The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sop in hand, Vajpayee to visit Digvijay turf

Bhopal, June 15: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will take on the Congress in its turf of Madhya Pradesh by touring Mandla district on Tuesday.

Vajpayee will announce a “package” for adivasis in the tribal-dominated district, two months after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi disbursed Rs 100 crore in Mandla as a reward for its forest produce.

Madhya Pradesh, with 23 per cent tribals, has traditionally supported the Congress. But the BJP is now making deep inroads into the tribal pockets of the state.

Apart from development, the BJP is also expected to focus on conversion and cow protection as its main planks for the Assembly polls scheduled in November.

The state party executive that met in Rewa came up with a 24-point “chargesheet” against the Digvijay Singh regime. It accused the Congress of relegating the state to the lower ranks in almost all sectors, including health, infrastructure and education.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu urged party leaders at a public meeting in Rewa not to be apologetic on any of its pet issues — from Ayodhya’s Ram temple to the Bhojshala monument, cow protection and uniform civil code.

Naidu, however, was quick to say that “development and development alone will be the BJP’s poll plank in Madhya Pradesh” and not “Hindutva”.

He took the opportunity to accuse the Congress of mixing politics with religion in Goa and Mizoram. “Look at the Congress’ track record in taking help from the church in Goa and Mizoram,” he said.

Naidu, having cleared the air with Vajpayee over the controversial leadership comments, accorded party discipline top priority. Speaking against the party view or opposing its nominees is the same as abusing one’s mother, he said. “It is a maha paap (grave sin)” that should be avoided at all costs.

The comments came in the backdrop of reported widespread factionalism in the state BJP. The party’s chief ministerial candidate, Uma Bharti, is yet to muster support from all factions.

Now on a sankalp yatra across several districts of the state, Bharti has failed to draw local party functionaries to most of her rallies on the way.

For this reason, perhaps, Naidu again declared Bharti the party’s chief ministerial candidate at the executive meet in Rewa.

The party’s poll strategy for the state is two-pronged. First, it will focus on the anti-incumbency factor and emphasise the state government’s poor performance in the power and water sectors.

A “Plan B” on “basic issues” such as cow protection, Bhojshala and Ayodhya is also ready as the BJP’s top leadership is unsure of winning the polls because it fears a good monsoon may yet play spoilsport.

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