The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM hopefuls raring for contest, party not sure

New Delhi, Oct. 7: Will they lead from the front, or step in when the battle is won'

BJP sources said when the party holds its next strategy session on the coming Assembly elections, a major point on the agenda will be whether its chief ministerial candidates would contest the polls with the rest or not.

Three of the identified aspirants — Vasundhara Raje, Uma Bharti and Madan Lal Khurana — are Lok Sabha MPs, while the fourth one about whom the BJP is still unsure, Dilip Singh Judeo, is from the Rajya Sabha.

Vasundhara, the chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan, has reportedly conveyed her desire to the leadership to contest the polls on December 1 rather than at a later date if the BJP is voted to power. “She would prefer to fight with the rest,” sources close to her said. “Only then will people take her candidacy seriously. The party would benefit from such a decision.”

Bharti and Khurana, the nominees for Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, too are believed to share Vasundhara’s view.

The BJP’s worry, according to sources, is that if the three contest the polls with the others, it would pin them to their constituencies, leaving them with little time for the rest of the state.

The counter-point is that all three are seasoned fighters in Lok Sabha polls — Vasundhara won from Jhalawad five times, Bharti from Madhya Pradesh, although she has changed constituencies, and Khurana from Delhi Sadar — and would have “little or no problem” tackling an Assembly seat. It was suggested that the party could identify a “safe” seat, preferably in their Lok Sabha constituencies, which would not make the fight tough and bog them down for long periods.

Judeo was considered for the top job in Chhattisgarh after a grandiose announcement yesterday that he would lead an Ashwamedha rath yatra to kickstart the BJP’s campaign. But the sources said the party began to have second thoughts today. One area of concern is Judeo is a Rajput and may not effectively challenge the “tribal card” played by the Congress’ Ajit Jogi. Second, there is the threat of factionalism being instigated by followers of state party chief Raman Singh and central minister Ramesh Bais.

There is also the opinion that the party should keep its options open with former Congress leader V.C. Shukla who has now joined the Nationalist Congress Party. The BJP is banking on Shukla to make inroads into the Congress’ urban vote base.

The party has outlined its campaign strategy. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the thrust would be on door-to-door meetings to ensure that all voters are at the polling booth on election day. Booth-wise meetings have already been held in most constituencies and the party plans to cover the rest by October.

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