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Historic verdict: Advani

By Sheela Bhatt in Delhi
May 15, 2004 00:16 IST
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Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani on Friday told that there was no anti-incumbency wave.

He blamed the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in the Lok Sabha election on "overpowering local issues and effects of alliances at the local level."

"The unexpected results of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were mainly responsible for the defeat of the NDA," Advani said.

He admitted that the results have posed a challenge to his party.

The deputy prime minister was speaking to along with a group of select journalists at his Prithviraj Road bungalow.

"I don't want to say anything about the results because I don't want to pre-empt what my party may analyse later. I don't want to impose my analysis on my party," he said.

Advani said there was no wave against or in favour of any party. Describing the verdict as fractured, he said, "If one looks at the results in totality, the BJP and the Congress are almost equal now."

He said the results reinforced a "decade-old emerging bipolar reality."

He maintained that till the results of the Andhra Pradesh assembly election came in on Tuesday, May 11, his party believed it would certainly get anything around or above 250 seats.

Advani revealed that ousted Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu and BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu had assured him that the various opinion polls and exit polls should not be believed.

He denied reports that he would take over as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

"Vajpayee is my leader inside and outside Parliament," he said.

He admitted that no one in his party had expected such a verdict in the general election.

Advani highlighted, repeatedly, that the results are "unexpected and uncalculated," and it should be analysed state-wise, and not at a national level.

"I personally believed there was a wave in our favour. But there was no wave," he confessed.

Everyone in the party is surprised by the results in Uttar Pradesh, he said.

The BJP, he added, expected to win at least 30 seats from the state that sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. It won only 10.

He defended his party's alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, saying it was "not a mistake."

He also clarified that the decision to hold an early election was not imposed on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by him. "It was a collective decision and was a correct decision," he said.

He felt that if the NDA had not held an early election it may have lost Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Though he looked relaxed Advani was restrained in his responses.

A member of his family said, "It is a complete surprise. Things happened so soon. We heard many times the debate that an Italian-born may become prime minister. But now that possibility is real. How unimaginable!"

Asked if the verdict had finally buried the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, Advani quickly said, "No."

Then he smiled and told the select group of reporters, "Look, your copy is made. Now it will overshadow everything else."

Asked how long the new government would last, Advani skirted the question. "I am giving them my good wishes," he said.

Discussing the election campaign, he said, "In this election we tried to bring development in focus. But the final verdict shows that local issues and local alliances played a major role even though the reasons varied from state to state."

On his future role in the party, Advani said, "I have always been respected in the party, irrespective of my official position."

Asked by if it was a historic verdict, Advani said, "Yes. It's a historic moment for me. But I would not say that it is a jolt to me. I would compare it with the results of 1984."

Advani has the distinction of being the longest serving home minister of India. He served for six years. But after Thursday's defeat he is in a hurry to leave.

On Thursday evening, when Vajpayee and Advani met President A P J Abdul Kalam, he requested them to continue in office till the new government is formed.

Advani told the President: 'I hope that is done soon. We don't want to linger on'

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Sheela Bhatt in Delhi