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Testing times for BJP young turks

The coming polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi are not just about the fate of BJP and Congress in the run-up to next year's Lok Sabha polls. They are also a litmus test for the BJP's second-rung leaders who are out to show their political management skills.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2003 15:16 IST

THE COMING elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi are not just about the fate of the BJP and the Congress in the run-up to next year's Lok Sabha polls. They are also a litmus test for the BJP's second-rung leaders who are out to show their political management skills.

Out in the field are Uma Bharti as the BJP's answer to Digvijay Singh-led Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Vasundhara Raje as the spearhead of the party's bid to come back to power in Rajasthan. In Chhattisgarh, it is Union Minister Dilip Singh Judev, who has hit the roads for the much-needed kick-start to the oust-Jogi campaign.

In Delhi, of course, it is old-hand Madan Lal Khurana. But his future as one of the BJP's second generation leaders rests on his ability to deliver the Capital's political power base.

But, the Central BJP leaders who are out to prove their mettle are also key second-rung leaders, who are ambitious and willing to strive hard. They include BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu for whom the elections present a major challenge to his stewardship of the party.

Next to him is BJP's "director-general of military operations" Pramod Mahajan, who is the party's general secretary in charge of elections.

If Venkaiah has been at his "fire-brand" best by constantly travelling and interacting with BJP functionaries, Mahajan adopted a low-profile approach since he quit the government to take up party work 10 months ago.

The two have been working in tandem — briefing PM A.B. Vajpayee and Deputy PM L.K. Advani about poll preparations. Mahajan has the additional responsibility of supervision of the party's campaign in Rajasthan as the general secretary in-charge.

A core group of Central ministers, who also represent the second-rung of the party, have also donned the battle gear. They include Law and Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley, who is guiding Uma Bharti in MP, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Agriculture Minister Rajnath Singh who have been associated with the party's strategy in Chhattisgarh. I&B Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has also been involved in the campaign planning for Rajasthan. Vajpayee and Advani will provide the final touches to the campaign.

The BJP has asked the state units to submit their candidate lists by the third week of this month to the central election committee. The party's CEC will have its first meeting on October 20 and the candidates are expected to be finalised by the end of this month.