BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu recently revamped his team of office-bearers and also the national executive. In the new organisational setup, the firebrand party general secretary, Pramod Mahajan has been given the responsibility of looking after Assembly elections in Maharashtra. Organsier representative, Pramod Kumar spoke to Shri Mahajan in New Delhi to know his strategy for Maharashtra and also the significance of organisational changes. Excerpts:
What is the significance of recent changes in the organisational setup?
This question can be answered only by the party president who brought about the changes. But I feel the changes have been done for betterment of the party.
Members who had to resign from office following corruption charges, have been made cabinet ministers. The person against whom a penalty of Rs 10 crore has been imposed by a department, is made a minister. A person, who spent about 200 days in jail and is still on bail, has been given an important portfolio. The persons against whom there are allegations of murder, kidnapping and rape, have been made ministers. Dr Manmohan Singh is not an elected Prime Minister but a selected one.
Now you have to concentrate on forthcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra. What will be the strategy there?
I think Maharashtra elections are very crucial. They are not very easy. There are both positive and negative sounds. But we look very positively on Maharashtra elections. Though we lost in many states in the Lok Sabha elections, in Maharashtra we got 25 seats out of a total 48 seats. Assembly-wise we had a majority with 146 seats out of a total of 288 seats. It is a very slender majority. But this shows that we are ahead of the Congress-NCP coalition. Our performance in Lok Sabha elections has been very good in the state. The anti-incumbency factor for the present Congress-NCP alliance is very hard in Maharashtra. The BJP organisation is well knit there. The BJP-Shiv Sena combination is also working very smoothly for the last two decades. These are the signs that give us hope that we would win in the state. But at the same time we must understand and must not forget that the gap between the BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-NCP is very narrow. The Central Government is of the Congress that has given very important portfolios to Maharashtra leaders. I think it'san equal battle. I will try my level best to win the elections. Let us see what happens.
The Shiv Sena had recently criticised several polices of the BJP and also the economic policies of the NDA government. Would it have any impact on the Assembly elections?
When one loses the election, the people who were not suggesting anything before the elections, come out with lot of suggestions after the elections. It'shuman nature. I think the BJP-Shiv Sena relations are the smoothest. Shiv Sena is our oldest ally. We have fought half a dozen Lok Sabha and four Assembly elections together. I don'tthink there is any difference of opinion between the two parties. Comments by one or the other leader are not going to affect the prospects of the alliance in the state.
In these organisational changes the prominent castes in UP and Bihar have not been given proper representation. How will the BJP win over these castes to keep its base intact among them?
This is also not a question that I can answer, because I don'tmake office-bearers, executives or give jobs to people. Only the party president can answer it. I personally feel that all sections have been properly represented in the present setup also. Kalyan Singhji has been made vice-president, if you talk about the backward classes. Rajnath Singh is the new general secretary who belongs to the very prominent caste?the Thakurs. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is vice-president to give representation to minorities. And right from Vajpayeeji, Joshiji and Kalrajji, there are a number of prominent leaders who are in the Parliamentary Board.
The national executive is the policy making and debating body of the party. What is the significance of having people like Hema Malini, Vijaya Shanti and Smriti Irani in the executive?
I don'tthink the people who contest elections for the party, or members of Rajya Sabha, represent a section of the society in any form and who are in demand by the workers for electioneering, cannot have serious discussion. You have just asked about Hema Malini and Smriti Irani; Shatrughan Sinha is in the national executive for the last several years. The film industry is also a part of our life. If they can be in the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha or can participate even in election campaign, how can they be useless in the national executive?
The BJP has a unique identity as it considers the whole nation one. Why were the names of office-bearers announced on caste and religious bases?
Frankly, even if you declare or not, people count and print. It is just to facilitate the media. After all, SCs, STs and women have reservation in the BJP national executive. I don'tthink there is any harm in it.
What do you think about the new government?
I feel it is too early to comment on the new government as it is like a small baby. But the initial signs are not encouraging. Members who had to resign from office following corruption charges, have been made cabinet ministers. The person against whom a penalty of Rs 10 crore has been imposed by a department, is made a minister. A person, who spent about 200 days in jail and is still on bail, has been given an important portfolio. The persons against whom there are allegations of murder, kidnapping and rape, have been made ministers. Dr Manmohan Singh is not an elected Prime Minister but a selected one. In any democracy you cannot have a Prime Minister who is secondary to somebody. It'snot a good sign.
But the UPA leaders say there were tainted ministers in Vajpayee government also?
I think we should not use the word ?tainted? against the people who are in public agitation. Obviously they refer to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Otherwise, I don'tknow who was the other ?tainted minister?. They always take only three names?Advaniji, Joshiji and Umaji. It is true that they were chargsheeted, but the chargsheet was for public agitation. Under this logic all freedom fighters should be charged under the same rule and should be sent to jail for several years. One must make a difference between a public agitation and a personal selfish deed. Rape, kidnapping and corruption are not public agitation. So, the word ?taint? is different. One has to come out with a conviction for a Ram temple. Legally they may be chargsheeted, but they did not have any selfish motive. These two comparisons are absolutely not right. It is like black and white. I say, forget ours were tainted, although they were not; you have come here for better rule. Okay, for a debate I say we made a mistake, although we did not; why do you try to make the same mistake? If I go wrong, why do you also go wrong? You should go right.
The UPA government plans to revert some of the important decisions of the previous government. What do you think?
It is always unfortunate. We must understand that under the Constitution there is not any NDA or UPA or Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh government. The word used for the government is only ?Government of India?. The Government of India is a continuous entity and I think all the good initiatives taken by the former Prime Minister, like interlinking of rivers, should continue. At some places if they want to take a U-turn, they have the right to take it because people have put their faith in them.
There is a view that the BJP lost the elections because it left its ideological issues. What do you think?
I don'tthink the BJP has left any ideological issue. What exactly happened in the election has to be analysed. The President has appointed the national executive and very soon the executive will sit and analyse the defeat before coming out with its assessment. That will be the real official line. Any answer before that will be a personal line. I can only say that it is a fractured mandate. I don'tthink any ideological feeling was involved. The national executive will take all these observations into consideration and will come out with its opinion.
Now there is a new slogan in the Congress?Sikh Prime Minister, Muslim President and Christian party president. Is it fair to think like this?
I don'tlook at Dr Kalam as a Muslim President. I also don'tthink of Dr Manmohan Singh as a Sikh Prime Minister. Dr Kalam is an Indian President and Dr Manmohan Singh is also a Prime Minister of India. I don'twant the highest constitutional posts like President, Vice President and Prime Minister to be described on the bases of their castes or religion. As for who is the Congress president, I don'twant to comment.
Congressmen have projected Smt. Sonia Gandhi as one who sacrificed by declining the post of Prime Minister. Comment.
What the Congress wants to project is its job. Frankly, it is still a great secret, which only Sonia Gandhi can reveal. What is the reason behind the so-called ?inner voice?? During the election campaign, she gave an interview to The Hindu, in which she said that she could have become Prime Minister in 1991. Also look at April 1998, when she went to the President to say that she had a majority (though she did not have) and asked him to make her Prime Minister. How did this sudden sacrifice come? It may be a genuine sacrifice; it may be a fear of occupying that post which is not easy. It could also be her self-assessment or it may be a legal hurdle. It may also be a strategy for the future, nobody knows. I am sure it is a political move; there is no sainthood in it.
But why didn'tthe NDA government bring a legislation preventing a person of foreign origin from holding the top posts?
We did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
The government could have at least brought in the legislation?
What is the fun of bringing legislation or creating ruckus in Lok Sabha and bringing to a halt the Parliament for 15 or 20 or 30 days?