Q. What do you mean by Congressisation of the BJP?
A. I hold that the Indian political culture has been influenced by values and norms of behaviour set by the Congress. In India, after Independence, there has been a consistent decline in the conduct of political activists. The facade is of a great mission, but in practice it has become pure commerce. In many cases, it is a short cut to acquiring clout far beyond one's merit. You indulge in factionalism of the worst kind, a lust for power. This is principally the contribution of the Congress. I see traces and symptoms of it in the BJP. Because I have said it now, there is a tendency to confine it to the present, but these things have been happening in the past and I have made these observations earlier too. The stress has been on behaviour, values and character.
"I will not quit even if we do badly in the assembly polls. It does not matter. You have to face the challenges.''
Q. To what effect?
A. It does have an impact. In the six months after elections, the mood of the workers and the party is buoyant. It bears no relation to published reports, although if somebody commits a fault I won't blame the media for highlighting it. But I have not seen the kind of rally we organised on December 1 on price rise. This would not have been so if the party had not got over the electoral setbacks. I have been touring in the past two months. The mood of the party gives me strength. It is in good shape and yet the impression one gets from news items is not a happy one.
Q. But factionalism is rampant.
A. When our discipline was praised, people would say they have to abide by the diktats of Nagpur, that it is an authoritarian set-up. But this is one party where even as an ordinary worker I had no hesitation in approaching the leaders. The level of internal democracy has been remarkable. It is not a one-leader or a one-family party where their word is the last word.
Q. Isn't that a weakness?
A. You may call it a weakness. The party's effort to combine the virtues of discipline and internal democracy is what gives the media scope for projecting the whole thing as they want.
Q. But today's leaders are not as ideologically committed as before.
A. No, I don't subscribe to that. There is commitment. Deen Dayalji once quoted Socrates as lamenting that young people don't show respect to elders. This admiration for the past generation is not new.
|"Uma Bharati's return is under consideration. The party is conscious of her contribution and commitment." |
Q. Even the RSS has expressed concern over the BJP's vichaar, vyavhaar and sangathan.
A. No, the RSS has not. But we failed to communicate with our own constituency and this contributed to the present setback. An MP who does well in the House but does not nurse his constituency may lose. The same applies to a party in power. The BJP came to power because of a constituency comprising three segments: party cadres, the Sangh Parivar and the electorate mobilised on the issue of genuine secularism versus pseudo-secularism. Those who worked for the party became ministers. So party work was slightly neglected. And those who became ministers thought that if they governed well, the constituency would be happy. But we failed to communicate why we were not taking up Ayodhya or the Uniform Civil Code. We did not nurse our constituency.
Q. You wanted better governance but indulged in bad politics.
A. Good governance must be blended with prudent politics. There is another factor, as I said to Atalji when the election results came out. I had to draw a cynical conclusion that in India where the masses are deeply discontented you cannot win an election on a purely positive plank. I have participated in all the elections since 1952, and for the first time I did not criticise anyone. The stress was on what the government had done. But discontented people always want a target.
Q. Had the BJP become arrogant?
A. We did not think we would lose. And that hurt us in the states where people vented their anger against individual MPs, feeling that the government would be ours anyway.
Q. Is there a course correction?
A. We have been doing that. Just compare. When we won in 1998 and 1999, the Congress was lifeless. Here the party has been so active. We have totally recovered from the shock.
Q. There has been an erosion in the local leadership and a tendency to impose central leaders.
A. We have helped the states; no one has been imposed. Uma Bharati and Vasundhara Raje were from the states. It was a conscious choice of the party to send them. Individual leaders may have ambitions, but when the available people were considered, they were seen as the right choice.
Q. There is a feeling that mass leaders are being marginalised to accommodate leaders without a base.
A. Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley wanted to contest the Lok Sabha polls. They were prevented from doing so as the party felt they would be useful campaigners. That is being held against them.
Q. You seem to have a dearth of leaders. Where are the names in Delhi, Bihar, Haryana?
A. There may be too many names. We have a galaxy of second-rung leaders, more than any other party.
Q. You have not projected any chief ministerial candidates for the assembly polls this time.
A. We did not do so in Chhattisgarh. We have one of our best administrators there.
Q. Will you step down if the BJP does badly in assembly polls?
A. No. It does not matter. In the Lok Sabha we expected to win. In this case our expectations are not high. When I took over, people asked why I was doing so at a time when the BJP was facing three difficult polls. But you have to face challenges.
Q. Is there life after Advani?
A. When S.P. Mukherjee passed away, we thought it was all over. Then again when Deen
Dayalji passed away. I have never been a campaigner or a good speaker. In the late '80s I became president when others did not agree.
Q. What was behind Smriti Irani's outburst against Narendra Modi? Will action be taken against her?
A. I don't know why she said what she did. There is no action against her because she has withdrawn her statement unconditionally.
Q. Is Uma Bharati coming back?
A. It is under consideration. The party is conscious of her contribution and her commitment to the ideology.
Q. If Kalyan Singh can come back, why not K.N. Govindacharya?
A. Why not? There is no case against him.