`No dilution of Hindutva'

Print edition : January 27, 2006

Interview with Rajnath Singh, president, Bharatiya Janata Party.

Rajnath Singh, the low-profile, quiet and sturdily determined former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, emerged as the surprise candidate in whom the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) reposed its faith to lead a floundering Bharatiya Janata Party after the bowing out of L.K. Advani.

In an interview to Purnima S. Tripathi, Rajnath Singh said he would brook no dilution of the Hindutva ideology. He said also that as a swayamsewak, he would have no hesitation about consulting the RSS from time to time but denied that the Sangh interfered in the BJP's functioning. Excerpts:

L.K. Advani had to resign under pressure from the RSS after his statements on Jinnah. Do you feel under any pressure?

The Sangh does not try to control or interfere in the BJP's political affairs. Being a swayamsewak myself, I know that for sure. But the Sangh is a prominent socio-cultural organisation and BJP leaders consult its leaders on matters of importance. But our decisions are our own, the Sangh does not intervene in our decisions. I, too, will have no hesitation in consulting the Sangh if there is a need.

Your candidature was blessed by the Sangh. Does it mean we will see a resurgence of hardcore Hindutva ideology as defined by the Sangh?

There is going to be total dedication to ideology. Dilution of ideology will not be allowed. But we have to understand what this ideology is. We should see it in terms of the Supreme Court definition of Hindutva. It cannot be limited to religion, or communalism; it is about cultural nationalism, it is about integral humanism. Hindutva is about the belief: yat pinde tat brahmand [the universe is in the microcosm], a belief that what is in me, is in you also. Hindutva can never be `hardliner' because it does not teach one to distinguish or discriminate on the basis of religion, caste or creed. I will try and train our workers better in the concept of Hindutva and for that training camps, where senior BJP and Sangh leaders would explain the concept, will be organised.

Do you feel that some recent incidents, such as Members of Parliament taking money for asking questions in the House or senior party leaders being involved in murky sex scandals, have eroded the party's credibility?

These are isolated incidents. They may have damaged the party's reputation, but they have not eroded its credibility. The measure of a party's credibility should be how the party responds to such exposure. After all, party workers are part of society, where you find all these vices. The more important thing is how the party tackles these and I think our response has been adequate.

Your appointment as BJP president has given rise to doubts that the BJP's stand on dialogue with Pakistan might change.

I am of the firm belief that there should be no dialogue with Pakistan until all cross-border terrorism comes to an end.

But it was the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which your party led, which gave an impetus to these talks even as cross-border terrorism was continuing.

I know. But in my opinion, such dialogue has no meaning until all cross-border terrorism comes to an end. The NDA government's initiative, however, served the limited purpose of making Pakistan promise at international fora that it would stop supporting such activities. I would like to reiterate that we want good relations with all our neighbours but not at the cost of national security. Take Bangladesh, for instance. We want good relations with Bangladesh but we cannot allow Bangladeshi infiltrators to live here for ever. We will launch a campaign to identify and deport Bangladeshi infiltrators. It is a major challenge before our country because their growing number is changing our demography. The other immediate challenge for us is to stop religious conversions, which are a cruel joke on the poor. In the States where we have governments, we will bring in legislation to ban conversions, beginning with Jharkahnd. In other States, we will launch a movement against conversions.

Madhya Pradesh is an immediate political challenge for you. How do you plan to sort out the Uma Bharati problem, given that she has the potential to damage the party in the State like Kalyan Singh did in Uttar Pradesh in the past?

Uma Bharati's expulsion was the Parliamentary Board's decision. So far, there is no application before me to review the matter. But I am confident it will be sorted out to the party's advantage in Madhya Pradesh.

Does it mean that you will consider revoking the expulsion if an application comes to you?

Whatever I do will be for strengthening the party.

The other political challenge before you is to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh, where it has gone down to the third place.

Our unit is led by able people but I want them to take up more people-related issues. The challenge before us is to make the party No.1 in U.P. We have to highlight people's problems. There is no law and order in Uttar Pradesh, people live in fear because of criminalisation of politics. We must restore people's faith in our party.

Chief Minister Mulayam Singh has accused you of patronising criminals.

A Chief Minister should not accuse... He has the machinery at his disposal, he should investigate and make public if there is any such linkage [sic.]. I challenge him to investigate the matter.

What plans do you have for a Ram temple in Ayodhya?

I have no immediate plans for this because there already is a Ram temple. The only thing is to make it more grand. I would, however, like to appeal to my Muslim brothers to use their good sense and allow a grand Ram temple to be built.

What is your message for the party's workers?

Only one: corruption and indiscipline will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

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