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BJP's back-room boys who pulled it off

Vajpayee particularly lauded the efforts of Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan, who pulled off the coup against the Congress.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2003 13:17 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer

The bonhomie at Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's home at Race Course Road on Thursday was a good indication of the role of the BJP's backroom boys, who pulled off the coup against the Congress.

Vajpayee particularly lauded the efforts of Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley and party general secretary Pramod Mahajan.

Right from day one, Jaitley was the BJP’s main strategist in Madhya Pradesh and the “brain” behind the moves of the party’s chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharti.

Similarly, Mahajan, as the general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, was the ‘guiding force’ behind Vasundhara Raje.

Jaitley took upon himself to demolish what he often called the media-propagated "myth" about the Congress style of governance, Digvijay Singh's invincibility and one-upmanship and his so-called expertise in election management.

In Rajasthan, Mahajan's task was more challenging than that of Jaitley as the latter himself put it. The BJP had never got a majority in the state and never won in 57 of the 200 seats.

But once he was assigned Rajasthan, Mahajan lost no time in first establishing the leadership of Vasundhara Raje, who faced resistance from several fronts within the BJP.

Jaitley, who was credited with the BJP's success in Gujarat, worked methodically with the same team of BJP officials who helped out in that state. His formula was that Digvijay Singh should be nailed on the development issue.

Jaitley was himself modest about his role. “I am not a campaign expert as is being made out. When I am assigned work by the party, I just do what is needed for that situation.”

Said an equally humble Mahajan, Only two can take the credit for the BJP's success. Raje herself and the people of Rajasthan."

Mahajan said Raje worked magic by leading the BJP beyond caste calculations as a woman leader. Secondly, the BJP was also able to choose its candidates in a scientific manner. The roping in of the Jat Mahasabha also paid dividends.

Jaitley credited the BJP's success in MP to the party's ability to focus the people's anger over lack of development despite Digvijay's 10-year rule, and take advantage of the "comfort-level" provided by the Vajpayee government's track record.

The choice of Uma Bharti as its chief ministerial candidate was a crucial factor as she was able to attract the OBC vote, which demolished the BSP completely.

Party leaders say credit is also due to BJP president Venkaiah Naidu for galvanising the party organisation. In fact, he was the first to bill it as the semi-final before the Big One --- the general elections due in 2004. On Thursday, thrusting a laddoo into Naidu's mouth, Vajpayee said, "His stewardship has brought luck to the party."

First Published: Dec 05, 2003 01:54 IST