NATIONAL

Cong. plans campaign against BJP in Gujarat

NEW DELHI JULY 26. The Congress today announced that it would launch a mass campaign demanding `Gujarat bachao, BJP hatao' (Save Gujarat, remove BJP) on August 9.

Asserting that it was ready to face the Assembly elections as and when they were held, the party said the Statewide campaign would begin with a rally at Surat which would be addressed by the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee leaders.

The Congress was getting `encouraging feedback', said the party spokesman, Anand Sharma, adding that after a detailed assessment in all the regions of the State, the initial feedback was that the BJP was `fast losing its support base''.

There was rampant infighting among the BJP's highest level of leadership. ``That explains the growing desperation'' of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, and the BJP leadership to press for early elections.

The Congress, he said, was preparing to defeat the BJP at the hustings ``as and when'' elections were held. It was mandatory for the rolls to be revised ahead of the general elections and in Gujarat's case it was more so since the Assembly had been dissolved nine months ahead of schedule. There was a need for a comprehensive revision of rolls to ensure that all those who had the right were allowed to vote, Mr. Sharma said.

He took exception to a statement by the BJP chief, M. Venkaiah Naidu, that the Gujarat riots were an off-shoot of social tensions that had built up on account of the misrule by the previous Government. Describing the statement as `absurd and objectionable', Mr. Sharma said that on the contrary it was the `callousness and deliberate inaction' by Mr. Modi and the State administration which resulted in the violence. Mr. Naidu was seeking to deflect public criticism of his party and its regime in Gujarat.

To a statement from the former Maharashtra Governor, P.C. Alexander, on the lack of Congress support to his candidature for the President's post, Mr. Sharma said Mr. Alexander's `ire is misdirected'. At no stage did the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, formally propose Mr. Alexander's name.

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