The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh takes command of Mission UP

New Delhi, April 30: Ominous exit poll projections have prompted the Sangh to take charge of the BJP’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, which will elect 48 members in the next two phases of polling.

The state has 12,000 RSS shakhas, the largest in the country.

Much as Atal Bihari Vajpayee would like to return as Prime Minister, the RSS, too, wants a BJP-led government. Apart from other considerations, it “especially (wants) to celebrate in a big way the 100th birth anniversary of Sangh ideologue Golwalkar in 2006”, said a source.

RSS sources said the Sangh does not entirely buy the exit poll results predicting a hung Parliament, but the forecast has helped fully activate the cadre.

The sources said pollsters underestimate the organisational strength of the RSS. “Our assessment is that the NDA will get a minimum of 290 seats and efforts are on to increase the tally,” a source said, but “at the same time we do not want to leave anything to chance”.

According to the Sangh’s estimate, the BJP will secure 38 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 13 more than its 1999 tally. Despite Kalyan Singh working against the party, it had then won 25 seats. “This time Kalyan Singh is with us and four-cornered contests are to our advantage. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti is expected to campaign in the state as a back-up for Singh to galvanise backward caste votes,” a source said.

Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav said that in his assessment the BJP would get more seats in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and the Northeast. “Even in Rajasthan, the BJP has room for picking up six more seats. It won only 16 out of 25 last time.”

Although Hindutva hardliners like Narendra Modi have been drafted into campaigning, the sources said, the idea is not to stir communal passions, but to have an array of good speakers and crowd-pullers. Madhav said Modi fulfils these conditions.

Modi, Bharti and Sushma Swaraj will campaign intensively, but the first two will avoid minority pockets. Swaraj will be used as a counter to Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi. She gave an inkling of her campaign style at Phulpur today by launching a personal attack on Sonia.

“How can a leader who is ignorant about cultural traditions like the significance of the tulsi leaf and the Hindu calendar be given charge of the country'” she asked at a rally.

Successfully used in the Rajasthan Assembly polls, Pramod Mahajan’s army of 280 techno-savvy assistants is being deployed in Uttar Pradesh.

The seats going to polls on May 5 have been put under the charge of Sanjay Joshi, the BJP general secretary looking after organisation. In the last phase, party vice-president Pyarelal Khandelwal will take responsibility for the remaining 18 seats. Both are RSS pracharaks.

Madhav said Sangh cadre would mobilise voters, especially in urban and semi-urban areas to prevent a low turnout. “In multi-cornered contests, it is important that each and every one of our supporters votes.”

In the campaign, Opposition disunity will be highlighted by drawing attention to what the BJP will call a scramble for prime ministership even before the polls are over.

An ad campaign has debuted showing senior members of the BJP-led alliance rallying behind Vajpayee while Opposition leaders are falling over each other for the Prime Minister’s post.

Party spokesman Arun Jaitley, however, dismissed the Uttar Pradesh offensive as not “a new strategy but only a new angle.”

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