The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP targets Digvijay on development

Bhopal, May 10: The BJP today said it will contest the November elections in the state on “developmental issues”.

The party said 10 years of Congress rule had made Madhya Pradesh lag behind in agriculture, infrastructure and fiscal management.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan and Union minister Arun Jaitley quoted many reports in an effort to nail Digvijay Singh on key economic and social development indicators hours after the chief minister had contested the statistics and challenged Jaitley to a debate.

“Let there be a debate on any TV channel of Digvijay’s choice,” Mahajan said, fielding Jaitley for the event.

The chief minister had held a news conference yesterday to reject the BJP charge that the state was not performing well. He pointed to the Decadal Achievement Award conferred on him by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government as proof of Madhya Pradesh’s progress.

The BJP leadership was evasive on whether it would use Hindutva as an election issue. Asked if the party was dropping its Hindutva plank, Mahajan said: “We are going to fight (the) election on basic developmental issues. For us, Hindutva is not an issue. It is our life and breath.” Mahajan would not say if the BJP would focus on cow slaughter, Bhojshala and conversion.

The Congress has been on the offensive on religious and caste-based issues. Digvijay had said yesterday that he welcomed a nationwide ban on cow slaughter. “I am of the view that there should a nationwide ban.”

,” he said.

The chief minister regularly visits temples in the state, participating in yagnas and other religious ceremonies. Congress leaders say Digvijay’s championing of the Dalit cause and implementation of the Bhopal Declaration rattled the BJP so much that the Centre has denied him permission to attend an international meet on Dalits in Vancouver.

Mahajan and Jaitley are in the state capital to participate in a BJP election management panel meeting. A range of issues were discussed there.

Senior leader Uma Bharti and state party chief Kailash Joshi said at the meeting that the BJP should target Digvijay on power shortage, water scarcity and lack of good roads instead of emotive issues like cow slaughter, Bhojshala and conversions. It was felt that until now Digvijay has been able to neutralise the BJP campaign.

As part of this strategy, Mahajan and Jaitley asked Digvijay why he had rubbished the report prepared by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies for the Confederation of Indian Industry, which shows Madhya Pradesh at the bottom of the states on performance. The institute is a subsidiary of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Reacting to Digvijay’s outburst, Mahajan said: “Sonia Gandhi must decide how to deal with a non-performing chief minister.”

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