`We can continue winning'

Published : Mar 23, 2007 00:00 IST

BJP president Rajnath Singh offers a sweet to B.C. Khanduri, in Dehra Dun on March 8.-R.V. MOORTHY

BJP president Rajnath Singh offers a sweet to B.C. Khanduri, in Dehra Dun on March 8.-R.V. MOORTHY

Interview with Rajnath Singh, BJP president.

BHARATIYA Janata Party insiders say that the perception within the Sangh Parivar is that party president Rajnath Singh's standing as a national leader has risen after the BJP's electoral victories in Punjab and Uttarakhand. According to them, his political and organisational management during the campaign showed that he was progressively and resolutely getting out of former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani's shadow.

The political points he evolved and advanced during the campaign and the way he marshalled organisational resources have apparently won the approval of the top brass of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) too. Frontline met Rajnath Singh even as he was preparing to counsel a number of ticket aspirants for the next big electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh. Excerpts from the interview:

For most part of the past two and a half years the impression among political observers was that the BJP could not get its political-organisational act together. This perception seems to be changing after the party's electoral victories in Punjab and Uttarakhand. To what does the party leadership attribute this change?

I do not know how political observers and media pundits get their perceptions, propagate them and finally change them. As far as the BJP leadership is concerned, we were never in doubt throughout the last two and a half years that we would come up with the kind of results you saw in Punjab and Uttarakhand. The party and its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had never stopped championing the causes of the people and fighting for their rights. Even during the period the media and political observers had written us off we continued with our pro-people work. And remember, this is not the first election the NDA is winning after the Congress, and the UPA, came to power. We won the Assembly elections in Bihar and Jharkhand as also the local body elections in Maharashtra. We are sure we can continue this winning streak in the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Gujarat as well as in the municipal elections in Delhi.

But the BJP lost the last Lok Sabha elections even as its leadership made similar claims. In that background, it is clear that the way the party communicates with and relates to people has changed. What factors caused this change?

First and foremost, the last two and half years have given the people an opportunity to compare the performance of the Congress-led UPA government with that of the earlier BJP-led NDA government. People have experienced the abject failure of the UPA through manifestations like the steep price rise, the crisis in maintaining and strengthening the mechanism for national internal security and the blind appeasement of minority communities for the sake of vote-bank politics.

Workers of the BJP and other NDA allies have constantly striven to expose these failures and misdemeanours among the people. In the process, people have also been making their own comparison between the UPA and NDA governments. All this has enhanced the credibility of the BJP and the NDA among the people.

You talked about price rise, internal security and minority appeasement. Among these three, which would you rate as more crucial or more significant in terms of the election results?

All three are equally important. You cannot pick and choose. The whole country is worried about all three issues.

But there is also a stream of opinion that the BJP's victory is essentially related to the phenomenon of price rise. There is also a view that the victory was aided by the rampant infighting within the Congress.

These arguments would not stand up under scrutiny. As I said earlier, price rise was indeed a factor, but why should people turn to the BJP and its allies to protest against it? They did that because the BJP has credibility. For example, when the people contemplate the issue of internal security, they remember that the NDA government had brought in strong legislation like POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act] to counter the terrorist menace, which was unfortunately and ill-advisedly withdrawn by the UPA government. Again, on the question of appeasement, the people realised that there was no discrimination between communities and castes during NDA rule.

On many an occasion during the past two and half years the BJP and the Sangh Parivar were racked by an ideological crisis and personality clashes in the leadership. Even the top leadership of the RSS had pointed to these. Do you think that the present electoral victories and the fillip it has given to the party organisation would help the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to overcome decisively these damaging tendencies?

Look, you need to classify the situation in the BJP properly. What one saw in the BJP was only a kind of ideological confusion and not a crisis. And let me assert, there never were personality clashes in the party. Hindutva has always been the ideological bulwark of the BJP and shall continue to remain so.

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