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Not a vote for Sonia: Sushma Swaraj

May 13, 2004 13:00 IST
Last Updated: May 13, 2004 13:38 IST

Minutes ahead of a crucial meeting convened by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to discuss the party's future course in the wake of stunning electoral reverses, some senior BJP leaders indicated that the party should not attempt to form a government.

"I don't think there is any chance we should stake a claim," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said.

Asked if such a decision could be taken at the meeting, convened by Vajpayee at his residence this afternoon, Swaraj affirmed, ""I think we are going to take this (decision)."

Senior party leader Pramod Mahajan too said if the BJP was not 200 per cent sure of reaching the required 272-seat mark to win a majority, it should not stake claim to form the next government. "I don't think we will," Mahajan said.

Swaraj and Mahajan spoke to PTI shortly before heading into the meeting convened by Vajpayee. Deputy Prime Minister L KAdvani, BJP President Venkaiah Naidu, NDA convenor George Fernandes and senior minister Arun Jaitley were present, besides Swaraj and Mahajan.

Swaraj admitted that there were "undercurrents" against the NDA which could not be gauged, and said the "vote
was against the ruling coalition and not for Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister."

"People have not accepted her (Gandhi's) alliance plus Left parties which make up the numbers," she told reporters
here while admitting that the "results have totally gone against our expectations.".

Swaraj denied that it was Deputy Prime Minister Advani who pushed for early elections. "It is
the Prime Minister who decided to go for the polls," she said.

Asked about the reasons for the party's poor performance and whether the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin had backfired, she said all aspects would be analysed by the party leaders.

"Everybody missed the undercurrent - pollsters, electronic media as well as the print media," she said.

She said though the NDA looked unlikely to win a majority, she was confident the BJP as a single entity would end up with more seats than the Congress.

"The Congress has not not got 51 per cent votes," she said, when asked if the results were a victory for the Congress.

Discussing the BJP's intensive campaign against Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins, Swaraj said she did not think it had backfired. "Voters had not voted for her. It was not a vote for Congress as much as it was a vote for the Congress and its allies."

Asked how she felt about the prospect of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister, Swaraj said, "I am candid. My mind does not not accept it at all".

Mahajan said as far as he was concerned, he would be ashamed if a person of foreign origin became the
Prime Minister, even though the voters could have voted for it. "But if people have chosen her, she has every right to rule," he said.

Asked if in the aftermath of the election reverse the BJP should go back to its original planks, he said the BJP
should remain a mainstream party and it should continue with its policy of taking in Muslims and all other religious denominations.


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