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Venkaiah meets PM, to announce new team soon

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI JULY 7. The Bharatiya Janata Party president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, met the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, today to discuss the composition of his team of central office-bearers and appointments to key party positions in States due for Assembly polls next year.

Today's was the first substantial meeting with the new BJP president — part of the series of meetings Mr. Vajpayee has had with new Cabinet colleagues and with those whose portfolios have been changed.

Mr. Naidu said today that he would declare his new team "in about two days'' indicating that a few loose ends needed to be tied up and that the discussions were almost complete. "I have to keep in mind representation for women, for Dalits and scheduled castes, the States and other social factors before finalising the list. I would, therefore, prefer to declare the list only when the exercise is complete.''

Since his return on Saturday from Andhra Pradesh — where he visited his village, his old Assembly constituency and Tirupati — Mr. Naidu has had a series of meetings with outgoing office-bearers of the party, the former president, Kushabhau Thakre, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, L.K. Advani, and, today, with the Prime Minister. He also visited the RSS headquarters at Jhandewalan to meet RSS leaders, H.V. Seshadiri and Madan Das Devi (the RSS chief, K.S. Sudershan, is not here).

He confirmed that the discussions covered the question of key positions of party presidents in the States due for polls next year, but added that final decisions are yet to be taken.

However, Uma Bharati, Union Minister for Sports, has already been sounded for the post of Madhya Pradesh State unit president, and it is learnt that she has conveyed her willingness to relinquish her Cabinet position to take up the new assignment. Similarly, a decision seems to have been taken about Vasundhara Raje, Union Minister for Small Industries, on heading the party's Rajasthan unit.

The party would also like to see an energetic woman among the office-bearers, so there is always the possibility of some last-minute changes. Mr. Naidu indicated that was the reason he did not want to announce names for key party positions in a piecemeal manner. Only two names for the posts of general secretaries are believed to have been finalised — that of the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Rajnath Singh and the general secretary, Sanjay Joshi.

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