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'We are the third pole'

Published : Jan 02, 2009 00:00 IST

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Shahid Siddiqui: "We have arrived"-R.V.MOORTHY

Shahid Siddiqui: "We have arrived"-R.V.MOORTHY

Interview with Shahid Siddiqui, general secretary, BSP.

SHAHID SIDDIQUI, general secretary of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), claims that the recent Assembly elections constituted a watershed in the country's politics. According to him, his party has achieved its objective by registering a strong presence in the Hindu heartland. People have been talking about these elections being the semi-finals of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, but as far as we are concerned it is a semi-final not merely in the electoral sense but also in terms of the larger political role the BSP is going to play nationally in the days to come, he said in an interview.

What is your assessment of the Assembly election results in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan?, where your party contested in a big way?

Our performance in these elections has clearly placed us as the third pole of Indian polity. We have come to be discussed as a major player in Indian politics along with the Congress and the BJP.

The two mainstream parties, though they may not admit it openly, have become jittery about the gains that we have made. They have realised that given our style of functioning, and organisational machinery, these gains will only get bigger. and bigger in the days to come.

There was an impression that the BSP would be able to force a hung Assembly in at least Delhi and Madhya Pradesh ....

This was the impression of the media. We never claimed that. The problem with the media is that they go overboard, one way or the other. Either they say that we are a big party or they say we are inconsequential. There is no objectivity in these assessments. Of course, we always hope for more seats. But there are times when the party's vote percentage is quite high and impressive but that does not reflect in the seat share.

Take Delhi, for example. We have got more than 14 per cent of the votes, which is 8 per cent more than what we got in the last elections. Under normal circumstances, this should have converted into eight to 10 seats. However, we got only two.

In Madhya Pradesh, too, if you do a detailed study you will see that in the Bundelkhand region we captured close to 22 per cent of the votes and in the Chambal region we got 15 per cent. This impacted the elections in a big way and changed the political contours of both these regions. Here we have cut into both Congress and BJP votes.

The elections as a whole have shown that we are getting votes from all communities. Even so, sometimes arithmetic favours you and sometimes it does not. But we are not unduly worried.

Our party has made its organisational and political point. This is a warning signal for all other parties. You must have noticed that the BSP is the only force that is getting mentioned along with the Congress and the BJP. We see these elections as one in which we arrived. And we will take off in a big way in the next elections to the Lok Sabha.

There is a perception that the BSP would have done better if it had gone for like-minded parties...

The BSP formulates its election strategy taking each election into consideration independently. This time around our perspective was that we should fight alone and show our strength in various States.

What is the perspective for the Lok Sabha elections? Will the party go alone or will it build alliances?

We will consider the situation as it develops. Politically our objective is not just to come to power but to generate awareness about our policies and programmes, and also to build our party. On account of this perspective we do not always hanker after electoral alliances. However, we are open to issue-based and ideological alliances with various parties.

What do you mean by issue-based and ideological alliances?

You saw this in action during the vote of confidence motion in Parliament. Our party took a principled stand against the nuclear deal. and aligned with the Left. Similarly, we are close to the CPI(M) [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] as well as the AIADMK [All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] on issues such as foreign policy and economic policy. We are opposed to blind liberalisation and invitation to foreign investment. And we are for policies favouring marginalised sections, including the Scheduled Castes and minorities. We would like to strengthen the understanding on all these issues. This need not necessarily lead to electoral alliances.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Jan 02, 2009.)

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