NDA to contest LS polls under Advani's leadership

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New Delhi, Jan 22: Putting an end to all speculation, the NDA today decided to contest the next Lok Sabha polls with a common strategy and programme under the leadership of BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani while seeking guidance from former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who will continue to be the NDA chairman.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of NDA parties at Mr Advani's residence which adopted a resolution moved by NDA Convenor George Fernandes where the parties vowed to dislodge ''the anti-poor, anti-kisan, corrupt, non-performing and an internally paralysed UPA government'' and secure a decisive mandate for the NDA in the next elections, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told mediapersons. The meeting was attended by all parties barring the Trinamool Congress, which had expressed its wish to attend the deliberations till late last night. National presidents of the NDA parties, leaders of the parties in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and all chief ministers of the NDA-ruled states were among those present, Ms Swaraj said.

With this the speculation regarding the NDA accepting Mr Advani as its leader had come to an end. Ms Swaraj has been given the responsibility of laisoning with the NDA parties by the BJP. Mr Vajpayee and Mr Fernandes will take a back seat for all practical purposes while continuing to be the key figures of the Opposition coalition.

The proceedings would be communicated to Mr Vajpayee, who could not attend the meeting due to 'ill health', by the NDA leaders and NDA Chief Ministers later in the day. Ms Swaraj said the meeting also decided that the NDA CMs would hold a separate meeting to highlight the discrimination faced by them at the hands of the ruling UPA rendering practically no help even to face calamities like floods and droughts let alone lend them a helping hand to implement welfare measures like providing rice at Rs three per kilo in Chhattisgarh.

The CMs would bring out a document listing the cases of discrimination their states had received at the hands of the UPA Government. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh alleged at the meeting how the UPA had stopped supply of rice after the state announced its decision to sell rice at Rs three per kilo to Below Poverty Line(BPL) families.

Other chief ministers also brought out how their states were discriminated against. This was not the case when the NDA was in power and not a single UPA chief minister could make an allegation of discrimination. On the other hand they received so much help from the NDA Government at the Centre that they expressed their happiness openly, Ms Swaraj said.

She said the NDA would be approaching the people promising them to provide an honest and development oriented governance and a government that could give them a sense of national security.

Describing today's meeting as a ''bugle for change'', Mr Advani said the NDA was the only alternative which could provide a ''stable, cohesive and result-oriented government''. Mr Advani asked the NDA constituents to prepare themselves to face the coming Assembly elections in 2008, including those in Karnataka where, he said, the Congress must be defeated. The Centre should not think of any ploy to postpone these elections, he remarked.

While conceding that the Lok Sabha elections were likely to be held in 2009 instead of his earlier assessment that it would be held in 2008, Mr Advani said it was so because the government and the Left parties were reluctant to precicipate an early elections fearing resurgence of the NDA and BJP.

''We must chalk out a plan for a sustained campaign for agitation and mass education on issues concerning the nation and common people. The forthcoming budget session of Parliament must also be effectively used for this purpose,'' Mr Advani said.

Describing the UPA Government as ''one with full of internal contradictions and having a weak leadership,'' Mr Advani said because of this weakness, it had never functioned as a vibrant and cohesive entity with clear vision. People had rejected the ruling coalition as it was able to win only four of the 14 Assembly elections held between 2005 to 2007 winning only states of Assam, Manipur, Haryana and Goa accounting for mere 28 Lok Sabha seats, he added.

''Let us pledge once again to dedicate ourselves to the ideals of good governance, development and security,'' Mr Advani said, adding the leaders and workers of the constituent parties reach out to all the areas of the country and sections of the society.

Mr Advani made a special mention that he would continue to seek the ''wise guidance'' of Mr Vajpayee like he had done in the past five decades. He also thanked Mr Fernandes, and BJP President Rajnath Singh.

Those who attended the meeting included Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Orissa Chief Minister Navin Pattnaik.

UNI

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