'We failed to highlight our achievements'

Print edition : December 05, 1998

According to BJP insiders, the reaction of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana to the Assembly election results was mixed. Although generally saddened by the BJP's debacle, he is happy about the party's rout in Delhi, they say. Khurana's supporters say that one of the reasons for the party's setback in Delhi was the leadership's failure to give Khurana the prime position in the State party. Venkitesh Ramakrishnan met Khurana for an interview. Excerpts:

In the wake of the defeat the BJP leadership said that the party would do some introspection. How far has this exercise progressed?

The process is continuing. Obviously, we made some mistakes. What they are and how they affected the poll results will be identified. Once this is completed, we will take corrective measures.

What are the mistakes you have identfied?

We have already talked about some of them - such as the party's failure to highlight the achievements of our governments in Delhi and Rajasthan as well as the Centre. There were some problems with regard to the selection of candidates too. This stood in the way of our converting an advantageous position into success, especially in Madhya Pradesh.

The verdict, particularly that in Madhya Pradesh, has been interpreted by many people as a vote against the BJP-led Government at the Centre.

This is one of those wild interpretations of the Congress(I). The elections were not a referendum on the Central Government but were fought on local and regional issues. It is true that we were not able to highlight the achievements of the Vajpayee Government - such as its contribution to upholding probity in public life by introducing the Lok Pal Bill, its success in ensuring that no communal riots took place in the country, as also the strong steps it took to strengthen the defence preparedness of the country.

Price rise was one of the major issues in this election, and the failure of the Central Government on this front is widely seen to have contributed to the BJP's defeat.

Price rise was definitely an issue. But more than the failure of the Government to check it, it was the success of the Congress(I)'s propaganda machinery, aided by the media, in placing all the responsibility on the Centre that caused the reverse. Besides, we were not able to highlight the measures that we had taken to control prices.

You are reported to have blamed "bad leadership" for the party's rout in Delhi. Whom did you have in mind?

I did not mean anybody personally. What I meant was that the party collectively failed to give good leadership that could win the polls.

Sushma Swaraj has said that the BJP defeated itself in the elections. Apparently she was referring to the in-fighting involving you and Sahib Singh Verma...

This so-called factional fight between my group and that of Sahib Singh has been blown out of proportion by the media. We are both disciplined soldiers of the party and we will not even dream of doing anything that affects the interests of the party adversely.

There is a view, even within the BJP, that if you had led the party in the elections in Delhi, it would have done much better...

Why talk about all this now? The party took a decision in its collective wisdom and there the matter ends.

There is also the opinion that the debacle would lead to the collapse of the coalition Government at the Centre...

This is all mere kite-flying. All our allies have repeatedly affirmed their support to Vajpayeeji's leadership. There is no threat whatsoever.

The BJP's allies have said that it was more a verdict against the BJP than their parties...

Such statements have not come to my notice. It is true that many of them feel that the BJP should have highlighted the Government's achievements properly. But none of them have criticised the policies of the Central Government or doubted its integrity. We are committed to learning from our failures, working cohesively and regaining our strength.

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