New Delhi, June 2: One war, one party, two mascots.
In a significant change of tack, the BJP will focus on the personalities of both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani during its campaign for next year’s Lok Sabha poll.
Party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu who announced this decision — taken at the recent meeting of BJP state and district presidents at Hyderabad — said Vajpayee would be positioned as “vikas purush” (man for development) and Advani as “lauh purush” (iron man).
“We would be projecting Vajpayee as vikas purush, as the leader who brought development and good governance to the nation, and Advani as the iron man. The campaign focus would be a combination of both,” Naidu told reporters today.
“Advani is now the deputy Prime Minister. The lauh purush is solidly behind the vikas purush and hence both leaders are being projected,” he said denying a shift in strategy. But observers believe this will be the first parliamentary poll since the BJP came on the scene as a national alternative in which Vajpayee may not hold centre-stage all by himself.
Advani did not contest the 1996 Lok Sabha election as he faced a hawala charge, which eventually fell through. Though he contested in 1998, the RSS-BJP campaign revolved entirely around Vajpayee’s personality.
Election 1999 again saw Vajpayee as the centrepiece, resting on the laurels of the Kargil war, the Pokhran nuclear tests and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s abortive attempt to prop up an alternative government. The BJP’s campaign poster had Vajpayee’s portrait with the slogan: “Tried, tested and trusted”. There was no mention of any other leader.
The BJP is split on the Vajpayee-Advani question. While some see the Prime Minister as the only winning card because of his “political acceptability and moderate image”, hardliners feel the “virtue of moderation” might cost the party its votes.
As the NDA government has nothing concrete to offer on the economic and social front, they think the BJP should play up Advani’s “image as an uncompromising nationalist” to keep its traditional constituency intact.
As for Advani’s acceptability, or lack of it, their answer is if the allies could have endorsed his elevation as deputy Prime Minister, they may not have a problem accepting him as coalition leader, if it comes to that.
The other likely change from the last election is the BJP could release a manifesto of its own this time instead of going in for a common NDA agenda.
The 25-point Mission 2004 agenda unveiled at Hyderabad included a telling point. “We are proud of our ideology,” the BJP told its cadre.
“Do not hesitate to state our stand on any issue, but remember that we are leading a coalition government and there is no question of thrusting our agenda on any of our alliance partners.”