'We will make substantial gains'

Print edition : December 13, 1997

Interview with BJP general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu.

BJP general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu is optimistic about the present electoral situation; he expects his party to make gains. He also looks forward to the BJP gaining allies. The party considers the coming election an extraordinary one, similar to those of 1977 and 1984, which gave clear results. He spoke to V. Venkatesan in New Delhi on December 6.

During the political crisis at the Centre, the BJP wanted dissolution of the Lok Sabha and attempted to form a government. How do you explain this?

We had demanded the dissolution of the Lok Sabha after the fall of the Deve Gowda Government. When the Gujral Government was formed, we said that because of its inherent contradictions it would not last long. After the recent crisis erupted, we again said that going to the polls is the only way to resolve the issue.

Yes, there was a slight change in the BJP's stand. We smelt that the Congress(I) was trying to form its own government through manoeuvres and blackmail. Once the Congress(I) withdrew support to the U.F. Government and staked its claim to form a government, we wanted to be careful. We told the President that if he thinks in terms of an alternative government he should take the BJP and its allies into confidence. When the Congress(I) staked its claim, he called us and told us that dissolution of the House would be his last option. MPs did not want mid-term elections. Vajpayee and Advani told the President that the BJP's claim to form a government was stronger than that of other parties or groups.

The Congress(I) was trying to tell the President that with the support of the Samajwadi Party and the Tamil Maanila Congress, their combined strength of 210 is more than that of the BJP and its allies, and that they should be invited. In order to thwart the Congress(I)'s bid, we were ready to tell the President that our strength too could go beyond 210, and that he should not invite the Congress(I) unless the party could provide proof of the support of 273 members.

Vajpayee gave a call to Congresspersons to leave their party to support a BJP-led government.

There is nothing wrong in Vajpayee's open invitation to Congressmen to leave the party to take a positive step to prevent the dissolution of the House. Did not Indira Gandhi give a call for a conscience vote to elect President V.V. Giri?

Vajpayee's call was in the context of the first-time MPs' wish and the President's desire to explore all options before dissolution. Vajpayee wanted to end negativism through the support of members from other parties.

Some Congress(I) leaders face criminal charges of corruption. The party has sought to make baseless allegations against us in order to dilute the attack on corruption. Many Congressmen are disgusted with their leaders. Had we used allurements, it would not have been difficult for us to purchase seven or eight Congress(I) MPs to effect a legal split in that party.

Why could you not repeat Uttar Pradesh in New Delhi?

Uttar Pradesh was an exception. Our cadres are not happy with what we had to do there. Hence we decided not to repeat U.P. U.P. is an aberration. All the parties were discarding norms there and trying to corner us. Any delay on our part would have resulted in our dismissal and the formation of a non-BJP government. There is a difference between U.P. and Delhi. The Congress(I) is half-dead after Advani's revelation that 40 Congress(I) MPs were willing to support us.

How do you expect to use the stability card in your favour in the elections after the fall of your government in Gujarat?

In Gujarat, it was our folly. The Congress(I) encouraged the rebels in our party who had become power-hungry to break away. Even there, had rightful, constitutional means been adhered to, our Ministry would have survived. After the fall of the U.F. Government, the issue of stability has overcome issues of caste and religion. In the coming days, this will acquire emotive overtones and will give the BJP and its allies a clear majority.

Secularism is not an issue with the electorate. We will make substantial gains in the South and the eastern States, besides consolidating our gains in the North and the western States. At present we have four allies; more may join us. The party considers this election an extraordinary one, similar to those of 1977 and 1984, which gave clear results. The party believes that an angry electorate will punish both the Congress(I) and the U.F. and will reward the BJP by means of a swing in the voting pattern.

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