How do you feel about the sustained attacks on you by PM and Sonia Gandhi?
I have chosen not to respond to their attacks because I think it ultimately benefits the person who is attacked. I remember how Indira Gandhi benefited when we, in the Opposition, attacked her in the 1970s and demanded her removal. All she said was: ‘They say Indira hatao I say Garibi Hatao.’ People lapped it up. It has happened with (Narendra) Modi. Everyone was after him but the people of Gujarat backed him to the hilt.
Manmohan Singh says you started it by calling him a weak PM...
I did not make any personal attack. I said he was weak as Prime Minister and his office devalued because of the control exercised from 10, Janpath (residence of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi).
How do you defend NDA’s record in the Kandahar episode?
The Congress thinks it will corner us on that issue by raking it up again and again. Isn’t it true that during the crisis, the Congress and other parties advised us that the safety of 160 passengers was the first priority? Yes, within the government, there were two views on exchanging the passengers for terrorists. But we decided to go by the prevailing consensus that the passengers had to be saved.
Do you seriously believe the BJP is in the reckoning and will be in a position to form the next government?
Of course. People will bring back the NDA. It has to be either a Congress-led government or a BJP-led one. There is no scope for a Third Front government. It’s an illusion and the talk of a Fourth Front is a political farce.
Doesn’t the Congress have an upper hand?
I say you look into their alliance index — just as one time we used to measure the Opposition’s prospects by measuring their unity index. The BJP’s biggest achievement is that it has come to symbolise one of two political poles, the other being the Congress.
Do you really expect some parties that are aligned with the UPA and Third Front to back you post-elections?
Yes, we are an alternative. There are many parties that cannot support the Congress or one of the constituents leading the government. They will come to us. I do not want to name them. Our track record in running the coalition is know to all of them.
Why did you remain silent when controversial appointments, like Sudhanshu Mittal, rocked the BJP?
People are not affected by these intra-party issues though they may dent the BJP’s image. People are concerned with grave issues like lack of development.
What gives you hope that the BJP’s prospects are not affected by internal issues?
I always look to the positive side of any crisis. If an individual or the country has to progress, the focus should be on the positive side. That’s way I have always looked at every point in my life and in my party’s growth.