The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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AGP ball in Atal house court

New Delhi, March 5: The BJP’s high-level meeting tomorrow for a seat-wise analysis of five states is significant as it will decide the course of the party’s poll alliances, especially in Assam.

The Asom Gana Parishad is reportedly keen to strike an alliance with the BJP or at least an “arrangement” in crucial seats in the state.

A decision would depend on the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting of the party’s core team, sources said. “Assam is new ground for us. If our report says you don’t need to go for an alliance, we will not. After all, we decided to snap ties with the INLD in Haryana on the basis of our survey,” a source said.

A survey of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Bihar (only half completed) will form the basis of the assessment to be thrashed out at the Prime Minister’s home, highly placed sources said.

Four AGP leaders, including Arun Sharma and Chandra Mohan Patowary, have been camping here for the last three days for an audience with the BJP leadership, but they have made no headway so far.

The sources said there was “no enthusiasm” in the BJP to accommodate former chief minister Prafulla Mahanta, who is looking for political options after being unseated as the AGP chief.

The meeting will also finalise the number of seats the BJP is looking to contest in Bihar and Jharkhand in alliance with the Janata Dal (United).

Asked if the five states were proving to be the most problematic in the BJP's poll calculations, a source said: “You call them problematic, we call them challenging.” The source placed Uttar Pradesh on top of the list.

The party’s poll management in-charge, Pramod Mahajan, was deputed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to review the preparations in Uttar Pradesh. Mahajan will be in Lucknow on March 8.

BJP sources admitted the importance of the heartland state in the party’s overall seat projection. At least 35 seats needed to be bagged in Uttar Pradesh if a target of 200-plus was to be touched in the Lok Sabha, they said.

The BJP showed its desperation at the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra when it roped peasant leader Sharad Joshi into the NDA.

Joshi, who heads the Swatantra Bharatiya Party, reportedly has influence in a limited sphere of 10-12 Lok Sabha seats in Vidarbha and Marathwada. He has said he would not contest the election.

The BJP leaders’ tour schedule will be finalised by Mahajan, party vice-president Bal Apte and general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at another meeting.

Vajpayee is expected to hit the campaign trail on April 5 and address two meetings a day till May 8, with a day’s rest in-between. As many as 50-60 meetings have been lined up for the Prime Minister.

His deputy, L.K. Advani, will campaign from April 21-May 8 after the Bharat Uday yatra.

The chief ministers in demand are Gujarat’s Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh’s Uma Bharti, both of whom would travel outside their states only after polling, sources said.

The BJP hopes to replicate its Rajasthan experiment and shift its organisational apparatus between states according to the poll schedule. For instance, once polling in Gujarat is over on April 20, the organisation will be split and one unit moved to neighbouring Maharashtra.

The party, the sources said, would deploy its star acquisitions “more meaningfully” rather than just exploit their “glamour quotient”.

For instance, a “politically aware” worker will be attached to each actor so that he talks of issues specific to a constituency. “Even if they speak for seven or eight minutes, they will have to make a point,” a source said.

The Bollywood entrants may be put through an orientation course before they hit the streets, the sources added.

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