boosted the BJP to press for immediate polls in Gujarat.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu today said elections were the “essence of democracy” and the people of Gujarat should be given an “opportunity to exercise this right”. He argued that when elections could be held in a state afflicted with cross-border terror and where over two lakh migrant voters lived in camps outside the state, there was “absolutely no reason” to further defer the Gujarat polls.

The BJP chief gave the following reasons to bolster his case:

n The Election Commission had enough time to prepare the voters’ rolls and entertain objections;

n The situation is “by and large normal”. “Numerous elections were held in states like Punjab and Assam where the situation was far worse. No comparison can be made between Gujarat and these states. Political activities are going on as before and people want an early election to have a government of their choice.”;

n Only an elected government can take important policy decisions concerning people’s “welfare”.

Asked if the demand for immediate election was dictated by fears that the BJP could lose ground otherwise, Naidu said: “We are neither worried nor hurried. As a political party concerned with upholding democratic rights, we are only appealing to the EC based on feedback from Gujarat.”

When it was pointed out that the EC had indicated polls could be held in November-December during the Supreme Court hearing on the presidential reference, Naidu modified his stand slightly.

“We are only asking for a schedule. This is no reflection on the EC.”

Naidu president took the Congress to task for criticising the luncheon the Prime Minister hosted last Sunday for President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. “Our Congress friends want to create political controversies. Jaipal Reddy (Congress spokesman) said the venue should not have been the PM’s residence,” said Naidu, after which he whipped out My Presidential Years, authored by former President R. Venkataram.

He then read out a paragraph on page 42 which spoke of how then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had hosted a “family dinner” for the Venkataramans. In a private post-dinner chat, after the “ladies retired to another room”, Venkataraman and Rajiv even discussed the controversial postal Bill.

“Rajiv said that I examined the Bill and suggested changes he would go along with it. I conveyed to him my feeling that the Bill was not necessary at all,” Venkataraman had written.

The BJP also lambasted the Congress for opposing the Tamil Nadu Ordinance against religious conversions. Naidu said: “Is the Congress interested in conversions' Do they want to encourage conversions' Do they benefit from conversions'”

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