Interview with BJP president Nitin Gadkari.
SUPPORTERS of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari in his party and in the larger Sangh Parivar are of the view that his leadership now has greater acceptance than before, with the resounding election victory of the Janata Dal (United)-BJP combine in Bihar and the strong nationwide campaign that the party has undertaken against corruption in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
In an interview to Frontline, Gadkari spoke of how the BJP and its allies proposed to carry on the campaign, especially in the background of the counter-attack launched by the Congress at its national plenary. Excerpts:
You described the Congress president's inaugural address at that party's plenary session as an effort at playing opposition politics while in government. Can you elaborate on the comment?
The UPA has been in power for the last six years. The 2G spectrum scam surfaced in 2007. Then came the Commonwealth Games scandal and the Adarsh Housing Society scandal, and many other skeletons rolled out of the ruling party's cupboard. After all this, the head of the ruling coalition is telling the country that her party has decided to take corruption head on. She is even proposing a four-point action plan to intensify the battle against corruption, advocating a new system of fast-tracking all cases of corruption involving public servants.
What about the accountability of the political masters responsible for the cases of corruption that are before the nation? Who will punish those indicted by the CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General]?
I think Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is intentionally speaking the language of the opposition, and by doing so she is betraying her complete failure as the leader of the ruling party. The people of this country cannot be fooled by such rhetoric, and they will give their response in the forthcoming elections in five States.
The Congress argues that it is more committed to the fight against corruption as it has asked its Ministers and other leaders at the receiving end of allegations to resign while the BJP has not done it
Well, if the Congress is genuinely committed to fighting corruption, it must advise the Prime Minister to accept the opposition demand for a JPC [Joint Parliamentary Committee] to probe all allegations of corruption. Why is Dr Manmohan Singh trying to shield [himself] behind the PAC, which is just an auditing agency? The fact of the matter is that the Congress has always encouraged corruption while in power. It lacks the will to fight it because the Gangotri of corruption begins at the top level and percolates down to the entire system of the ruling party.
As far as the BJP is concerned, none of our Chief Ministers or Ministers has been indicted by either the courts or the auditing agencies of the government. I can assure you that we will not hesitate to take action if any of our Chief Ministers or other Ministers is indicted on corruption charges.
The BJP has launched a nationwide campaign against corruption. Are you planning to take this to the Budget session of Parliament? If so, what will be the mode of agitation?
After the massive NDA [National Democratic Alliance] rally in Delhi, we have planned a series of public meetings in major cities. The agitation against corruption will be taken up at the district level in the run-up to the Budget session in February. The mode of agitation will be worked out at the beginning of each phase of our campaign. The strategy to be adopted during the Budget session will be chalked out by the NDA closer to the date, depending upon the emerging political situation.
There have been rumours about a midterm election in the event of Parliament getting stalled during the Budget session too. How do you respond to this?
I think it is a hypothetical question. First of all it is too early for the NDA to discuss what will happen in the Budget session. Maybe the public opinion mounted by the NDA will force the government to concede the demand for a JPC. In case it continues with its intransigence, we will see how to deal with the situation as it unfolds. But if the government holds out the threat of a midterm election to browbeat the opposition, we are not the ones to be cowed by such challenges. We will go to the people and I am sure the people's verdict will be decisive and unambiguous. On the face of it such rumours are a part of the ruling party's propaganda to generate public sympathy with the argument that the opposition is not allowing the government to function.
There is a feeling that the central leaderships of both the mainstream national parties are not able to withstand the pressure from regional leaders such as Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in the case of the BJP and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy in the case of the Congress. What is your response?
That is absolutely true in the case of the Congress, which has been condoning the monumental corruption scandals of its southern ally, the DMK [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam]. The 2G spectrum scam is a classic example. The Prime Minister protected A. Raja for the last three years to save his government. He [Raja] was thrown out when he became a hot potato. Tantrums thrown by some other allies in the UPA have also undermined the Prime Minister's authority.
But there is no such thing in the BJP. It is absurd to blame Yeddyurappa. The Karnataka Chief Minister has always been abiding by the party central leadership's directives. The BJP leadership is absolutely convinced that all the allegations levelled by the Congress party against Yeddyurappa are baseless, mischievous and politically motivated. Not a single allegation of corruption against him has been corroborated with any concrete evidence. He has never been indicted by any government auditing agency. I don't want to comment on the political situation in Andhra Pradesh or about Mr Jaganmohan Reddy at this moment.
The BJP has registered a significant victory in Bihar after the electoral reverses it suffered in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and later in Maharashtra. How does the party look at the forthcoming elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam? What will be the broad strategic parameters of the election campaign?
We are gearing up for the Assembly elections in these States. Top priority is being accorded to strengthening the party units at the grass roots. The current phase of our agitation will definitely galvanise party cadre in these States. We have a definite strategy to defeat the Congress and its allies in all these States. We will share it with the media at the appropriate time. For the time being, it will suffice to say that our resounding victory in Bihar has demoralised our opponents. Their plan to play the communal card has been summarily rejected by the people of Bihar. They are rattled by the response of the minority community in the Bihar elections. The Congress, it appears, has not learnt any lessons and is still trying to create a communal divide to woo the Muslim community. I can tell you that we will not allow their design to succeed. I am confident that the people in the election-bound States will once again reject its narrow sectarian politics of vote bank.