The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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General named for Delhi battle
Khurana: at helm

New Delhi, April 21: The BJP today said former chief minister Madan Lal Khurana would lead the party’s charge in Delhi, while Uma Bharti and Vasundhara Raje would spearhead the Assembly poll campaign in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively.

The party strongly denied any move to effect a leadership change in Delhi after media reports said law minister Arun Jaitley might be projected as the chief ministerial candidate. BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said he was surprised to see reports speculating that Khurana would be left out of the race.

“We have decided that Khurana, who is our Delhi unit president, will lead the election campaign in the capital and I want to set at rest speculation that has been on about who will be leading the party in the Assembly elections,” Naidu said after a meeting with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, general secretary Pramod Mahajan and Khurana to discuss poll strategy for Delhi.

But Naidu did not categorically state that Khurana would be the chief minister if the BJP won. Asked why the candidate for Delhi was not being specified as the BJP has done for Madhya Pradesh (Bharti) and Rajasthan (Raje), the BJP president said “you can come to a similar conclusion”.

Is Khurana a match for Sheila Dikshit, he was asked. Naidu said: “She is not a match for Khurana, he is head and shoulders above her.”

The meeting decided that while statehood for Delhi and other related issues would be taken up by the Central ministries concerned, the Delhi BJP unit would chalk out an agitational programme in the next few days against the “misrule” of the Congress government.

When it was pointed out that arrested New Delhi Municipal Corporation official Subhash Sharma has been linked to Khurana, Naidu shot back: “There is a campaign by our political rivals and Khurana has nothing to do with it. Sharma is a government official and action has been taken against him after appropriate inquiry.”

In Rajasthan, Raje would soon launch a yatra to mark the beginning of the election campaign. Bharti has already done so in Madhya Pradesh, Naidu said.

As for Chhattisgarh, he said the leadership issue would be decided at an appropriate time.

While Mahajan will coordinate the campaign in the four states, another general secretary, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, will be in charge of Delhi.

The party will hold a two-day Dalit morcha from April 25 in Madhya Pradesh’s Mhow, the birthplace of B.R. Ambedkar, to mobilise the support of tribals and Dalits, who form a major votebank in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

The meeting, to be inaugurated by Advani, is likely to adopt a Mhow declaration, highlighting the problems of Dalits and steps to be taken for their welfare, Naidu said.

Inspired by the success of a recent adivasi meeting in the capital, the Mhow meeting was planned to bring the weaker sections into the mainstream. Naidu will deliver the valedictory address at the Mhow morcha.

Naidu said it was only under the BJP-led government that Dalits were given their due representation in the Union council of ministers with two Cabinet rank ministers and a separate ministry for tribal welfare.

He said his party was committed to social and political uplift of the tribal community and as part of this exercise, a separate tribal commission should be set up to spread the message that the BJP stood for the welfare of all communities.

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