Pramod Kumar and Deepak Kumar Rath
Every election throws up its share of political blockbusters and boxbusters. Winners and losers look at the outcome from their unique angle and style. It is time for both jubilation and introspection?to learn some lessons?to prepare for the next round. After all, elections are a great leveller. Organiser correspondents Pramod Kumar and Deepak Kumar Rath spoke to a very special team of leaders across the socio-political spectrum of our national life. Read on.?Ed.
?We will again come back to power?
?Sushma Swaraj, senior BJP leader
Why did the NDA face such an unexpected verdict in the 2004 Lok Sabha election?
This is a matter of analysis because when results are so unexpected and much beyond expectation, it is not that immediately we can reach a conclusion. Therefore we have decided that first we would do a one-to-one analysis followed by some collective thinking. Maybe we will do it in a chintan baithak or in a formal baithak to be held in Delhi, where all of us will exchange views, and I think only then can we reach a conclusion.
You were a minister in the government; do you think that the verdict is due to some wrong policies implemented by the government?
No, I cannot say that the policies were wrong. Only thing I can say is that the benefits of those policies did not reach the target groups. Because, first, the time was very short and secondly, in some cases implementation by the state governments was tardy. And lastly, the system was faulty. When the government announces a policy or provides money, the system takes too much time to reach the poor. However, policies were not at all wrong.
We will overcome
Do you think that economic liberalisation for the farmers and the ?hire and fire? policy for the labour were subjects of wide criticism?
Naturally, criticism was there. We had good administration but not good politics. We were taking an integrated view of the country. But a voter thinks of the personal prospective. For example in ?hire and fire? policy, we gave VRS. People deposited their money in the banks but the interest rates dropped. It hit the person who was the depositor. But at the same time, we also reduced the lending rates, but the same person (depositor) was not the one to take the loan; the real beneficiary was some other person. We, as the government were thinking of an integrated policy but when we reduced the lending rates, we had to reduce the deposit rates also. But the person who was losing the interest was not at all worried whether we were reducing the lending rates or not, because all the time he was not the same person who was getting the interest. So this is called good administration but not good politics. Both at Doha and in Cancun, our ministers did a tremendous job for the farmers of the developing and underdeveloped countries.
The NDA government carried out many welfare activities for the development of minorities like Muslims. But it seems they did not vote for the NDA. Comment.
We were not doing everything for votes. Atalji was always saying that it was not our ultimate aim to get votes but something called rajdharma that we had to do. He always said that since Muslims were very apprehensive of our government, we thus confined all the welfare activities to them. For example, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi on one hand, is criticised for saffronisation of education but on the other hand, what all he did for the Muslims, for the madrasas would go down in history. He is the one who encouraged computerisation of madrasas, provided more Urdu teachers and did a lot for the development of Urdu language. As a minister, Dr Joshi was doing his rajdharma, because you cannot be partial to anybody when you are in government.
Do you think that the BJP had a dearth of leaders for electoral politics in comparison to its numbers, good administrators in the government and good managers to run the party?
No, it is always a conscious decision, whether you indulge only in politics and leave the country to its own destiny or you decide to do something which may not give you direct benefit in the elections but which would be remembered in the long term. I think the NDA government did the latter. We may have lost the electoral battle but in future we would be remembered as a government which laid the foundation for development of India.
Why was the BJP unaware of the fact that it was going to face a negative verdict?
Because it was something called undercurrent, which was always invisible. You can gauge the tide, you can gauge the wave, but you cannot gauge the undercurrent. And the wave of undercurrent was very high.
What is BJP'sfuture plan?
These things come and go and we have faced such situations many times in the past. It is a small setback. Still, we are the second largest party. There is no question mark on our future.
The inherent contradictions of the new government have already started coming to the surface. This government would be discredited early in its rule. And then people will remember the outgoing government. In the meantime, we will identify the shortcomings in our organisation. We will again come back to power.
There is some criticism that BJP'scampaign against Sonia Gandhi'sforeign origin issue boomeranged. Comment.
I do not think so. I think the country has been saved from a great dishonour. Can you imagine a person of foreign origin, hoisting the national flag on 15th of August. Only three months from now the day will come. I will die of shame if that day were to come. And I think this is a political victory; it is not a political issue at all. We have learnt that Rashtra sarvopari. How did it boomerang? She has been stopped from acquiring that post.
Don'tyou think she has the support of the people?
No, it'sonly euphoria for a few days. The truths, untruths and lies will be exposed. If this was the voice of conscience, then why in 1999, when she was not even an MP, she went to Rashtrapati Bhawan and asked for swearing in as Prime Minister. Why did she become the leader of the CPP? Why did she go to the President this time? Something must have happened between Rajpath and Janpath. It was at that time that her inner voice spoke. I also took the decision of my inner voice. On my first interview to media on 13th of May this year, I said I will not accept a foreigner as the PM of India because it is a matter of national security and national honour. I told my party that I will resign but I will not address her as Madam Prime Minister?!
Do you think there is any constitutional constraint for her to became the PM?
It is a matter which is much above the Constitution. But even if there is a legislation, suppose the other party has a majority, they can always amend the law. So, just framing of law is not a guarantee against a foreigner becoming a PM. It'sa continuous fight against a mentality. You have to remain always on the alert. My party supported me by announcing that it would boycott the swearing in ceremony, if Sonia became the PM. My agitation will go on till this mentality that allows a foreigner to reach the highest office of our country is not got rid of.