The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP firm on ties with BSP

Lucknow, May 18: The BJP national president today ruled out reviewing its coalition arrangement with the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. Speaking here on his first tour since taking over as party chief, M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “Hathi hamara saathi hai aur rahega (The elephant — the BSP symbol — is our friend and will remain so).”

Naidu was made aware of the problems faced by BJP legislators and ministers in the Mayavati-led coalition during his two-day tour of Lucknow. But he failed to offer any assurance despite a luncheon meeting with the chief minister.

The BJP chief sought to play down the significance of his state tour. “I am touring all the states to gauge the organisation’s preparedness for the coming Lok Sabha polls. Uttar Pradesh features in the last stage of my tour,” he said at the party office.

Naidu said the party hoped to win 300 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections and Uttar Pradesh featured prominently in the plans since it has the most Parliament seats. “The target is difficult but not impossible. We will contest elections under the leadership of Atalji and development will be our sole poll plank,” he added.

The BJP chief said BJP ministers and legislators should improve their equation with each other and with the people as this would fetch electoral benefits.

“I asked the ministers to sit in the party office once a week and interact with their constituents every 10 days. A three-member committee comprising senior state leaders is already interacting with Mayavati to resolve any differences that may crop up,” he added.

Naidu said he was confident that the coalition would run smoothly after meeting the chief minister. “But there is scope for improvement and we must present a united face when we go to the polls,” he added.

The party chief said the November Assembly elections were the semi-final and the final would be the next Lok Sabha polls.

Naidu saw nothing wrong in Mayavati’s attempts to impose her Dalit agenda onto the state. “The BSP is trying to enlarge its support base and so are we,” he said.

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