BJP forms election committee for general, states polls

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New Delhi, Jan 8 (UNI) Taking the party to the election mode ahead of polls in nine states and a possible early Lok Sabha election next year, the BJP today set up a 19-member Central Election Management Committee to work out strategy and explore ways of forming state specific alliances with smaller parties to expand the base of the NDA.

The panel, headed by BJP president Rajnath Singh, followed an informal decision taken at a meeting at the party's Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani's residence on December 29, which was attended by the top party leaders.

A five member panel was formed to prepare an action plan for the party to face the coming Lok Sabha and assembly elections in nine states at the meeting.

The panel had submitted its plan to Mr Advani and Mr Rajnath Singh last night after which the committee was constituted, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told newspersons.

Ms Swaraj has also been made coordinator to handle the party's relations with the NDA parties.

The panel will have its first meeting on January 15, she said adding that George Fernandes will continue to be the convenor of the NDA. His continuance was supported by all NDA constituents including Janata Dal (United).

''Both Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar have favoured his continuance,'' Ms Swaraj said.

Dismissing reports that Trinamool Congress had walked out of the NDA, she said there had been no official communication or statement before the NDA to this effect. Till such time, ''I will continue to liaise with Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee and Dinesh Trivedi,'' she said.

The NDA partners will meet in third week of January.

She said BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar has been made incharge of organising rallies in the states facing elections. The rallies would be completed by March 2008, she added.

''Our effort will be to retain power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh states and wrest it in Karnataka and Delhi where the BJP is an important player'', she said.

''The party would like to spread its influence in rest of the states going to polls including Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya and Tripura, the BJP leader said.

The committee has leaders like Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, M Venkaiah Naidu, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Arun Jaitley, Bal Apte, Yashwant Sinha, Gopinath Munde, Ananth Kumar, Ram Lal, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Balbir Punj, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Vijay Sahasra Budhe.

Mr Advani was heading this panel when the party chose to project Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Ministerial candidate in 1996 and 1998 general elections.

Disagreeing with the suggestion that this was an 'alternative body' that undermined the importance of the party, Ms Swaraj said Parliamentary Board was the supreme body that takes all important policy decisions and the Central Election Committee will decide upon finalising tickets to the party nominees.

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