It's 3:1 for BJP in election 2004 'dress rehearsal'

NEW DELHI: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), heading a 17-party coalition Federal government in India, had a whopping 3:1 sweep in the four states that went to polls, walloping the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress Party in the process.

BJP registered a landslide victory in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and comfortably beat the Congress in Chhattisgarh. For the Congress, the only saving grace was Delhi, where incumbent chief minister Sheila Dikshit beat (as expected) the BJP's Madan Lal Khurana. The finall tally in Delhi was Congress 47, BJP 20 and others 3.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today took a stock-taking meeting with his party and cabinet colleagues before leaving on foreign trip to Nigeria for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM).

Riding an anti-incumbency wave, BJP won 120 of the 200 seats in 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly where Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh admitted there was a "wave against" the party and conceded defeat, agency reports from various state capitals stated.

In an impressive performance in Rajasthan, the saffron party's chief ministerial candidate, Vasundhara Raje was smiles all the way. She whipped Congress candidate Rama Pilot (MP and wife of the late Rajesh Pilot) in Jhalarapatan by 27,375 votes.

Though speculation was rife in Delhi since morning, when the election results started coming in, that BJP may go in for a snap general election, much ahead of the scheduled date in late 2004, the party seemed to have ruled out that option for the present saying it needs more time for preparation. "There is a choice between a summer and September election, I am 100 per cent sure they will be on schedule", BJP general secretary and a former minister Pramod Mahajan said in reply to a question on the possibility of an early Lok Sabha (Lower House).

"Election Commission in India has become so independent that they do not allow you to decide date," he said adding even if the Prime Minister dissolves the Lok Sabha half an hour from now, elections will still not take place before April-May.

Asked if BJP was against an early general election, agencies quoted Mahajan as saying, "We still need time (for preparing for polls) for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar. We have (alliance) problems in Haryana and Tamil Nadu. In my assessment, we need three to four months time for polls if we have to go beyond 180 seats."

He also expressed confidence if the elections are held in September, Vajpayee will break the incumbency record of Nehru and Indira Gandhi by being elected Prime Minister after four conecutive Lok Sabha polls.

What does all this mean for policy making?

The government can go ahead and push for some tough non-economical policy measures, especially those related to the media like setting up a broadcast regulatory authority and going ahead with conditional access system rollout. But on the other hand, it would not like to take tough economical decision, keeping an eye on the general elections next year.

The present government's mandated five-year term ends on 13 October, 2004.

Still, some political observers pointed out that the government might not push even non-economic policies letting status quo prevail as any decision is likely to have some bearing on some segment of the industry.

So, if those people who were thinking that CAS and things like that may be now pursued with renewed zeal, may have to think again.

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