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The Rediff Special / George Iype

March 31, 2004

How do the BJP and Congress strategists make sure their respective parties take the right direction? How do they fine-tune their plans? glances at the men and women who will perhaps determine which way this election goes:

The BJP strategists, please.

Arun Jaitley (above, right), Rajnath Singh (above, left) and Pyarelal Khandelwal are in charge of the BJP's affairs in 29 states and six Union territories.

Arun Jaitley has been given charge of as many as 14 states and Union Territories! These include Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep and Chandigarh.

Rajnath Singh has the politically important Uttar Pradesh -- which sends 81 MPs to the Lok Sabha -- under his belt. In addition, the party has entrusted him the responsibility of Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Punjab, and Jammu & Kashmir.

Pyarelal Khandelwal: Orissa, West Bengal, Assam and the seven northeastern states.

And the Congress strategists?

Ahmad Patel: Kerala and Delhi

Ambika Soni has been given charge of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mohsina Kidwai (above, centre) has been entrusted with managing party affairs in Punjab, Rajasthan and Chandigarh

Kamal Nath: Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and West Bengal

Oscar Fernandes: Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur

R K Dhawan: Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana

Vayalar Ravi: Maharashtra

Ghulam Nabi Azad: Andhra Pradesh

Ashok Gehlot: Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

Birendra Singh: Uttar Pradesh

Digvijay Singh: Assam, Orissa and Uttaranchal

Prithviraj Chavan: Gujarat

Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi: Madhya Pradesh

Vilasrao Deskmukh: Karnataka

Ramesh Chennithala: Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshdweep

Salman Khurshid: Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim

What is the BJP strategy?

BJP vice-president Khandelwal calls his party's strategy "perfect management."

"We are never bureaucratic in our approach to the party's affairs in each state. We announced the entire list of candidates in each state much before the election because of the ideal management in each state," Khandelwal told

In the BJP, there is an apex committee comprising Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy PM L K Advani, party president M Venkaiah Naidu and senior leaders like Pramod Mahajan to clear nominations.

Khandelwal says the BJP has divided each state into different zones. "For instance, Uttar Pradesh has been divided into six zones: Western, Braj, Kanpore, Awadh, Gorakhpur and Kashi," he explained.

BJP leaders call it micro-level management of political affairs.

What is the Congress strategy?

Congress Working Committee member Ramesh Chennithala claims his party has the most democratic set-up as far as elections are concerned.

"We take care of each state meticulously. Senior leaders are in charge of various states. Problems and candidates in each state are sorted out with precision," Chennithala told

The 13-member Congress Central Election Committee is headed by party president Sonia Gandhi. The committee includes Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony, senior leader Arjun Singh, Ambika Soni, Birendra Singh, Mahabir Prasad, Margaret Alva, M L Fotedar, Prabha Rau, Pranab Mukherjee, Ram Naresh Yadav, Sushil Kumar Shinde, L P Shahi, and Begum Noor Bano.

The Congress leadership depends on its state units to decide on the right candidates. But factional fights have often compelled the high command to declare candidates without the consent of state leaders.

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