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October 24, 1998


BJP unable to decide on MP chief ministerial candidate

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The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday night failed to project anyone as its prospective chief ministerial candidate for Madhya Pradesh on the plea that the state was "going to be split into two".

The central election committee of the party which met in New Delhi on Friday over two sessions, decided that it will face the electorate in Rajasthan under the leadership of Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. The BJP's chief ministerial candidate for Delhi is Sushma Swaraj.

Party president Kushabhau Thakre presided over the meeting which was attended among others by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Home Minister L K Advani, HRD Minister M M Joshi, Industry Minister Sikandar Bakht and Vijayraje Scindia.

These decisions were announced by party general secretary M Venkaiah Naidu at a press conference.

Earlier in the day, central office bearers of the party met separately where they discussed election preparedness of the four state units -- Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram.

The prime minister, after launching the BJP's election campaign in the national capital on Saturday, will follow it up with a similar meeting at Udaipur on October 25.

The CEC finalised a list of seven candidates for biennial elections to the legislative councils of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. It was yet to decide its candidate for Bhandara local authorities constituency in Maharashtra, while leaving Yavatmal and Jalgoan for the Shiv Sena. It is supporting independents in Pune, Sangli and Nanded.

Similarly, in Bihar, the BJP has left the Gaya Teachers Seat for the Samata Party. It preferred to contest only from one constituency, the Saran Graduates.

In Uttar Pradesh, the party is contesting from only three -- Bareily graduates constituency, Kanpur teachers constituency and Gorakhpur graduates constituency, leaving the remaining three to its allies.

Naidu said major issues for the campaign had been identified. ''We are taking the campaign with all seriousness since these elections are crucial for us,'' he said.

The party has drawn up a fact-sheet highlighting the achievements of the BJP rule at the Centre as well as the states where the party was in power and the negative approach of its adversaries.

Each assembly unit has been asked to mobilise Rs 100,000 to sustain the election campaign.

In Bhopal, BJP president Kushabhau Thakre defended the decision not to project anyone as the chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh, saying that it was in accordance with the party's tradition in the state.

''Ever since we have been fighting elections here, we have never projected anyone. It proved beneficial,'' he told a press conference.

Thakre, who was in Bhopal to address the national executive meeting of the BJP'S minorities morcha, said the central election committee had considered the issue and decided that the tradition in Madhya Pradesh should be maintained.

Referring to the decision to project Sushma Swaraj and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as candidates for chief ministership in Delhi and Rajasthan respectively, Thakre said it was as per the strategy to be adopted in the respective states.

When his attention was drawn to Swaraj's statement that a candidate would be projected as chief minister in MP, the BJP president said some individuals might have stated something but the central election committee had taken a decision in this regard.

About the statement of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader K Sudarshan and BJP national secretary Pyarelal Khandelwal that senior leaders should not contest the coming elections, Thakre said, ''We will honour and give importance to such suggestions but it is for the BJP leadership to take decisions about party affairs''.

Expressing confidence that his party would be able to form governments in MP, Rajasthan and Delhi in the next month's assembly elections, Thakre said his party was also making all efforts to make its presence felt in Mizoram.

He said winning prospects and clean image would be the main criteria for giving tickets to contest the assembly elections. Although no specific quota has been fixed, he said the party has decided to give more tickets to women this time.

Replying to a question about the Congress move for having a strategic understanding with the Bahujan Samaj Party for the MP assembly polls, he said this indicated that the ruling party had already conceded that it was not in a position to put up a direct fight against the BJP. ''Such efforts will not affect our party's prospects," he added.

Thakre said growing incidents of atrocities on women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was a major election issue in Madhya Pradesh. He said corruption would obviously become another issue as the Lok Ayukta had indicted even several ministers.


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