Monday, December 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

BJP ropes in Mayawati
Intelligence agencies warn of ‘photo finish’
Satish Misra and Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 8
Alarm bells have started ringing in the BJP camp at the reports of All-Gujarat Muslim Front’s decision to vote en block for the Congress and intelligence agencies’ warning of a photo finish in the December 12 Assembly elections in Gujarat.

While it is too late to send its Muslim faces to the state for campaigning, the BJP top leadership, in its last ditch effort, has decided to rope in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati in its election campaign for stalling the drifting away of voters from its electoral kitty.

The All-Gujarat Muslim Front, at its meeting on December 1 in Ahmedabad, decided to vote en block only for the Congress and for no other party, including the Samajwadi Party of former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Nationalist Congress Party of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sharad Pawar, top political sources said, adding that the Front had been suspecting that the SP and the NCP were contesting the Assembly elections to help the BJP.

The reports of the intelligence agencies about the meeting of the All-Gujarat Muslim Front have been seen by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and that is why both these leaders decided to host an Id Milan programme at the Prime Minister’s residence today.

Ms Mayawati will accompany the Prime Minister during the second and last leg of his electioneering for Gujarat in Surat and Ahmedabad tomorrow, BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said here today.

Incidentally, neither Mr Naqvi nor the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Syed Shahnawaz Khan, have gone to Gujarat for the party campaign so far.

The decision to invite the UP Chief Minister was taken after the party poll strategists assessed the impact of the election rallies of Mr L.K. Advani and other leaders in the state.

Poor voter turn-out at the election meetings forced the BJP high command to revise its earlier decision of not inviting any leader from outside its ranks.

While earlier the BJP did not even think it fit to invite leaders from the National Democratic Alliance, the party strategists have been forced to bring in Ms Mayawati at the last minute as internal assessment indicated that Dalits were heavily tilting towards the Congress, the sources pointed out.

One of the earliest allies of the BJP, the Samata Party of Defence Minister George Fernandes is contesting the Gujarat Assembly elections independently and not a single leader of the Samata Party is sharing the election platform with the BJP leaders.

The other ally, the Janata Dal (United) of Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Yadav is also contesting the Assembly poll separately. Mr Yadav has not been campaigning with the BJP.

While planning the election campaign of the BJP both at the Central and the state headquarters, the strategists were so sure of the party’s victory that they did not feel the need for the allies but now the ground realities are staring starkly at the ruling party in Gujarat and as a result, the party has been forced to revise its earlier decision, party sources pointed out.

Mr Vajpayee addressed two meetings at Vadodra and Jamnagar yesterday along with Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the crowd’s response did raise eyebrows.

Hopefully, Ms Mayawati’s presence tomorrow will boost the party’s chances on December 12, a Central leader said.


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