NATIONAL

Political situation favourable to BJP, says Advani

BAREILY (U.P.), FEB. 26. Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, today gave ample indications of the nature of the party's election campaign that will unfold once dates are announced for the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing a rally at the Bareily college ground here, the BJP leaders reeled-off statistics in support of the Vajpayee Government's achievements over the past five years.

They raised the foreign origin issue of the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, attacked the Mulayam Singh regime in Uttar Pradesh for its failure to maintain law and order, dubbed the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Mayawati, as "anti-dalit," claimed to have put in place pro-poor and pro-farmer policies and pledged to forge closer and harmonious Hindu-Muslim ties. Also, the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and the thaw in India-Pakistan relations were discussed.

Mr. Advani said the BJP went into an election mode the day the Union Cabinet recommended the dissolution of the 13th Lok Sabha. The Deputy Prime Minister, who addressed a public meeting in Varanasi on February 20, said that the political situation was favourable to the BJP and termed it a "plus point.''

Though the major part of the next month will be devoted to selection of candidates, the party will carry on the poll campaign simultaneously and also come out with the "vision document'' as well as the NDA manifesto. He was hopeful that the party's expectations will be "more than'' fulfilled and it will reap a rich harvest of Lok Sabha seats.

Mr. Advani advised political leaders to keep their "inflated egos'' aside and not to allow arrogance to affect them. He told the gathering that the coming Lok Sabha polls were not "ordinary elections'' but would determine India's future, as the BJP had pledged to turn the country into a superpower by 2020. In his view, the Vajpayee Government's track record on development, security and social harmony, sincere efforts to normalise India-Pakistan ties and restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir would hold the BJP in good stead. He expressed the hope that talks with the Hurriyat would continue despite small hiccups.

The BJP, Mr. Advani declared, was opposed to treating Hindus and Muslims as "vote banks'' and the party would work for upholding social harmony among all sections of society. The BJP's rise over the past six Lok Sabha elections was "unique and unprecedented'' as the party grew from strength to strength. From 86 seats in 1989 it touched the 181 mark in the last general elections in 1998. Good governance, political stability and the newly-acquired confidence among the people that India could be a superpower in the future were some of the highlights of the NDA Government, he said.

It was the first public outing for Maneka Gandhi, who joined the BJP recently, and represented the adjoining Pilibhit constituency in the dissolved Lok Sabha. She cited statistics in the field of roads, telecom and Kisan credit cards to support the achievements of the Vajpayee Government.