NATIONAL

BJP meet to discuss timing of elections

HYDERABAD Dec. 24. The BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, today said that the national executive meeting of the party here on January 11 and 12, which would be attended by the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, would discuss the timing of the Lok Sabha elections and accordingly make a recommendation to the Government.

Speaking to reporters here, he said the meeting would seek a feedback from various State units of the party on the month that would be most suitable for the Parliament elections, taking into consideration the weather and other local conditions.

Mr. Naidu said the party had asked its cadre to be prepared for elections in 250 days. "If elections are advanced they must be ready for any eventuality." To a specific question whether the NDA Government was thinking of advancing the elections, he said, "it is speculative talk."

Mr. Naidu said the meeting would also discuss and give a final shape to the blueprint on achieving the party's `Mission-2004' of winning 300 seats on its own strength and securing two-thirds majority in alliance with the NDA partners.

The BJP's election campaign would start on Thursday to coincide with the birthday of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The campaign would be on the plank of development.

Mr. Naidu demanded that the Maharashtra Government step down and the Karnataka Government come forward for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the multi-crore fake stamp paper scandal. The Maharashtra Government stood fully exposed in the scam as there were serious charges against Ministers, former Ministers, administration and police officials. There were also charges of underworld connections to this "mother of all scams" whose operations were carried out in 12 States, he said.

In the case of Karnataka too, there were serious charges against Ministers and Congress functionaries. It had also come to light that the scamsters had extended hospitality to Congress and Nationalist Congress Party MLAs in Maharashtra for their trip to Bangalore during a political crisis. They were "protected" at the behest of their political bosses, Mr. Naidu added.

Referring to Tuesday's attack on the Zee TV office in Mumbai, Mr. Naidu said the mere resignation of the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, owning moral responsibility for the incident would not suffice. "The Maharashtra Government must go. Otherwise, its leadership will be accused of shielding the guilty. The party must convince its Governments in the two States to hand over the case to the CBI."

The Congress, he claimed, was demoralised, divided and confused. The drama of resignations enacted by the AICC office-bearers a couple of days ago could be viewed against this background.

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