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‘Campaign for general election has begun’

Leader of Opposition L KAdvani is already in election mode, holding the party together and trying to expand the alliance. Advani spoke to Varghese K George on the assembly elections in six states and other political issues.

delhi Updated: Nov 06, 2008 22:53 IST
Varghese K George

Leader of Opposition LK

Advani is the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate for prime minister in the next general elections. Advani is already in election mode, holding the party together and trying to expand the alliance. Advani spoke to

Varghese K George

on the assembly elections in six states and other political issues.

Will terrorism be your main plank in the coming state assembly elections?

In the last four and half years that the UPA government has been in power, three issues have been dominant. First is price rise. The UPA came to power claiming to protect the interests of the aam admi. The implicit assumption in the slogan was whatever the NDA did while in government – IT, highways, telephones etc- were all for the khaas admi. But the fact is that the NDA government had managed the economy so well that inflation was under control. Mismanagement of the economy by the UPA has led to the worst inflation in recent times. Their aam admi plank has been undermined.

Secondly, internal security has been so disregarded by this government that one after another, terrorist attacks have been happening. The only achievement of this government on this front is that it repealed POTA. Not a single person, responsible for these attacks, has been brought to book or punished. On the other hand, Union Cabinet ministers were defending SIMI, while the government was seeking a ban on it. Not the PM, not anyone, admonished these ministers. To curb terrorism, you need a legal framework. We should communicate to the terrorists that it is a crime in its own genre. Ordinary law is inadequate to do this. An attitude of zero tolerance will have to come from the government.

That is how the US prevented all attacks after September 11. The Patriot Act is harsh. The manner in which people are detained in overseas camps is tough. Airlines passengers are subjected to severe screening even years after the original incident. But no editorials are written there and nobody talks about it. Here, even the hijacking of a plane was used as an opportunity to demonstrate at the prime minister’s residence. We were in power and opposition parties told us that they did not care about what is done with the terrorist but the passengers must be safely released. I was not happy about the decision of releasing them…Illegal migration from Bangladesh is a big problem. Illegal migrants are easy targets for people trying to recruit terrorists within India. I don’t intend to exonerate anyone, but the possibility is greatest of HuJI being involved in the Assam blasts.

The third issue the plight of farmers. Nowhere else in the world will you have a situation in which farmers, in tens of thousands, have committed suicide.

To cap it call, this government has created the worst political scandal of independent India. In order to protect the government in a trust vote, the establishment led by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi undertook the task of buying MPs. All earlier scams that we have seen had a handful of people doing something wrong and a few people benefiting from it. But here, democracy was polluted like never before. From PM to CMs everyone was finding out which MP was vulnerable and at what price would they be available.

Do you think allowing MPs to display wads of currency in the Lok Sabha was appropriate?

I could not think of anything else. We were promised by a prominent channel that they would telecast the entire episode. But they backtracked in the last moment. If the channel had shown it, we would have gone to the speaker and complained. But we had no other option. Parliament proceedings were live and the whole world saw it. Now, whatever the investigations will come out with, the whole world believes that money was give to change sides in voting.

So these elections will be fought on national issues only?

The three issues that we raise are national. These assembly elections are coming so close to the Lok Sabha elections and the question is not limited to who will be replacing the governments in state, but also about who is going to replace the central government. In that sense the campaign for the next general election has begun.

Don’t you think the BJP will face anti-incumbency sentiment since you are in power in three states?

We have tested that in Gujarat. It was one of the longest serving governments and there was a vicious campaign against Narendra Modi. We were apprehensive but we came to the conclusion that there was no anti-incumbency towards the government but only vis-à-vis individual MLAs. We made an appraisal of MLAs and several were replaced. The same process we are repeating in the three states that we are in power. Anti incumbency is not worrying us too much.

Haven't the arrests of some people who swear by Hindutva on terrorism-related charges undermined your campaign.

Not at all. The Sadhvi – I heard about the first time in my life. It reminded me of the days following Gandhijis murder. Godse had left RSS several years before the assassination of Gandhiji. In fact he was very bitter about the RSS. But still the RSS had to suffer. The Sadhvi had nothing to do with any of our organizations though she was with the ABVP several years ago. If she has done anything wrong – I don’t know that – let the government punish them according to available proof.

You met the RSS chief and other leaders last week. Was this issue discussed?

This issue did not come up at all in my meeting with the RSS leadership. The RSS leaders had come from their executive meeting in Kanpur and wanted to hear my assessment of the political scene and calculations.

What was their assessment of the situation?
They are optimistic. They think that the elections are going to be good for us.

The attacks on North Indians in Maharashtra could put the BJP in a difficult situation. You, like the Congress, have to contest elections in Maharashtra, Bihar and UP too.

Raj Thackeray’s party is not with us and I am convinced that he is doing all this with the support and encouragement of the government. Congress wants to create tension between the Shiv Sena and MNS, between the Shiv Sena and BJP. We are a party that came into existence on the principle of nationalism. Dr S P Mukherjee, Jan Sangh founder, said he would not seek a permit to go to Kashmir as was legally required. He went there and paid with his life. This country is one and we do not accept the concept that a person cannot go to or work in a particular place.

But the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray have the same position on outsiders in Mumbai.

So long as they were committed to their regional agenda, we had nothing to do with them. Our alliance started only in 1989, after they accepted Hindutva.

Are you sure that your alliance with the Sena will not harm your prospects as a national party?

I am confident that they will not do anything of that sort. My stand has been clear on this.

Is the NDA going to expand between now and the general elections?

Yes. The process has already started.

Do you think state elections are going to be a referendum on the union government?

I think so. To some extent local issues will be there, but what will be tested is the union government’s performance.