'Our priority now is to strengthen the Government'

Published : May 09, 1998 00:00 IST

Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president and Member of Parliament Krishan Lal Sharma is also the party's official spokesperson. He spoke to V. Venkatesan on the eve of the BJP national executive meeting in Gandhinagar on May 2. Excerpts:

The BJP organisation seems to be at a crossroads as many of its senior leaders are now in the Government. How would you describe the present state of the party?

For the first time, we have to attend to both the organisation and the Government. Until now, we were never placed in such a position at the national level. We are heading the Government and party stalwarts occupy senior positions in the Council of Ministers at the Centre. But we have to run the party organisation also.

While the Congress(I) exposed its bankruptcy when it was placed in a similar position, we are confident that we will prove our potential and face both the challenges successfully. We will maintain good relations with the Government. We will prove that the organisation will not be ignored. We did it in 1977, when we were part of the Janata Party Government. It is a similar situation now, and we will emerge with flying colours.

With a new party president, we are likely to have a new organisational set-up. Our organisational network will prove to be our strength. The party will adopt persuasive methods while dealing with the Government, even as we shoulder the responsibility of government. Our priority now is to strengthen the Government and streamline the party organisation. The party has to help the Government to improve its functioning and coordinate better with its allies.

Your former ally Subramanian Swamy has claimed that AIADMK leader Jayalalitha was surprised by your decision to keep him out of the coordination committee.

I do not know whether the issue was discussed with her directly (by the BJP). However, it was obvious that she knew it. Let Swamy explain whether he had consulted Jayalalitha when he abstained from voting on the motion of confidence. Not voting for the motion - despite being an ally - was a serious lapse. Swamy invited upon himself expulsion from the coordination committee. He is himself to blame. We did not ask Jayalalitha to keep Swamy out of the alliance before the elections. We excluded him from the Cabinet because he stated, rather out of turn, that had he been made a Minister he would drop all cases against Jayalalitha. This statement pre-empted his inclusion in the Cabinet.

But Jayalalitha has maintained a mysterious silence over Subramanian Swamy's latest diatribe against the BJP. Do you think she is still considering him as an ally in Tamil Nadu?

She does not come into the picture. It is for her to decide (whether Swamy should remain in the AIADMK front in the State).

Will you agree to the AIADMK's demand for the dismissal of the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu?

It is a technical thing. The Government is seized of the matter.

But the BJP president-elect, Kushabhau Thakre, has ruled out the imposition of President's rule in Tamil Nadu.

How can I comment on what my president has said?

You have often said that Bihar is a fit case for the exercise of Article 356 of the Constitution.

The Bihar unit of the party has demanded the dismissal of the Rabri Devi Government. We do consider this demand at the national level, but it is for the Government to decide. It is for the Prime Minister to consider the demand on merits.

How do you plan to tackle the infighting in the party in Uttar Pradesh? Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and State BJP president Rajnath Singh are reportedly behind the factional fights.

There is a problem in our Uttar Pradesh unit. But it is not serious. The problem can be sorted out within the party forums. It is not insurmountable. Kalyan Singh is functioning in a cordial manner. If there is resentment, the reason has to be found out and the grievance redressed.

Home Minister L.K. Advani has suggested the presidential form of government as a solution to the country's problem of political stability. Do you agree?

The present system of parliamentary government has been largely successful so far. However, there is no harm in considering suggestions to improve the system in order to impart stability. That is why we have promised a review of the Constitution by a body of experts.

After 50 years of Independence, it is certainly legitimate to have another look at the Constitution. However, I would like to allay the fears in some quarters by assuring them that no recommendation of such a commission can be implemented without a two-thirds-majority support in Parliament, which the BJP and its allies do not have at the moment.

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