The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu feel-good at Atal feet

Raipur, July 18: M. Venkaiah Naidu atoned and Atal Bihari Vajpayee basked as paeans flowed copiously from the BJP president’s lips in his opening remarks at the national executive.

Anxious to put behind the controversy his remarks on the iron man versus development man kicked up, Naidu was quoted as saying: “The situation in the country can be summed up in just one sentence: There is a feel good factor.” The second half of the sentence was highlighted in capital letters in the press release.

“The people have seen, tested and judged the performance of the NDA government under Shri Atalji’s leadership. As I observed in Indore, too, there is perhaps no precedent for a Prime Minister to remain as popular as Shri Atalji is after five years in the saddle. This gives the confidence that, under his… leadership, the BJP along with our allies will win a renewed and bigger mandate….”

Naidu’s speech was an acknowledgement of Vajpayee’s supremacy in government and party: he endorsed the Prime Minister’s approach of fighting elections in a coalition in a spirit of give-and-take and not by taking hard positions on Hindutva.

Although it was absent from the handout, BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi quoted Naidu as ruling out thrusting Ramjanmabhoomi, a common civil code and abrogation of Article 370 on the NDA.

In the handout, Naidu said: “Hindutva is the soul of India. We are proud of it but it cannot be an election issue. Nor can Hindutva be projected as a narrow religious concept. We are committed to secularism but are opposed to pseudo-secularism.” It is now more or less clear that as in 1999, the BJP will not have a separate manifesto.

But as a sop to the hawks, Naidu reportedly stressed the need for population control and called on the government to take “firm and decisive steps”. His remarks, again excluded from the handout, were read in the context of the VHP’s campaign targeting minorities. Naqvi, however, denied communal overtones.

Naidu’s time frame for putting Vajpayee on a pedestal was the three months from the April Indore executive till Raipur. “Under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister,… (NDA) has traversed a long distance in these three months.”

The reasons: Vajpayee’s visits to the G8 summit and China, his Pakistan peace initiative and the launch of the pension and health insurance schemes.


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