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NDA endorses Advani as its prime ministerial candidate

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AYES FOR ADVANI: National Democratic Alliance leaders (from left) Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, BJP president Rajnath Singh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh with the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in New Delhi on Tuesday. - PHOTO: R.V. MOORTHY
AYES FOR ADVANI: National Democratic Alliance leaders (from left) Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, BJP president Rajnath Singh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh with the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in New Delhi on Tuesday. - PHOTO: R.V. MOORTHY

Neena Vyas

To fight Lok Sabha election under a common programme for governance

NEW DELHI: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Tuesday endorsed Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani as its prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha election.

At a meeting of the NDA here, attended by leaders and Chief Ministers of the nine States ruled by the BJP and its allies, it was also decided to fight the election under a common programme for governance.

The message at the meeting was that all in the NDA must gear up to face the next general election and ensure that the alliance regained power. The former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will remain the NDA chairman but his role will be that of mentor and guide.

“The NDA shall continue to seek the wise, visionary and inspiring guidance of its chairman,” a resolution said. In the evening, some NDA Chief Ministers called on him.

Praising Mr. Advani’s leadership — “his lifelong service to the nation, vast political and parliamentary experience, and unimpeachable record of integrity” — another resolution expressed confidence that he would lead the NDA to victory at the hustings.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who was appointed coordinator for expanding the NDA, told journalists that it was first time a meeting of the alliance had the participation of all NDA Chief Ministers, party unit presidents and parliamentary floor leaders. All the allies, except the Trinamool Congress, were present.

Ms. Swaraj said only “time will tell” whether the Trinamool continued to be part of the NDA. While the meeting agreed on the need to expand the NDA, no specific possibility of a new ally was discussed.

The meeting discussed the current political situation and agreed that the next election would be fought under a common programme, the National Agenda for Governance, though each party would have its own manifesto. Ms. Swaraj said a core committee would work out the agenda.

The NDA Chief Ministers would meet again soon to prepare a document detailing the “partisanship” of the United Progressive Alliance and showing how NDA governments had performed better than the Congress and UPA governments.

Ms. Swaraj said the decision followed complaints from several Chief Ministers about the UPA’s “step-motherly treatment.”

In his opening address, BJP president Rajnath Singh said the NDA was built over long years of trust and friendship between the BJP and other parties — the Shiv Sena had been with the BJP for 24 years, the Akalis for over 12 years, the Biju Janata Dal 10 years and the Janata Dal (United) since the days it was the Samata Party.

“Opportunistic alliance”

Mr. Advani described the UPA as an “opportunistic alliance” that had betrayed the common man. Internal contradictions and weak leadership had plagued it since its birth.

The NDA programme would focus on good governance, eradication of corruption, development and internal security, he said.

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