Monday, July 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

BJP to make Sonia’s origin poll issue
Party to contest Assembly elections on its own
Satish Misra and PTI

Raipur, July 20
The war over Congress President Sonia Gandhi hotted up today, with the BJP declaring that her foreign origin and leadership qualities vis-a-vis Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be an issue in the Lok Sabha poll, even as it unveiled a “Mission 2004 Action Plan” to reach out to the minorities.

As the curtains came down on the three-day BJP National Executive here today, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani echoed Mr Vajpayee’s view that dialogue was the best option to resolve the Ayodhya tangle, impliedly rejecting the Sangh Parivar’s demand for a legislation for temple construction in Ayodhya.

Coming down heavily on Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy’s attack on the Prime Minister’s age and health, BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan said it was not only highly objectionable but also reflected the uncivilised and perverse culture of the Congress.

“It seems that the Congress has not only imported an inexperienced leader of foreign origin, who has no contribution to the nation worth mentioning, but also discarded the culture of India,” Mr Mahajan said in a statement. He acknowledged that the next Lok Sabha poll would be a face-off between Mr Vajpayee and Ms Gandhi.

In a clear message that the party would fight the next Lok Sabha elections under the “able, competent, experienced, wise and visionary” leadership of Mr Vajpayee, the BJP said it would contest the Assembly elections in four states on its own but keep alliance options open.

The BJP has left it to the state units to decide about issues which they would like to raise, BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu said addressing newspersons here after the conclusion of the meeting.

Asked if the party would make Ramjanmabhoomi an issue in the coming Assembly elections, Mr Naidu said it had been left to the state units to decide.

The BJP meeting also approved a 26-point programme for ensuring victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The programme includes setting up party offices in all districts by October, 2003, recruitment of full-timers, at least one from each Assembly constituency, and naming him “Chunav Sahayak”, recruitment of part-time workers among the local supporters who can devote minimum two hours a day or two days a week, setting up media teams at the state and district levels and conduct workshops.

The party will also launch a public contact programme by going to every village and every house for informing the people about the achievements of the government and party policies. The party will pay special attention to voter lists, including identification and verification, Mr Naidu said giving details of the 26-point programme.

The party will conduct a two-day camp for party MPs in Jaipur on August 24-25 and a camp for all legislatures in Bhopal on September 20-21, Mr Naidu said.

Mr Naidu put at rest all doubts over Mr Vajpayee’s leadership, saying that the party did not discuss Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the meeting as the BJP was “NDA-centric and Vajpayee-centric”.

There is complete harmony between the party and the government and there is unity, clarity and confidence in the party cadres, the BJP leader said, adding that the Executive meeting had given a workable solution and meaningful suggestions for difficult issues like women’s reservation in Parliament and legislatures. The party is confident that the latest BJP proposal would have no opposition, he said.

The party has made its stand on the Ayodhya issue clear, he said, stating that the BJP was confident that the government would bring the bill for double-MP constituency in this session of Parliament, which would give adequate representation to women in the Lok Sabha and the legislatures.

In a clear effort to keep the Sangh Parivar happy, Mr Naidu said the BJP was firm on its agenda and had not abandoned issues like uniform civil code, ban on cow slaughter and scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution.

The government would stick to the common agenda of governance agreed upon with the alliance partners, Mr Naidu said.


New BJP chief by Dec 15

Raipur, July 20
The BJP today kept everyone guessing about the continuance of its President M. Venkaiah Naidu for another term.

However, the BJP said there would be a new President for the party by the middle of December, when the organisational poll would be completed.

The announcement by Mr Naidu himself had cast a doubt about the new president. Mr Naidu said as far as he was concerned, his term would come to an end in December. — UNI

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