'BJP should not have raised the issue'

Print edition : December 23, 2001

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), a major ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), supports the Atal Behari Vajpayee government without participating in it. Although the TDP initially disapproved of the Prime Minister's stand on the Ayodhya issue, it fell in line along with other BJP allies and voted in favour of the government when the matter came up for debate in Parliament. TDP Parliamentary Party leader K. Yerran Naidu, in an interview he gave V. Venkatesan, explains the party's st and. Excerpts:

ANU PUSHKARNA

How do you see the outcome of the debate in the Lok Sabha?

The TDP always asked for clarifications on two issues. One, regarding the commitment to the common minimum agenda, and two, on abiding by the Supreme Court's verdict. The Prime Minister gave a categorical statement on these two issues. However, if anythi ng happens to secularism in the future, the TDP will play the role of a watchdog.

You referred to abiding by the Supreme Court's verdict. Can you specify which case you meant?

Some cases are pending in the lower court and even in the High Court. The court's verdict means the verdict of any court, whether a lower or a High Court. Tomorrow, after any judgment delivered by the High Court, somebody may prefer an appeal in the Supr eme Court. Ultimately, the courts' decision will prevail. This is what we meant.

Which case are you referring to?

The case relating to the construction of a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid.

But the title case has been pending for years.

Yes. We have to respect the law of the land. We have to respect the court order.

What is the TDP's stand? Should there be a temple or mosque at the disputed site?

We are not suggesting anything. We have to abide by the court's judgment. Judges are also human beings. They are watching the situation. They may take up the issue as early as possible. Until such time we have to wait.

How do you react to the Prime Minister's comparison of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement to the reconstruction of the Somnath temple?

I don't want to elaborate. We don't know when the Somnath temple was demolished or rebuilt. My party's support to the NDA government is confined to two issues, namely, the National Agenda of Governance (NAG) and abiding by the courts' verdict in the Ayod hya issue. We wanted clarification on these two issues, and we got it.

Do you share the Prime Minister's view that the Ram temple movement is an expression of national sentiments?

In the common minimum agenda, they did not mention these contentious issues. The Prime Minister need not have mentioned what he said. That is why I called his statement unwarranted and uncalled for.

But the Prime Minister seems to have stuck to his stand, which you described as unwarranted.

The BJP and the Congress(I) should make their mind-set suitable for development. All these things will not get food, shelter, and drinking water for the people. Does discussing these sentimental issues every day give the country food, shelter or cloth? W ill it eradicate poverty? The common man is not concerned about the temple or the masjid. If people are not interested in all these things, why are we wasting time? For the TDP, the issue is not a priority. Our priority is development, the provision of b asic minimum amenities for the common man.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has threatened to walk out of the NDA if there is a deviation from the NAG.

We also want the coalition to stick to the NAG. The people of the country have given a mandate for a coalition based on the common minimum agenda. At the time of election campaign, nobody mentioned these contentious issues. Why now? Whoever violates the NAG should be blamed.

In this case, whom do you hold guilty?

The people know. They are the watchdogs. We are not part of the NDA. But if there is any deviation from the NAG, we will spell out our reaction each time.

Was not your party embarrassed by the Prime Minister's reply in the Lok Sabha on this issue?

The question does not arise. I sought clarification on two issues, and I got it. We are watching the situation, observing the philosophy (of the NDA), and we will see if the Prime Minister violates the common minimum agenda.

What impact will the controversy have on the ruling coalition?

It is the duty of all political parties to realise the meaning of a coalition, the meaning of a common minimum agenda. We have to change our mind-set. Then the coalition will run smoothly. Coalition partners have their own agendas. Talking about them rep eatedly will create doubts among the people. Where is the necessity to discuss all these things, when we live in the age of coalition politics?

Why did you not support the demand for the resignation of the three Central Ministers charge-sheeted in the demolition case?

The Congress(I) had no moral right to move that motion. That was a political move. If they are sincere about it, why did they keep quiet all these years? It was an afterthought, a political move on the part of the Congress(I). Secondly, morality is a mat ter of individual decision. Mere filing of charge-sheets cannot make one guilty. If that is not so, why were these Ministers allowed to contest elections? Law and morals are different. Whether a Minister, accused of a crime, has to resign or not should b e left to his or her conscience.

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