The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP wary minus poll ‘wave’

New Delhi, Oct. 25: An election without a perceptible “wave”, the failure of any single issue to take off and the reported reluctance of Uma Bharti and Vasundhara Raje to contest have made the BJP a little diffident about its own prospects in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi. This despite the earlier reading that the anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress governments would give it a decisive edge.

The party’s strategy is to focus on poll management and find the “ideal” candidate in every constituency to beat the Congress in its game. A BJP office-bearer said his feedback is that the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan chief ministers could change as many as 50 per cent of the sitting MLAs.

“We may be forced to follow suit because it is in these states that we have the maximum number of legislators despite being in the Opposition,” he said. The logic, he explained, is that in the absence of an obvious “wave”, the personality and performance of the incumbent MLA would become the key determinants.

BJP sources admitted to their failure to pin down the Congress chief ministers, including Madhya Pradesh’s Digvijay Singh — perceived to be the “weakest” of the four — on a specific charge. “The logical corollary is that even the chief minister has not been transformed into a hate figure. If that happened, our job would be easy because people’s anger would be directed against every candidate of his party,” a source said.

For instance, the BJP’s endeavour to corner Digvijay on the Bhojshala and ban-cow slaughter planks fizzled out once he turned the tables on rival Bharti. Her latest move to embarrass him over a nine-year-old rape case boomeranged when Digvijay alleged that the victim was paid to appear at a party function graced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In Chhattisgarh, the BJP believes its attempts to show up chief minister Ajit Jogi as a “fake leader” in view of the CBI charges against him recoiled after he did a “Laloo Yadav” and projected himself as the victim of an “upper caste conspiracy” among his tribal and Dalit constituents.

“The near total success of a bandh he called soon after the CBI chargesheet was proof of his success. His supporters must be wondering why so many cases have surfaced in just one month before the elections,” a source said.

So the BJP did not go to town over the latest CBI revelation of how Jogi’s son allegedly got the benefits due to Scheduled Caste/Tribes members despite being a US citizen.

Therefore, in Chhattisgarh, the party is banking on Nationalist Congress Party leader V.C. Shukla’s ability to eat into the Congress votes. The sources said if there is a hung Assembly and Shukla calls the shots, they would consider supporting a coalition government led by him.

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