Party president Venkaiah Naidu is, in fact, already in consultations with the various BJP state units on the pros and cons of early polls. Deputy PM Lal Krishna Advani, meanwhile, is overseeing the process of consulting the NDA allies. This perhaps explains Vajpayee's 'indications' to MPs at a recent BJP parliamentary party meeting on keeping options open. In his typical cryptic manner, Vajpayee said "it was time" for the MPs to go to their constituencies and work among the people. The timing of the polls, he said, would be decided by Advani and Venkaiah Naidu.
But even as the election machine cranks up, BJP strategists admit the power of veto rests with the PM. And Vajpayee is reportedly concentrating on making the SAARC summit a success. A harmonising of relations with Pakistan would after all go a long way in cementing Vajpayee's position as the larger-than-life man of peace. Till then, however, Vajpayee is likely to keep his cards close to his chest.