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More women will get tickets, Hindutva will take back seat in Rajasthan: BJP

K G Suresh in New Delhi | October 28, 2003 15:43 IST

In an effort to wrest the Congress bastion on the development plank, Hindutva will take a back seat and Rajasthan Bharatiya Janata Party president Vasundhara Raje intends to give a substantial number of assembly tickets to women.

"As against the seven tickets allotted to women in the last election (all of whom lost), we hope to give 20-25 this time," Raje told PTI in Delhi. Her aim is to provide "at least one seat per parliamentary constituency" to women. "In all the previous polls, the number of tickets for women has never crossed the single digit mark."

"It (the candidates) would be a happy mix keeping in mind ground realities, caste combinations and above all winnability," Raje, who is the party's chief ministerial candidate, said.

She avoided a direct response when asked whether the party would rake up its pet Hindutva issues, including Ram temple, in the poll campaign. "The state has just faced a major drought, the infrastructure, including power, water and education, is in shambles. One cannot think beyond basic needs at this point. Development is the key issue. Security of women and dalits is another major issue," she said.

Raje said Ashok Gehlot owed his projection as the number one chief minister in the country to the Rs 6,500 crore largesse doled out by the Centre.

Accusing the Congress government of destroying the "industrial climate and basic infrastructure" in the state, she claimed that over 66,000 small scale industrial units have shut down in the past five years.

On opinion polls predicting a second term for the Congress, she said, "They (pollsters) should be worried about their credibility. They would be proved wrong as was the case in Gujarat."

Asked whether she would contest the polls or concentrate on campaigning, Raje said, "I have no problems either way. I have won for a record five times from my constituency (Jhalawar) and winning an assembly seat will not be a problem. It is for the party leadership to decide."

Besides Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and Union ministers Sushma Swaraj and Sahib Singh Verma, actor-turned-politicians Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha and Hema Malini would also campaign in the state.

In the Congress, an All India Congress Committee screening committee headed by former Union finance minister Manmohan Singh will meet in Delhi on November 2 to

finalise the panels of candidates. The screening committee would forward the panels, with its recommendations, to the party's central election committee, Gehlot told reporters in Jaipur on Monday night.

"Winnability would be a main criterion," he said adding no kith or kin of party leaders would be given ticket. Only candidates with an active political background will be considered.

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