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India needs strong government: Advani

BJP’s PM candidate LK Advani said that if voted to power, his top priority would be clean governance with steps to restore hope and confidence among people struggling against the economic crisis. Shekhar Iyer reports.See Special CoverageSee Webcast of Advani's speech

delhi Updated: Nov 22, 2008 10:41 IST
Shekhar Iyer

BJP’s Prime ministerial candidate LK Advani on Friday said that if voted to power, his top priority would be good, clean governance and steps to restore hope and confidence among people struggling against the economic crisis.

“We shall take all those measures that are necessary for restoring hope and confidence among the people within six months,” Advani said, addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

“We will rejuvenate rural India, driven into penury and indebtedness by the neglect of the past years,” he said, adding that loan waivers were no solution to farmers’ suicides. “We will also aid a massive re-industrialisation rather than be worried about the de-industrialisation of the West.”

Criticising the UPA’s handling of the economic issues, Advani said: “India needs a strong leadership and a strong government, which has both the capacity to overcome the current crisis and also a clear vision to resolutely pursue long-term goals.”

He blamed the government for mishandling inflation with knee-jerk monetary measures that “created credit squeeze and throttled all sectors of the economy”. Advani promised to keep top echelons of the government free of corruption and take steps to clean the rest of the system. He also listed internal security as a key area of governance.

In a lively question-and-answer session that followed, which was moderated by Rajya Sabha member and journalist Chandan Mitra, Advani said he was not against the government and the opposition coming together on issues like the economic crisis and terrorism.

“Why should we not come together is my response. Crisis of this kind should be tackled by consensus,” he said. “I had suggested that in the case of the India-US nuclear deal too by appointing a joint parliamentary panel. The government did not agree.”

“In fact, yesterday one business leader suggested (at a meeting held at his residence) that the Congress and BJP should form a coalition to tackle the economic crisis. Yashwant Sinha, my party colleague, suggested that the proposal should be put to the other side,” he said.

Advani said he was proud of all young Indians for unifying bonds that teach respect for all faiths. However, he conceded that there was a disconnect between the reality and the image of the BJP, the RSS and even himself when it came to issues of secularism and terrorism. But he was confident that any misconception on this account would stand corrected once the reality was appreciated.

He added that his image even in Pakistan had undergone a change, in response to a question why the BJP and the RSS were trying to scuttle the Malegaon blast probe with protests against the arrest of the sadhvi and others. He did not blame the media for the perceived image “though some of my party colleagues may be thinking so”.

Advani said his statements in this regard were confined to the use of the term “Hindu terrorism” and the torture alleged by arrested sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. “I had avoided commenting on the (Malegaon) case except three days ago when I objected to the use of Hindu terrorism, hitting at a community— just as it is wrong to say Muslim terrorism or Sikh terrorism,” he said. “I told the PM the other day too that I was limiting (my objection) to the sadhvi’s affidavit. Today, I was told by the national security adviser that it is being examined.”

Replying to a query from Vir Sanghvi on whether the issue of swadeshi will be used again by the Sangh Parivar if the BJP came to power as had happened in 1998, Advani said: “I understand the term swadeshi as making India truly independent and not to imitate others. Just as China and Singapore have their own models, India need not copy the West.”

“Swadeshi does not mean to oppose innovation or use of modern methods. ”

He clarified that his description of Manmohan Singh as a weak PM was in the context of the “devaluation” of his office due to the dual centres of power, with the Congress chief too playing a vital role.

He indicated that he favoured a change from the present electoral system, which is “the first past the post” to one that truly reflected the people's choices as in Germany.

In response to another poser on the succession line in his party, he said the BJP had nurtured a second line of leaders to be promoted. “There is no family control in my party,” he said.