Thursday, Nov 13, 2003
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By Neena Vyas
Senior party leaders today indicated that it was not yet certain whether Mr. Sai would contest the elections from both the constituencies or give up Tapkara in favour of some other candidate.
The BJP, it seems, wants to challenge Mr. Jogi on his home ground even while questioning his status as a tribal. However, with Dilip Singh Judev emerging as the party's favourite, even though undeclared, candidate for the post of Chief Minister, some see Mr. Sai's candidature in Mirwahi as a trap. If he loses there he would be easily eliminated in the race for the chief ministership although he is virtually the only tribal leader the BJP has.
Another factor that has kept the BJP from declaring a chief ministerial candidate in the State unlike in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is that the Nationalist Congress Party leader, V.C. Shukla, is likely to press for the post if the BJP were to need his MLAs to form the government.
The BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu, was today dismissive of the defection of a party MP from the State, P.K. Khunte, to the Congress saying "only a few people have left the party for local reasons. We need not give this too much importance."
Mr. Naidu announced that in all the constituencies where Congress Chief Ministers were contesting, the BJP would have special observers to monitor the election. In Raghogarh of Madhya Pradesh, from where the Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, is seeking re-election, BJP's Maharashtra leader, Gopinath Munde, and its Leader of the Opposition in Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, will be the party observers. In Mirwahi (Chhattisgarh), Mr. Jogi's constituency, the party has named Nitin Gadkari and Eknath Gadse, both from Maharashtra, as its observers, while in Sardarpura, the constituency of the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, the party chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, S.S. Ahluwalia, and the Gujarat Law Minister, Ashok Bhat, will closely monitor the election. And in Delhi, "all of us are here" to see what happens in the Gole Market constituency of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Mr. Naidu added.
With almost all its candidates declared, BJP leaders are ready to move right into the battlefield. Mr. Naidu himself will begin a 15-day-long electioneering from Thursday in Mizoram where the party is contesting 8 seats. In the other four States, it has left only four seats for the Akalis in Delhi and three Assembly segments for the Janata Dal (United) in Rajasthan. "In all the rest we are contesting on our own," the party president said.
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