BJP pitches itself as Congress’ alternative, tries to smooth rifts (Roundup)

Mumbai, May 24: With two years to the 2014 general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday strongly pitched itself as an alternative to the Congress, and said it will seek to expand base among the minorities, Dalits and poor.

The party also sought to begin a process of reconciliation within its ranks as party president Nitin Gadkari made it clear the meet was focused on general election “irrespective of whether they are held in 2014 or earlier”.

Sanjay Joshi’s resignation from the national executive – which led to BJP’s star chief minister, Gujarat’s Narendra Modi last-minute change of plan to attend the meet, was seen as party’s first step to settle internal issues.

Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who had threatened to quit over a tussle with a state party leader, was also present. Missing however was former Karnataka chief minister, B. S. Yeddyurappa, who has been at loggerhead with his hand-picked successor Sadananda Gowda.

However, sources said Yedyurrapa is likely to come Friday.

Meanwhile, BJP sought to present itself as the “solution” to the “problems” created by Congress, and passed two resolutions slamming the United Progressive Alliance government on its agriculture and economic policies.

History was also created when BJP amended its constitution to enable an extension of three years for Gadkari, making him in all likeliness the first one to get six years as BJP president.

At the last minute, a resolution against the report of Kashmir interlocutors, calling it against integration of Kashmir with India, was also accommodated.

In his inaugural speech, Gadkari accused the Congress-led central government of gross misgovernance. “We need to tell the nation, Congress has created problems, we will offer the solution”.

He warned the Congress led government that its days were “numbered” and people can no more afford its “misrule”.

Gadkari said that the party will focus on expanding base among minorities, Dalits and poor for increasing its vote bank by 10 percent.

He also appeared confident that despite Uttar Pradesh defeat, the party has a “very large base” which will reflect in Lok Sabha polls and specifically hailed the “good governance of Gujarat”.

However, even as the BJP talked about expanding base among minorities, party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Ram temple continued to be on the party’s agenda.

“We have an eternal faith in the construction of Ram temple (in Ayodhya)…if it is constructed with religious harmony, it will be even better,” Prasad said.

He, however, added that six years of BJP rule at the centre between 1998 and 2004, and its various state governments have proved that the party has not discriminated on the basis of religion.

The resolution on economic situation of the country slammed the government on plethora of issues including the petrol price hike, fallingrupee and drop in foreign direct investment.

“Why the value of dollar against rupee is increasing while the dollar is falling all over the world,” senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi said.

The party’s resolution on agriculture demanded banning of genetically modified seeds, and a special policy to deal with problem of drought and loan burdens on farmers.

“We need farm related insurance to safeguard the farmer’s income,” former president Rajnath Singh said.

The two day national executive will end Friday.