Debating India

ELECTIONS 2004

Cool Vajpayee admits polls no cakewalk

Sunday 25 April 2004

NEW DELHI: Exit polls are indicating a slide in the NDA’s number of seats, but Prime Minister Vajpayee is not worried. Confident of retaining power, the PM, however, conceded it would not be a walkover for the ruling coalition.

Refusing to attach much importance to the exit polls, most of which had shown the NDA returning to power with a reduced majority and the Opposition improving its tally, he said while these polls were an "indicator", sometimes they go topsy-turvy.

The Congress’s gains in the exit polls have become point of many a debate in poll circles, but the PM laughed it away saying, "Why is the Congress so much happy that now we have to be worried?"

Vajpayee said the elections were going as per the BJP’s expectations and expressed confidence that the NDA would get a majority.

But will the NDA get more seats? Vajpayee said it depended on areas.

"The result of the exit polls so far are from areas where we had good expectations. Now we are in areas where there will be keen contest."

Vajpayee said earlier polls predicted the situation was bad in Karnataka for the BJP but now they say "we will do well".

He ridiculed the Congress for warming up to the exit polls after trashing opinion poll results.

When reminded the BJP had claimed it would get 300 seats on its own, Vajpayee said, "That is our target. If we get it, it will be good."

Pressed further on whether the party would get 300 on its own, he replied: "I don’t say so."

When asked whether BJP would adopt any new strategy in the remaining two phases of the elections like its planned focus to woo backward classes and Muslims, Vajpayee said, "Our strategy will be to get people out of homes to vote.

"In many places the voting had been low. We want to mobilise people. Door-to-door and men-to-men will be our emphasis."

He cited the case of Gujarat where he said BJP had strength and would get more seats but was surprised why there was low polling. "It is not good."

"Our supporters have taken it for granted that there is no contest. It should not be there."

To a question about Muslims’ response to the BJP in this elections, he said, "The community is still thinking. It has not decided. But the situation is also not that Muslims are against us and will not shake hands with us. This attitude is changing."

On the BJP’s prospects in UP, he said though the picture was not clear the party’s seats would go up. In Bihar also he expected a similar performance.

Asked whether his recent statement that the Samajwadi Party’s thinking was similar to that of the BJP indicated the two could come together after the polls, Vajpayee said, "They (SP) would start howling. There are many possibilities. It is there now. It is difficult to detail them."

He said when he talked about similarity in thinking between the two parties it was in respect of issues like protection of democracy, fight against the Emergency and the foreign origin issue.

To a question about his reported statement that he was worried about running a coalition, he said what he had meant was a compact coalition which should not be unwieldy with single member parties.

"The number of parties in the coalition should be less."

About personal attacks against him in the campaign, he said the Congress raked up his alleged betrayal in the 1942 movement "knowing fully well that the allegation is baseless."

"Before last elections, 54 Congress MPs had issued a joint statement. In Parliament also they raised this issue."

On the controversy over his successor in the BJP, Vajpayee denied a decision had been taken on this.

"Definitely not. The question does not arise. I had said from the beginning that it is the party’s job. In a democracy there is no question of succession. When the time comes the party will decide."

Asked if he had a personal opinion on who would succeed him, the PM said, "I don’t want to get into it."

Asked who he was referring to when he remarked that he was hurt more by criticism "from within", he said it was the VHP which made some comments against him on Friday and Saturday.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

Pic : Vajpayee at a Muslim meet this week. The BJP is now wooing Muslims for votes.

in The Times of India, Sunday, April 25, 2004.

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