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'A judicious selection'

Print edition : Nov 27, 1999 T+T-

Political observers consider Rajnath Singh, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Uttar Pradesh unit, the real winner in the latest power struggles in the party. Although his ambition to become Chief Minister did not materialise, the gen eral perception is that it was his manoeuvres that thwarted other contenders to the post, such as Kalraj Mishra. The central leadership's announcement that there is no move to replace Rajnath Singh as party president has also strengthened his hands. In t his interview to Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Rajnath Singh gives an assessment of the situation in the State BJP and the government. Excerpts:

What will be the impact of the change of leadership on the government and the party?

I do not think that the change of leadership in government and related initiatives have been made on account of any crisis in the State BJP. Every party and organisation makes changes in its organisational and administrative set-ups to improve its functi oning. This is what has happened here.

But a group of legislators had been running a campaign against Kalyan Singh for many months. Kalyan Singh also criticised the BJP leadership.

Allegations and counter-allegations are natural in politics. But the point to note is that the BJP has never pursued its politics on the basis of caste, creed or class. It always strove to take all classes and castes on the basis of its unifying socio-po litical philosophy. Sections of the party had deviated, although slightly, from this basic understanding. Some of them had involved in verbal duels too. All this had created an abnormal situation in the party. But it will be an exaggeration to brand it a crisis. All that our central leadership did was to take corrective steps to make the situation in the party normal. And this was done in a very smooth manner.

How far did the record of the Kalyan Singh government lead to the development of the abnormal situation cited by you?

The Kalyan Singh government took a host of steps that were beneficial to the State and its people. But as in the case of every government, there could have been some mistake or the other. The central leadership took that also into consideration while tak ing corrective steps.

The central leadership has selected Ram Prakash Gupta, who has been out of active politics for nearly a decade, as a compromise candidate.

It is not right to see Ram Prakash Gupta as a compromise candidate. He is one of the senior most leaders of the party in the State and has vast experience in government and in the organisation. He understands the various problems and the possibilities of the State well. In fact, the central leadership has made an extremely judicious selection. I congratulate them on this.

What are your priorities now as the president of the BJP's State unit?

I shall strive to make the party stronger under the leadership and guidance of Ram Prakash Guptaji. The difference of the party from other political parties has to be highlighted properly. The fact that the party leadership is one with the masses in shar ing their miseries and happiness would be emphasised again through our actions.

Kalyan Singh has said that the BJP suffered electoral reverses in Uttar Pradesh mainly because it abandoned issues such as the Ram temple, Article 370 and a Uniform Civil Code.

The central leadership has gone into all these questions and will study the opinion expressed by Kalyan Singhji. Only after a comprehensive assessment can one give a response on this.

You had offered to resign as party president owning moral responsibility for the electoral reverses. The central leadership accepted similar offer from Kalyan Singh but has rejected yours. What do you think is the reason for the difference in the resp onses?

I had taken up the moral responsibility and offered to resign. But I am also a disciplined soldier of the party. Hence I have to abide by the decision of the leadership, whatever it is. If the central leadership thinks that I have to continue to look aft er the organisational affairs of the party, I cannot disobey it and insist on my resignation.

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