NATIONAL

BJP asks Congress to ensure issue-based contests

NEW DELHI DEC. 7. The top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will meet after the ongoing winter session of Parliament to fine tune their strategy for the general elections due in later half of 2004.

"We were successful with `Operation 2003' and will now approach `Mission 2004' with a positive frame of mind. The BJP plans to make development and good governance the main plank of its strategy for the Lok Sabha elections," the BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu, declared here today.

Thanking party workers and sympathisers for playing an active role in ensuring the party's victory in three out of the four States where elections were held recently, Mr. Naidu called upon them to spread the "feel-good" feeling to all parts of the country. The BJP, he claimed, enjoyed an edge over the Congress and would get into election mode after the meeting of the top leaders.

He also appealed to the rival political parties, mainly the Congress, to observe decorum in political contests and not stoop to the level as witnessed in the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi's alleged attempt to buy legislators.

"My suggestion to the Congress is to ensure an issue-based contest in 2004. Let us have a decent political battle. I am not saying that the (Jogi) episode had the consent of the Congress president but I am not exonerating that party either." Attacking Mr. Jogi for harbouring the "audacity to break a party which had the mandate of the people and getting trapped in his own web", he called upon the Congress to come clean. It should explain whether Mr. Jogi had the party's sanction while mounting the alleged cash-for-support move.

To a question over the BJP's different yardsticks on the videotape allegedly depicting sacked the BJP Minister, Dilip Singh Judev, accepting money and Mr. Jogi's purported conversation during which he wanted to buy over BJP MLAs, Mr. Naidu denied any dichotomy. The BJP had maintained that the Judev tape was doctored. It also held that the veracity of the Jogi audiotape was yet to be established. But the difference was that Mr. Jogi had indicated that he was moving to split the BJP in a letter written in his hand to the State Governor.

He also accused the Congress of failing to live up to its role as the main opposition party at the Centre. "It has a negative mindset on all issues and furthers the politics of confrontation with the Centre." It was not allowing Parliament to function and had made baseless allegations and attempted to destabilise the NDA Government on several occasions. "In a democracy, the Congress should accept the people's verdict and wait for the next elections," he said.

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