'The use of harsh words by AIADMK is not going to hurt our image'

Print edition : August 29, 1998

The Bharatiya Janata Party's National Executive met in Jaipur between August 21 and 23 at a time when the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government was under the shadow of the tensions between the BJP and the AIADMK. BJP general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu spoke to V. Venkatesan about the outcome of the meeting and about the BJP's perception of the political situation. Excerpts from the interview:

What was the BJP National Executive's assessment of the situation?

This is the first National Executive meeting after the BJP came to power and a new party president was appointed. We reviewed the Government's performance over the past five months. We identified the issues that the people are concerned about and gave certain suggestions to the Government. We also took note of the problems faced by the coalition and the need for better coordination and cooperation among the alliance partners. The Executive is of the opinion that there is no threat to the Government, the performance of the Government has been good; and the Government needs to do a lot more. The constraints of the Government were explained to the party Executive.

Why was the political resolution adopted at the meeting silent on the AIADMK's threat to review its support to the Government and on the allegations levelled by Jayalalitha?

There is no threat. We have not taken note of the threat. Threats cannot be taken note of and responded to with resolutions. We don't want to make any comments on our allies. There is no need for that. The problems are not just because of our coalition partners. The problem is because of the verdict itself - the arithmetic of the Lok Sabha. It is a razor-thin majority.

The political resolution appears to be apprehensive about the so-called attempts by the Congress(I) and other Opposition parties to replace your government. You have described the emerging Opposition alliance as "unholy". How does your alliance become "holy" when your allies are squabbling in public?

N. BALAJI

The point is, we have the people's mandate. We went to the people together. They (the Opposition) fought against one another. And they have been fighting the Congress for the past 40 years. Some regional parties making adjustments with other regional parties at some level is understandable.

But your allies are fighting with one another. The AIADMK has used harsh words against you. It has accused you of "selective amnesia" and has rejected the Cauvery accord.

No ally is fighting with us. On certain issues, they are going public. That is not correct. We will let them know that it is not correct. Just because they are doing this, I cannot favour the Congress and antagonise my ally and throw it out. Some people want us to do this. Some people suggest that we do this. In fact, the media have also been asking us when we are going to throw the AIADMK out. However, we are not going to oblige them. Even at the meeting of the National Executive nobody suggested that we snap our ties with the AIADMK. Everybody said that the alliance partners should be taken into confidence, that frequent meetings of the Coordination Committee should be held, that issues should be discussed and that we should prevail upon our alliance partners not to air their views openly. The use of harsh words by the AIADMK is not going to hurt our image. People are happy with the way we have been functioning. As to why Jayalalitha is using that kind of language, you must ask her.

Why is it that only two meetings of the Committee have been held so far?

I cannot answer this. It is for the Prime Minister to call the meeting as and when it is required. After all, bilateral discussions, held from time to time, can help more than Committee meetings. The Government feels that all the alliance partners are very much part of the Government. Cabinet means joint responsibility. It will not take unilateral decisions at the instance of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister himself has said that he will rule by consensus. That being the case, there is a forum in the form of the Cabinet. If there are differences of opinion on issues, the frequency of the Committee meetings can be increased.

One of your allies has called for the expulsion of the AIADMK from the coalition. Another ally has joined issue with Jayalalitha over her attitude towards the coalition.

Those are their views. You must understand that they have said these things in agony, not in anger. All the alliance partners have gone public on certain issues. They have levelled charges, which is unusual. There is nothing wrong. Identifying an issue and suggesting to the Government that it do this or that is different. However, threatening the Government by saying that there will be a review of support if the demands are not conceded is not proper. A section of the media wants to help the Congress. The media want to provoke the AIADMK and watch the tamasha. We don't want to favour them. The people want the coalition to function effectively and smoothly. The problem is one of differences of perception on certain issues. However, the coalition's image of being unified has certainly suffered a setback.

Are you in search of new allies to replace the AIADMK?

We have no doubt that nobody is going to withdraw support. We therefore have no inclination to seek the support of others outside the coalition. There is no alternative to this Government. In this Lok Sabha, the choice is between Vajpayee and going back to the voters.

How do you justify the BJP's attack on the Opposition?

The Opposition is irresponsible. Right from Day One, the Congress has adopted double standards. If the Congress joins hands with the rest of the Opposition which blocked the Women's Reservation Bill, they will only be creating more nuisance. They pose no threat to us.

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