We will bounce back

Print edition : September 25, 2009

Rajnath Singh addresses the media on August 21 in Shimla after the Chintan Baithak. He has been remarkably reticent with the media through the recent turmoil in the party.-PTI

WHILE the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains embroiled in its self-created controversies, party president Rajnath Singh maintains a stoic silence. Except for appearing once before the media to announce Jaswant Singhs expulsion, he has not said much on the state of affairs in the BJP. He has a reason for this silence. The problems within the BJP could be best sorted out by maintaining silence in public and addressing the issues away from the media glare, he said in a candid interview to Frontline. It does not take too much practice to speak your mind, neither does it require too much effort to act spontaneously, but to remain silent requires much more self-restraint and perseverance, besides commitment, courage of conviction and dedication, he said. Excerpts from the interview:

Of late the BJP looks like a party on the verge of disintegration, embroiled in its self-created mess. Why has the party with a difference come to such a sorry pass?

Differences of opinion are natural in any political party. Even in the BJP there are varying viewpoints, but that does not mean the party has become weak or vulnerable. The core strength of our ideology is still strong and this will tide over everything that is going on now. The party will bounce back vigorously. Such ups and downs are natural phases in the lifecycle of any political party.

Even in the Congress, there was naram dal and garam dal even when there was no crisis of leadership. Even afterwards the party split vertically many times. Even in the CPI(M) [Communist Party of India (Marxist)], which prides itself on having its disciplined cadre, there have been umpteen splits in the past and even now there are reports of internal wrangling. At least we have not split vertically, we will never split, but yes, differences of opinion are there, which is welcome. But this does not threaten the political entity that the BJP is today.

The differences of opinion seem to be arising out of a sense of confusion over the ideology that the party should follow. There seems to be confusion about following the hard Hindutva line as espoused by the RSS or a soft, moderate Hindutva, which was the hallmark of Atal Bihari Vajpayees politics. Why has this confusion arisen in the first place and what is the way out of this?

As far as ideology is concerned, there is no confusion. There is no hard or soft Hindutva. Hindutva is one holistic way of life which is at the core of our ideology, and there is no ambiguity on that. For example, when you talk of a rich and prosperous India, can you even imagine this without having religious and social harmony, where no community, minority or majority, has any feeling of persecution or isolation, can you imagine this unless you ban go hatya [cow slaughter], unless everyone has the confidence that they can practise their religion without fear or favour, unless everyone feels proud to be an Indian?

But if this is the case, then why was there such a vicious intolerance towards Jaswant Singh? Even if he wrote something that was not in sync with the party line, it was not the first time such a thing had been mentioned. So why the sudden show of aggression?

Whatever was done was the unanimous decision of the parliamentary board and I dont want to comment on it.

But being the party president, you certainly can say why he was not shown the minimum courtesy of a chance to explain, as was done in the case of Arun Shourie, who has been much more strident? Besides, his book had only been released a day before the Chintan Baithak. So, apparently the action against him was taken even though many BJP leaders could not have read the book?

The book had reached some people days before the Chintan Baithak. I cant comment beyond that.

The sequence of events following Jaswant Singhs expulsion and the hectic parleys among BJP leaders and with RSS leaders have given the impression that the leadership is weak and that it has no control over the state of affairs in the party. This impression further gained currency because you have kept quiet since then. Why?

At times there are problems which can best be solved by remaining quiet. To speak, to take action, needs no great effort, but to remain silent needs much more practice, perseverance, self-restraint and courage of conviction. Those who speak all the time end up looking like naive fools.

Your term comes to an end in December. What next for you? Will you be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha?

Why should I be the Leader of the Opposition? Advaniji is already there, he was elected for a five-year term, so why talk about this? As for me, I will continue to work as an instrument of the organisation towards attaining the larger goal of a rich and prosperous India where nobody dies of hunger, where there is social harmony, where there is work for every hand. I have no lust for any post, I am happy being a party worker like anybody else.

But there are reports that Advani has been asked by the RSS to give up his post and he has apparently agreed to do so by November?

Ours is a free democratic country and nobody can stop speculations.

You met the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. What was the agenda of your meeting? Did he give you any guidance on how to come out of the current mess in the party?

When a political leader and a socio-religious leader meet, it is a pleasant conversation which gives rise to happy and pleasant feelings all round.

How much control does the RSS wield over the BJP? Did Bhagwat spell out any political road map for the BJP to follow?

[Smiles, without answering.]

Why was B.C. Khanduri removed as Chief Minister in Uttarakhand and Vasundhara Raje asked to quit as Leader of the Opposition in Rajasthan even when they claimed to be enjoying majority support? Surely the party cannot hold only these two individuals responsible for its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections?

They are both worthy individuals in their own right and their removal has nothing to do with the Lok Sabha defeat. It has been done in the interest of the party.

What in your opinion is the reason for the partys defeat in the Lok Sabha elections?

We have analysed the reasons for our defeat, but these cannot be discussed in public. But we have learnt our lessons and will try not to repeat those mistakes in future.

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