NDA endorses Advani as its PM candidate


New Delhi : The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Tuesday formally endorsed L.K. Advani as its prime ministerial candidate and expressed confidence that he would lead the alliance to victory in the next general elections.

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The NDA leaders, comprising all their chief ministers, party presidents and leaders in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, met at the residence of Advani here to discuss the campaign strategy for the next general elections.

“The NDA shall contest the next parliamentary polls with a common strategy and common programme, under the leadership of L.K. Advani,” a resolution passed by the meeting said.

The resolution, moved by NDA convenor George Fernandes, stated: “We are confident that Advani-ji, given his lifelong service to the nation, vast political experience and unimpeachable record of integrity, will lead our alliance to a victory in the coming electoral battle.”

Speaking on the occasion, Advani said: “As things stand today, elections may take place at their scheduled time in early 2009.”

“With this meeting, the NDA has sounded the bugle of battle against the failed, non-performing, corrupt and internally divided government of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. It should be our goal not only to ensure the NDA’s victory but also to make the Congress suffer the worst defeat in its history,” he said.

Advani set the ball rolling for the polls Dec 29 last year, a day after the BJP won the Himachal Pradesh elections. The party then at his instance set up a Central Election Committee (CEC) and other committees to supervise the campaign for the next general elections.

The NDA resolution ratified the continuation of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who did not attend the meeting due to ill health, as the NDA chairman.

It said: “The NDA shall continue to seek the wise, visionary and inspiring guidance of its chairman and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”

“With the exception of Trinamul Congress, all other NDA leaders invited to the meeting at Advani-ji’s residence participated,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said.

She, however, refused to say whether Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress has severed ties with the NDA. She said, “Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamul MP) had phoned up last evening to inform that he is coming. Now it is up to them to say whether they are in the NDA or not.”

After his electoral triumph in Gujarat, chief minister Narendra Modi also met AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha in Chennai early last week. However, she has yet to make public whether she will ally with the NDA in the general elections, keeping everyone guessing.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and BJP leader Jaswant Singh also did not attend. “He had some prior engagement,” Swaraj explained.

The NDA chief ministers later went to Vajpayee’s residence to seek his blessings.