The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Issues, early poll on BJP table
- Mahajan, Naqvi asked to collect feedback from states

New Delhi, March 12: The BJP has asked Pramod Mahajan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to draw up an “action plan” for the four Assembly elections in November as well as the Lok Sabha polls, which could be brought forward depending on the state results.

For starters, the two general secretaries were asked to get the feedback from the state units on the ground situation and whether it favoured an early poll in February-March 2004, seven months ahead of schedule.

Their brief also included identifying issues, assessing to what extent Hindutva would work and in which areas, reviewing existing alliances and advising the leadership on which of these were “electorally tenable”.

The two are expected to get down to work immediately after the BJP’s working committee meets in Indore on April 4 and 5.

A meeting, called by BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu today and attended by his general secretaries, also decided that the issue of banning cow slaughter would be the party’s main plank in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the “two most prominent cow-belt states”, as a source put it.

The other issue would be Ayodhya. “It is clear that after the movement on the legal front, both in the Supreme Court and the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, the temple issue is no longer a slogan. We are coming close to building one. And god willing, if the court rulings are positive and we are in a position to return the land to the VHP trust, then we may seriously think of bringing forward the Lok Sabha election,” sources said.

Sources said the verdict of the November elections in the four states — the others being Chhattisgarh and Delhi — would be an important factor in deciding whether the Lok Sabha polls can be brought forward.

“If we take away two major states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan from the Congress, then the issue could perhaps be clinched. In fact, an early poll may become inevitable because we would want to take advantage of the tide in our favour,” they said.

Another factor that could shape such a decision would be not allowing the Congress to get its act together in the sense of firming up regional alliances.

“Right now, our trump card is the disarray in the Opposition. The Congress is unable to win over new friends but there is a lot of talk of a reunion with (NCP leader) Sharad Pawar. If, for instance, that happens, our job becomes tough in Maharashtra,” the sources admitted.

As for a central law banning cow slaughter, the ideological divide — witnessed in the Lok Sabha yesterday when the BJP tried to sneak in a private resolution — has underscored the “importance” of the issue for the party.

Malhotra said the Centre would introduce a Bill in the latter half of the budget session after the recess. Conceding that there was “little chance” of legislating the ban — “unless the Congress supports it” — BJP sources said their plan was to “underline the divide” in the main Opposition party and capitalise on it in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

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