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Saturday, June 30, 2001

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BJP meet to focus on summit

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JUNE 29. The next executive committee meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Amritsar, Punjab, from July 18 to 20, will focus on the summit meeting between the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, and the Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf.

The BJP had gone to town after the Lahore bus diplomacy and it can be expected to take the maximum credit for yet another attempt at peace with Pakistan. In fact, the summit could give the BJP a ``plank'' for the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, ending its search for a winning issue.

Although the detailed agenda for the meeting is yet to be worked out, it was indicated here that the party's prospects in the coming Punjab polls would be discussed at some length. There are reports of dissenting voices in the Akali Dal which want the party to break its alliance with the BJP and try and tie-up with the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP will have to ensure that it does not happen.

Coming as it would after the Indo-Pakistan summit meeting, Mr. Vajpayee is expected to give a detailed brief to the party on what had transpired. If all goes well at the talks, the party may adopt a resolution hailing it as a major step forward in establishing ``good neighbourly relations.'' Punjab being a border State, the success or failure of the talks could have an important bearing on the political situation in the state and the forthcoming elections. And the BJP leadership is aware of this. The problem is that there will be more than a six- month gap between the summit and the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. There would have to be some very positive results indeed from the summit for the BJP to be able to use that effectively as an election plank.

First, the party will have to stabilise its alliance with the Akali Dal and ensure that the dissidents in the Dal, who are pointing at the humiliating defeat of the BJP's allies in Tamil Nadu and Assam to buttress their case for breaking the ties, do not carry the day. The BJP will also have to carefully assess the strength of the anti-incumbency factor against the Dal, a factor that routed the Dal during the 1999 Lok Sabha elections.

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