The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani readies trumpet for anniversary

New Delhi, Oct. 11: The “good work” done by the coalition at the Centre will be the highlight of a press conference to be addressed by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on the third anniversary of the BJP-led government, while the party goes on an offensive against Opposition parties, especially the Congress and the Left.

The victory of ballot over bullet is likely to be portrayed as the crowning glory of the Vajpayee government, at the multimedia press conference on October 13 at the Press Information Bureau.

Ministers have been asked to send in their assessments on the performance of their ministries so that they can also be listed as achievements of the government. Among those who rushed to give their confidential reports today was petroleum minister Ram Naik. “I gave him the salient features of our achievements (in exploration and oil market reforms),” confirmed the minister.

Government sources said the highlights would include highest-ever foreign exchange reserves, lowest-ever inflation, bringing prices under control, turning the country from an economy of shortages to an economy of surplus, telecom connectivity and IT, a revolutionary change in the infrastructure scenario, massive housing schemes, kisan credit cards, comprehensive crop insurance schemes, improvement in highways and village roads substantially, as well as the launch of a massive education programme.

Key Central ministries, especially those handling social and economic sectors, have also been directed to give in writing possible questions that Advani may have to field along with their replies.

The government has also asked Central ministries to stress on individual achievements in state capitals through news conferences and interviews to Doordarshan and All India Radio between October 16 and 25. They also have to bring out separate booklets for distribution among media persons. Sources say the public relations drive is necessary to bolster the image of the party, which has been hit by a series of exposés.

However, despite the all-out bid to project the plus points, Advani will have a tough time, as the Tehelka expose, the petrol pump and land scams and the Gujarat riots have taken their toll on the Centre’s USP of providing “a scam-free, communal-riot free government”.

While the ministries will focus on the government’s achievements, the party will take on the Opposition.

From September 25 to October 1, the BJP had undertaken a major exercise to expand its social base and counter campaign against the government’s “misgovernance”, but it fell far short of expectations. The five zonal meetings at Bangalore, Jaipur, Bhopal, Calcutta and Guwahati held last month to discuss strategies to expand social base were marred by rhetoric and Sonia-bashing instead of being serious strategy sessions.

The campaign was intended to mobilise party cadre at the grassroots level in 4.5 lakh villages spread across 30 states and Union territories. A “proforma” to probe the mind of the voter was given to each villager to ascertain whether he or she is happy with the performance the local administration and with the welfare schemes.

But though many BJP leaders, including Union ministers, state and district presidents, MPs, and MLAs were involved, the campaign failed to have the desired effect.

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