The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mid-April poll signal blips on BJP radar

New Delhi, Jan. 29: The Lok Sabha elections are most likely to take place in three phases between April 15 and May 5, according to highly-placed BJP sources.

“The next government will be in place by the second week of May,” said a source.

Although Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his party wanted the elections to be held between March-end and mid-April, the sources said this was not possible as it clashed with the school board examinations.

“Ninety per cent of the polling booths are housed in schools and teachers comprise a bulk of the polling staff,” said the source.

Another factor in favour of the projected dates is that the revision of rolls in Uttar Pradesh will be completed only by mid-March. Besides, Madhya Pradesh would host the kumbh mela in April and would, therefore, prefer elections in May.

A mid-April to early May schedule, the sources hoped, would also help avoid the harvest season in Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh and enable farmers and migrant labourers to vote. Polls in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and parts of Uttar Pradesh may take place in the last phase.

With Parliament dissolution a week away, the BJP shifted its attention to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The sources said their “most prized” catch — Kalyan Singh — is likely to join the BJP before its national council meeting here on February 6.

The sticking point in Kalyan Singh’s “homecoming” apparently is his insistence that the Centre “somehow” engineer the downfall of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government and hold Assembly polls simultaneously under President’s rule. However, the BJP brass is of the view that “we want to keep everyone on the right side”.

In Bihar, the BJP’s hope of repeating the National Democratic Alliance’s 1999 feat — when the coalition picked up 31 out of 40 seats — faded with Ram Vilas Paswan on the verge of cementing a deal with the Congress and RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav.

The party is apprehensive that even stars like Nitish Kumar, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaz Hussain may end up with their backs to the wall. “The margins were very low in many constituencies. Nitish, for instance, won by just 2,000 votes,” said the source.

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