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'First election where people are looking for good governance'

A Ganesh Nadar in Bhopal | November 21, 2003 11:46 IST

Unlike Prime Minister Vajpayee, who can hold a public meeting spellbound, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani is a rarity in his Bharatiya Janata Party -- an indifferent public speaker.

Put the dour Vajpayee before a microphone and watch the years slip away instantly as he casts his unmistakable magic over his audience. Advani may often be unable to hold a large audience, but he is brilliant and more forceful than Vajpayee with smaller groups.

Thursday's rally in Bhopal had Advani, not Vajpayee, a native of Madhya Pradesh, as its stellar attraction.

It was vintage Advani, moving from subject to disconnected subject, trying to emphasise on the crowds gathered in Bhopal's Newmarket area why they needed to vote for the BJP if they wanted development. As he has said repeatedly, this is India's first election to be fought on the issue of development.

After sundry speakers had made their point, the DPM began his speech at 8.18 pm. He spoke about the earthquake in Gujarat and 9/11. Everybody wanted to know where you were when these events happened, he said. Then he talked about his early years in Parliament when people came to him for phones and gas connections. After which he went onto to say that the Indian Diaspora had earned India a good name. Twenty-five percent of the workers in Silicon Valley were Indians. "You must be wondering why I am talking about all this, he said. But he did not explain. 

The tireless Advani -- who turned 75 on November 8 -- has been on the campaign trail for the last three days. Tuesday in Chhattisgarh, Wednesday in Rajasthan. The Bhopal rally was his sixth public meeting in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday.  

"I have seen every election since 1952. Some were won on issues like corruption and others were won on sympathy like when Indira Gandhi died and when Rajiv Gandhi died. This is the first assembly election where people are looking for good governance," he said. "Journalists who met me today said the people are going to vote for those who give them power, water and good roads. People thought poverty would go once the British went. It has not happened. We have not converted freedom to self sufficiency."

Politicians, he said, were selfish. They only looked after their families after winning elections and never did anything for the public.

"The BJP has grown from two seats in Parliament to 182 MPs today because it is a party with a difference. After Rajiv Gandhi there were 7 prime ministers in 10 years. People were wondering if democracy would survive in India. Then came Vajpayeeji and he provided a stable government in spite of having 20 parties in the alliance," Advani said. "We have provided very good governance." In what is becoming a leit motif in the BJP campaign, he mentioned the Quadrilateral Highway project as a symbol of his party's achievement

Then, he spoke about the nuclear tests at Pokhran and the war with Pakistan on the icy heights of Kargil. The current violence in Assam and Bihar saddened him, he said, but he would deal with it firmly.

The BJP is the only party with a second-line leadership, he declared. To empower women the party had decided on Uma Bharti as its chief ministerial candidate for Madhya Pradesh.

"When you vote on the 1st you shouldn't only think of the candidates," he said. "You should think of Uma Bharati and the man who is making India a developed country, Atal Bihari Vajpayee." Then with a quick "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and "Vande Mataram," he ended his 36-minute speech and left the stage immediately. The crowd too dispersed as if it was equally in a hurry.


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