Veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi is battling the outsider tag in Kanpur after vacating the Varanasi seat for the party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi. He is locked in a close contest with the Congress’ three-time MP and union coal minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal. Excerpts from an interview:
BJP leaders are being blamed for scaring the minorities with hate speeches.
The parties that are losing ground are resorting to such propaganda. Certain intemperate individuals have said things they shouldn’t have. But the party has condemned those statements. Muslims are commanded to fear Allah only. They should not fear the BJP. In any case, where is the scare in BJP-ruled states? We have a Christian minister in the Goa cabinet.
You were head of the BJP’s manifesto committee. Certain contentious issues such as the Ram Temple remain on the party’s agenda. Notably, they were not part of the NDA manifesto.
The issue was always there in the BJP manifesto. You have to follow the coalition dharma on common issues. When you are in the government, you follow the agenda of the government. Otherwise, the issue has been settled by the (Allahabad) high court. Only the quantum of who will get what has to be spelt out. All have welcomed the decision. We will facilitate construction of the temple within the constitutional framework.
You are wooing Muslims. Is the image makeover deliberate?
As union minister for human resource development (1998-2004), I initiated a programme to modernise the madrassas. Scores of madrassas adopted the programme and benefited. I was chairman of the Council for Promotion of Urdu and probably the first non-Muslim to head such a body.
What are the issues in Kanpur?
Kanpur generates the maximum revenue in Uttar Pradesh but it is not paid back in proportion to what it gives. The infrastructure is in a bad shape. Government offices are being shifted to Lucknow. People feel insulted and hurt. Big industries have either died or shut down. There is a need to expand the defence units by involving private players. It will create new jobs and make the sector self-sufficient.