The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal sniffs early poll

New Delhi, Aug. 30: National Democratic Alliance chairperson and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has asked BJP MPs to prepare for mid-term polls and remain in constant touch with their constituents because he observed that the UPA was becoming “increasingly unstable”.

Addressing the BJP parliamentary party meeting at the end of the monsoon session today, party spokesperson V.K. Malhotra quoted Vajpayee as saying: “Whenever the UPA government faces instability, they start talking of early polls which further complicates the situation and then they stop talking about it. But irrespective of whether mid-term polls are held or not, we should remain prepared and stay in constant touch with the people.”

Sources said the BJP’s assessment of why mid-term polls could happen was premised on three factors:

The “feedback” that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was getting “frustrated” with the “road blocks” being put by the Left on his pro-reforms agenda and could, there- fore, call it a day “any moment”

The slew of populist legislation passed in the monsoon session, including the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the amendments to the Hindu Succession Act and the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act. “The way Sonia Gandhi has pushed her pet concerns through shows she, too, perhaps has snap polls in mind. These pro-people policies will come in useful for the Congress’s campaign,” sources maintained.

The BJP argued that if the Left-supported government was allowed to settle in, the Congress “feared” it would walk away with the “credit” the social equity issues will get and leave the Congress to cope with “anti-incumbency”.

“Therefore, the Congress believes in striking while the iron hot,” they said, quoting reports that the Congress was planning to campaign in a big way on the employment guarantee act to buttress its “theory”.

The belief that RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav may pull the rug from under the Congress’s feet if it dithers on supporting him in Bihar and continues to play footsie with Ram Vilas Paswan.

Parliamentary affairs minister Ghulam Nabi Azad debunked the BJP’s proposition. “Why on earth should we go in for a mid-term poll' This government is stable and will last its full term,” he said.

Earlier this week, a BJP functionary said when five Independent Jharkhand MLAs met party president L.K. Advani to demand that their chief minister be replaced, his message was: “There will be a general election in February, so prepare for it.”

The more objective voices in the BJP believe Vajpayee and Advani floated the mid-term poll “bogey” to suit their own ends.

“With the RSS breathing down Advani’s neck' the only way of keeping the cadre together is by creating this dream of an early election,” they said.

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