The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Too hot for hot seat, not so for roadshow

New Delhi, Nov. 18: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today rose to Dilip Singh Judeo’s defence, but BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu struck a false note when he sought to distance the party from the minister who has quit over the cash-on-disc scandal.

Addressing the media before flagging off the Delhi campaign, Naidu denied that Judeo was projected as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Chhattisgarh.

“Who said he would be projected as our candidate' We decided not to project anyone but leave the choice to the elected legislators. But the press made out as if we had already decided on him. This is unjust,” he said.

The Big Two, on the other hand, held forth on Judeo’s behalf. Addressing the media at Raipur, Advani declared he was the “star campaigner”.

“The episode will not have an adverse impact in Chhattisgarh or any other state going to polls. Judeo will be the principal campaigner for the party.”

Vajpayee, in his inaugural rally at Bikaner, threw the gauntlet at the Congress and alleged it had “double standards” when dealing with corruption. “There is a chargesheet against (Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit) Jogi. He should not only resign, but the case against him should go on. Why should the policy be different in Jogi’s case' This is a question I ask Sonia Gandhi.”

Despite Naidu’s denial, the RSS made it clear that Judeo was its choice for the top post in Chhattisgarh in the latest edition of its English and Hindi mouthpieces, Organiser and Panchajanya, respectively.

In a special series on the main contenders in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Panchajanya juxtaposed Judeo’s picture against Jogi’s with the poser: “Kya badlenge sarkar (Will he topple the (incumbent) government)'”

Organiser carried an interview with Judeo, in which the introductory blurb described him as a “popular leader” because of his “shuddhikaran” (purification) programme — which the RSS euphemistically called “homecoming” — “that he describes as his pooja and work for the nation”.

Apart from the political imperative of not cowing down before the corruption allegations and giving the Congress an edge on the eve of elections, BJP sources said Judeo and former party chief Bangaru Laxman, the subject of the Tehelka sting operation, could not be “put on a par”.

They explained that Judeo was “so important” as he was instrumental in setting up the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an RSS front, in Chhattisgarh’s tribal areas when they were allegedly “dominated” by Christian missionaries. “This was possible because he was a scion of an erstwhile royal family which commanded tribal support. So it was easy for him to work on them and win them over to the RSS,” a source said.

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