Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu is a BJP veteran who rose from an ordinary party karyakarta to be the national president of the party and a Union Minister of Rural Development in NDA government. He quit the Union cabinet to serve the party as national president from 2002 to 2004. He is an efficient organisation man and a popular orator. Though presently not holding any formal office he continues to be as active as he was earlier. ?I don'tbelieve in the politics of being either president (meaning holding an office) or a dissident,? he says. ?Party has given me a lot; it is now my turn to serve it with a mission in all humility?. You can easily spot him in every important party function, programme and movement in any corner of the country.
Shri Naidu spared some time on July 2, a day after his birthday when he turned 59, to speak to Amba Charan Vashishth at his residence in New Delhi for a special interview on a wide range of issues for Organiser. Here are some excerpts:
When do you expect the next Lok Sabha elections?
Lok Sabha elections can be there at any time. An element of uncertainty is gripping the country for which both Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh are responsible. Their'sis a lackluster government and alliance. All that one can say about this government is Chalti ka naam gaadi hai.
They have nothing to offer to the electorate by way of performance. Yet they wish to cling to office as long as they can and delay the elections. But things are slipping out of their hands. The Prime Minister should have had the power to govern. But that is not the case. The reality is that PM presides and Madam decides.
Because of the Indo-US deal a sense of uncertainty has gripped the UPA government. How do you look at the current political situation?
The situation is very critical. Dr Manmohan Singh and Smt. Sonia Gandhi are mainly responsible for the imbroglio. Congress leadership lacks political maturity. The deal is an important issue and the right course for the Congress should have been to consult the alliance partners and move forward after taking the Opposition along. Now they are caught in the web of their own creation. First, Congress wanted to go ahead without consulting the Left parties. When they put their foot down, it applied the brakes. Now USA is putting pressure on Congress and Government is feeling non-plussed. Congress and the Left parties are equally to be blamed for this unpleasant situation because they allowed the things to drift on for so long. In the process the standing of the country in the world has suffered.
What do you think of the allegation in the media that the BJP spent lavishly in Karnataka poll though it was the Congress and the JD(S) who spent maximum?
It is absolutely a false propaganda by our opponents after they failed to win elections. They have not been able to digest the BJP victory in the south. Some people in the media were also party to this canard. Actually, the Congress and JD(S) spent many more times than did the BJP. They are now trying to belittle BJP victory and insult the electorates which voted BJP to power.
BJP win did not come overnight. The victory has been gradual and the result of long and sustained campaigns, agitations and sacrifices by the leaders and workers during the last thirty years. From our initial tally of 4 MLAs, we have been growing up steadily to 12, then 18, then 32, then 40, then 79 and now 110. It is the victory of the party'sunity and clarity in our agenda.
While presenting this year'sbudget UPA had made many tall claims, particularly about loan waiver scheme for farmers. What would you say?
Look, this Congress-led UPA government is a failure on every front, be it the matter of prices and inflation, miserable plight of farmers, terrorism or internal security, or of appeasement of minorities. It is only because of the wrong policies of Manmohan Government that inflation has touched the highest figure in the last four years. The economic triumvirate of Manmohan-Chidambaram-Montek has utterly failed in controlling prices, anticipating things and taking timely corrective measures.
UPA government is misleading the nation on inflation projecting it as a global phenomenon in which it could hardly do anything. But the facts are otherwise. According to the Economist, in many European countries, who are not oil producers, the rate of inflation is much lower. For example, in Japan the rate of inflation is just 0.8 per cent, in Italy 8.6 per cent, in Britain 3.6 per cent, in Malaysia 3 per cent, in Canada 1.7 per cent, in Germany and France 3 per cent. UPA logic doesn'thold good. If these countries could control inflation despite rise in oil prices in world market, why could UPA not?
What about the agriculture sector?
The situation is worst there also because of wrong and unimaginative policies which have resulted in the neglect of agriculture sector. There is food crisis in the country. Farmers have been forced to migrate to other professions. NDA had left behind a regime of surpluses. The foodgrain godowns were full to the brim. Government was exporting foodgrains. UPA has reversed this situation and ushered in a regime of shortages. Foodgrains have to be imported. Government purchased wheat from local farmers at the rate of Rs. 800 per quintal while it imported wheat from America and Australia at Rs. 1600.
On the eve of elections, all of a sudden UPA has stired out of its slumber to think of providing relief to farmers. The loan waiver scheme announced by government is too late and too little. It fails to provide relief to all the suffering farmers. Even small and medium farmers are unable to benefit from it. Those who had given their land on lease or raised loans from private debtors are out of the purview of this scheme. Joint families which have land in the name of the father, with three-four sons and their families to support, have been deprived of the benefit. According to Reserve Bank of India only 32 percent of farmers have raised loans from banks, the rest have borrowed from private sources. Those who repaid their loans honestly also stand to lose.
What will be the end result?
It is going to boomerang on Congress. Nobody is happy.
BJP has already announced its support for a separate State of Telengana. Do you think there can be an electoral understanding with TRS?
Yes, BJP is steadfast in its support for a separate Telengana. But it is for development of the area and no politics or other considerations. There is no chance of an understanding with TRS with whom BJP has ideological differences. TRS wants to revive the Nizam legacy of Razakaars; they are anti-Andhra. They wish to indulge in minority appeasement for votes. They want to impose Urdu.
What were the reasons that the TRS failed to win again those very seats in Lok Sabha and Assembly from which they had resigned in protest against non-creation of a separate State of Telengana?
People have rejected the antics of TRS. That is why it is losing ground and failed to win back the seats in Lok Sabha and Assembly from which they resigned in protest against UPA failing to create Telangana. TRS chief who had won his Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 2 lakh votes could win this seat again with a majority of just about 15,000 votes.
Do you expect more political parties to join NDA fold in the coming months?
Yes. BJP expects more and more parties to join NDA in the months to come. A process of polarisation of political forces has already set in. BJP is trying to bring almost all the old partners back to the NDA fold to make it more cohesive and representative. Some people are certainly trying to raise a Third Front which had earlier proved to be a Third Rate Front. The earlier National Front turned out to be just a Notional Front. They had also formed a United Front which in fact was a Divided Front. Now they are trying to form a UNPA which some people have nick-named as Union of Non-Performing Assets. Samajwadi Party is going to write its obituary. All their efforts will end up in vain and ultimately the NDA will prevail.
In elections, what is more important?propaganda or ground work?
Your work, your commitment, your performance and your credibility is your strength. Propaganda hardly pays, particularly when it is based on falsehood. You cannot win election just on the strength of publicity.
BJP and NDA have already projected Shri Lal Krishna Advani as their Prime Ministerial candidate. How far is it going to help the party?
Shri Advani stands taller in comparison to other leaders because of his stature, long standing, personal conduct, his contribution to the national life and his leadership. BJP and NDA stand to benefit from his projection. The lackluster Prime Ministership of Dr Manmohan Singh will also help NDA.
Business and politics are two different things. Don'tyou think there is a tendency towards running politics like a corporate business house?
It is not good. Politics cannot and should not be run on business lines. But because some business houses are increasingly taking interest in politics and trying to take part in elections, they wish to inject their business techniques into politics also. But that is not good. If they come to politics to serve the people, it is all right, but if they wish just to promote their business by entering politics, that is not good.
Will Smt. Sonia Gandhi'sforeign origin issue be an electoral issue during the next Lok Sabha elections also?
No. It will not be an issue. We never made it an issue. It is only the Congress which had raked up this issue in the past by projecting Smt. Sonia Gandhi as its candidate for the post of Prime Minister. As a result, BJP had to take a formal stand on it. It still believes that the constitutional posts like the President, Vice-President, the Prime Minister and Chief Justice etc. should always be held by the persons of Indian origin. This is the law in numerous countries, including Italy.
Will the defeat of UPA mean return to power by NDA?
Naturally. There is no other alternative or choice before the people. They are fed up with the UPA led by Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh who have failed to run the alliance government composed of just 10-11 constituents. This alliance is suffering from internal contradictions. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was successful in taking along about 23 political parties that constituted the NDA. There was unity and cohesion. NDA left behind a legacy of good governance, a healthy economy and a good standing of the country in the world. Now, there is a clear writing on the wall: UPA is going; NDA is coming.
You had been the national president of the Party and you resigned on your own. Even after that you have been as active, committed and devoted without a formal office as you were before. You have set a model that should be followed by the party activists?
The party has given me a lot. I was just an ordinary worker with a rural background. I wish to do all I can for the party whether I hold any formal office or not. Earlier Bharatiya Jana Sangh and now BJP have a tradition of whole-time committed workers. I hate the ideology of some who turn dissidents the moment they do not have an office in the organisation. This president (some office) or dissident mentality is not good, either for the individual or the organisation. Numerous leaders like Deendayalji, Nanaji Deshmukh, Kushabhau Thakre have set an example for us to follow the path of selfless service to the party. When party felt necessary, they fought elections also. I always believe in collectivism. When I was the party president I used to tell everybody that the president presides, the party decides. Every worker and leader in the party needs to inculcate the spirit to serve the party selflessly.