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Atal, Advani lay ground rules for UP poll campaign

Monday 25 December 2006

LUCKNOW, DECEMBER 24: Amidst plans for the all-important Uttar Pradesh polls and the party’s stated strategy to use the election as the springboard for the next Lok Sabha polls, the BJP’s two guiding stars or ?margdarshaks’, Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani, today set the ground rules for what they thought would bring them back to power: A ?no’ to candidates with criminal records, another ?no’ to factionalism and finally to display the kind of enthusiasm and vigour the party had shown in earlier days. Neither leader made a reference to the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, nor of Muslim appeasement.

The suggestions came alongside direct attacks on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for “devaluing” his office. There were accusations, based on comments by Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, that India was negotiating on a pre-1953 position on Kashmir.

It was Vajpayee, though, who appeared to have made an impact on his partymen. “There is no place for factionalism in the party,” Vajpayee told the BJP national council as he said the party should rise again and that the route to Delhi was through Lucknow. As the national council wound up, he also asked them to rediscover the enthusiasm that had brought them to power and pushed them in earlier campaigns by the party.

His speech was expected to stir the party into action, and he did pretty much that with his closing sentences, reminding there was a time when people gave themselves fully to the party. “Today, you have to bring an end to the exhaustion, show more energy, and move ahead.” Using a typically colloquial style, the former PM asked his party to move ahead with ?masti’ (vigour). It appeared to have had the desired effect on the members, more than 2,000 in number, who filled the grounds of the Shishu Mandir here.

Vajpayee covered Uttar Pradesh for the better part of his speech, highlighting victories in the recent municipal polls on the one side and the performance of the Mulayam Singh government on the other. In his words, the situation in Uttar Pradesh was a challenge which the party should face.

Both Vajpayee and Advani mixed issues and emotion in their speeches, as they touched a personal chord with the partymen. Vajpayee referred to his father’s last journey and the immersion of his ashes in the Gomti. “Now, I see the Gomti and my blood boils,” he said. Advani on his part referred to Syama Prasad Mukherjee, claiming theirs was the only party to have sacrificed a leader on a national issue.

Advani made a strong pitch for probity in public life. Once again keeping the focus on Uttar Pradesh, he said in a state where law and order had become the primary concern, it was necessary to keep out candidates who had a criminal record as that would set the tone for a “revolutionary change”.

However, Advani in his attack on the UPA also targeted the Left, like most other leaders. As for the PM he said: “There has never been such devaluation of the chief executive’s position.

Outlining the points that are likely to become the master copy for election speeches in the coming days, he referred to the performance of BJP-ruled or BJP allied states, and how the so-called BIMARU states, were no longer so because BJP governments had changed that in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The performance of those governments should be compared with the Left Front’s 30-year rule in West Bengal and the LDF’s in Kerala, he added.

The UPA government had fared poorly on two counts, popular opinion on them and internal cohesion, the latter mainly because of the Left. He also said the party would be ready for a campaign on Kashmir against the government if the UPA planned any compromise.

See online : The Indian Express

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