Sunday, August 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Advani’s poser to EC on Gujarat poll
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 10
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today raised a question on the competence of the Election Commission to decide the timing of the election in Gujarat asking “who would decide when the elections are to be held there”.

In reply to a question about the Gujarat Assembly elections, Mr Advani, without naming the Election Commission, asked who was going to decide when the elections were going to be held.

In a brain-storming session with an elite section of the BJP cadre, a confident Deputy Prime Minister told a participant that whether the elections were held in February or now, the BJP was going to win hands down.

In a free and frank question hour session with the participants after his initial address over the history and growth of the BJP, the Deputy Prime Minister chose to send a signal in a very circumspect manner to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam over his visit to Gujarat when he told the carefully picked up audience that since the President was a “balanced” person, he would hopefully meet all sections of Gujarat society.

The hour-long interaction with city-based members of the party intellectuals, professional and trade cells covered a number of subjects, including the need for sustaining coalition and alliance politics and to project the BJP as a “party and government with a difference.”

Issues such as the petrol pump scam, the shifting of Mr Yashwant Sinha from the Finance Ministry, the Gujarat Assembly elections, the uniform civil code and rampant corruption in administration were also raised by the members at the closed-door meeting presided over by party General Secretary and spokesman Arun Jaitley at the BJP headquarters here, the party sources pointed out.

Taking off from the Delhi Pledge adopted at the party’s National Council meeting here last Saturday and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s address there, the Deputy Prime Minister said though the party would like to get a majority of its own in the next Lok Sabha elections, it would like to take along its NDA allies.

Citing the “West Bengal model” where despite the CPM having its own majority, other Left parties such as the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc were part of the government, Mr Advani said while publicly one may blame the “coalition compulsions” for the government’s drawbacks in some sectors, they were essentially due to “our own shortcomings” and the coalition or the alliance was not responsible for it.

Mr Advani was even reportedly asked by a member why he was made Deputy Prime Minister to which he shot back, “You ask the Prime Minister.”

Later, briefing reporters, Mr Jaitley said Mr Advani informed the audience of the party’s history, growth over the years, ideology and idealism. “There were free and frank questions and answers,” he said. On the petrol pumps scam, Mr Advani sought to take a dig at the Congress saying those living in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the recent changes both in the government and the party were carried out in view of the party’s poor performance in some electoral battles, the sources said, adding that he, however, categorically stated that they were no reflection on either former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who was sent to External Affairs Ministry, or on former party chief Jana Krishnamurthy.


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