The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll plank and pangs
Chant of progress with populism

New Delhi, Dec. 5: Flush with the Assembly poll success, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani added his voice to the development chorus in the BJP but squeezed in a reminder about the indispensability of populism in politics.

“Good governance and prudent politics go hand in hand. Political parties in a democracy cannot disregard populism,” an elated Advani told a tea party at his home for BJP campaigners and journalists.

Advani cited the example of Himachal Pradesh to drive home his point. In the 1993 polls, the BJP was routed there despite chief minister Shanta Kumar’s “excellent” governance.

“Shanta Kumar was a good chief minister but he was seen as alienating government servants and apple-growers (a powerful political lobby) and there was a total rout,” Advani said.

He iterated the Lok Sabha polls would be held as scheduled in the second half of 2004 and as conveyed by the Prime Minister at the last BJP parliamentary party meeting. “This poll outcome will surely give strength to the party in the general elections,” he added, noting that the BJP dominated in 66 of the 73 Lok Sabha seats in the four states that went to the polls.

Party sources said the Election Commission’s “cryptic” attitude on poll schedules apart, another reason for not bringing the general elections forward was to enable the Centre to present a “people-friendly” budget.

Delhi BJP leaders believe the Centre’s “harsh” policies vis-a-vis this sector were largely responsible for the party’s second consecutive defeat in the capital.

Advani said: “Why should a budget be hard or soft' A good government always gives a good budget.”

Arun Jaitley, one of the BJP’s poll strategists, emphasised this shift to economics. These elections have “shown that economic issues will have more influence on politics”, he told reporters earlier.

Advani rejected Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy’s forecast of his party’s resurgence in a 1998-99 repeat of the BJP gaining in the general elections 10 months after a mauling in the Assembly polls. “(The) logic does not always work,” he said.

Advani also mentioned the poll management by the BJP’s GeNext leadership. “This makes the BJP a party with a difference,” he said and added, without mentioning the Congress, how other parties have just one personality to rely on.

The BJP’s poll cohesiveness was evident at today’s party attended by leaders such as Murli Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh, Ram Naik, Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj along with stars Hema Malini, Dara Singh and Smriti Irani.

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