Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, who visited Andhra Pradesh and Telangana this weekend, ruled out the possibility of early elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies of the two states and indicated that these would be held as per schedule in April-May 2019. They separately addressed the BJP cadre and asked them to be poll-ready.
Gadkari was in Andhra Pradesh from Thursday for inspection of the multipurpose Polavaram irrigation project across the Godavari river and to launch a slew of highways and ports projects, while Shah visited Hyderabad on Friday to address Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP leaders, besides meeting badminton star Saina Nehwal and media baron Ramoji Rao, among others, as part of his “Sampark Se Samarthan” initiative.
The two senior leaders of the ruling party have set at rest speculation on Lok Sabha elections being advanced or clubbed with Assembly elections by the end of this year. As the Assemblies of AP and Telangana are scheduled to go to polls along with Parliament, the talk of advanced polls has alerted all political parties.
Gadkari was loud and clear that elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the Andhra Assembly would be held as per the usual schedule of next summer and indicated that he would try to complete all work on Polavaram dam, a Central project, by February 2019. “You know, what I mean by saying February, that is just a month before the election schedule is announced,” he told party leaders in Visakhapatnam on Thursday.
On Friday night, Shah, too, held a meeting with senior BJP and RSS leaders in Hyderabad and told them that the elections would be held as per the normal calendar and there would not be any change in the dates as there was no need for it. Shah, who was unhappy with the ground work of party cadre in Telangana, gave them time-bound tasks from July 2018 to February 2019.
Senior BJP leaders who met both Gadkari and Shah told The Sunday Guardian on Saturday that the Centre’s decision to go for polls as per schedule was prompted by the changing political situation in the country. The “One Nation, One Election” concept was intended to generate political mileage in the immediate context, but a broader political reform in the long run, they said.
Absence of a consensus among major political parties on simultaneous polls at the Law Commission’s meeting and unwillingness of Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to dissolve his Assembly even if the Centre goes for early polls are some of the reasons behind the BJP top brass changing its mind on advancing the elections, sources explained.
Moreover, the BJP has a lot of political homework and unfinished governmental agenda before the polls and it would be difficult to cope with elections in November-December. Though the party leadership is a tad nervous about Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh that go to the Assembly elections by the end of this year, early elections might not be a solution to improve the situation in these states.
A national office bearer of BJP, who was in Hyderabad on Friday, said: “We can easily improve our position in the three states that go to the polls in October-November, instead of gearing up for polls all over the country.” In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi is ready for early polls, but not so the ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra. The BJP goes it alone in both the states.
Shah, in his Hyderabad address of RSS and BJP seniors, gave a piece of his mind, saying that the party senior leaders seemed to be whiling away time in media conferences and “power-point presentations” whenever he met them. He told them to go to the people and mingle with them to know the ground situation, which is not encouraging for winning seats.
When a BJP MLA asked Shah whether there would be early polls in the country, the latter replied that even if the elections were held as per the regular time-table, they were not that far away. “Why are you bothered whether they are held now or then, you have little time to face and you are not in a good condition too,” Shah is learnt to have said.