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Advani keen on change in BJP image

As he prepares to embark on his sixth political yatra, the senior BJP leader does not see any realignment of forces.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2006 12:34 IST

As he prepares to embark on his sixth political yatra, senior BJP leader LK Advani is keen about a change in his party's image and does not see any immediate realignment of political forces after the coming assembly elections.

In a relaxed mood ahead of his gruelling 'Bharat Suraksha Yatra', the 78-year-old Leader of the Opposition was unsparing in his criticism of the Congress-led UPA coalition, especially what he saw as its "minority appeasement" policies.

He was, however, skeptical about mid-term elections to Lok Sabha or about revival of the Third Front disturbing the current bipolar polity.

In a free-wheeling interview, the former BJP President was frank enough to admit that the Sangh Parivar units like VHP were "not enthusiastic" about him but it does not hurt him.

Advani dismissed Opposition criticism about his yatra and fears that it may stoke violence saying it was all a "created image" and not a single incident of violence had been reported during his previous yatras.

Speaking about his controversial Pakistan tour and reports that he was keen on an image makeover there, he blamed the media for interpreting his Jinnah remarks as a conscious effort to change his image.

"I continue to be what I am and I have always been. I would like the party's image to change. There is a wide dissonance between the party's reality and its image. After my resignation from the party Presidentship, I said I feel sad that my party lost an opportunity," he said.

Asked about the party's efforts to adopt a Centrist approach when it was in power and its present dilemma when out of power and what it should do ideologically, Advani shot back "these are all very often simplistic journalistic comments".

To another question as to what the party should do to change its image, he said, "Nothing except to be true to our concept of cultural nationalism. We don't have to fight shy of being proud Hindus and to its commitment to one billion people of the country and the guarantee is there shall be justice for all and appeasement of none."

Asked whether the UPA government would complete is term in the light of serious economic differences between the Communists and those in governemnt, Advani said, "It is difficult to say. Even those in government cannot be sure. It is an arrangement of convenience."

He said that there was no agreement on economic policies and the Congress was forced to accept the coalition. For the Communists internationally it was anti-Americanism and domestically it was anti-BJPism.

To a question whether he foresaw realignment of political forces after the Assembly elections and the revival of the Third Front, he said, "I don't think so because results can be easily anticipated...I don't see this bi-polar polity being changed for quite some time. It (Third Front) has always been there. There are all others who are supposed to be belonging to the Third Front."

Asked whether the present arrangement at the Centre could be disturbed after the elections, he said, "I don't think so. In fact, I had foreseen the possibility of Congress party going in for some mid-term gamble, if they had won Bihar. In the entire 2005, they had been seeing only setbacks."

When queried whether Congress President Sonia Gandhi's resignation could be exploited by her for electoral gains in the near future, the former Deputy Prime Minister ticked off the suggestion saying "people are mature enough to see through all this".

Asked about VHP's strident criticism about him and that it was not enthusiastic about his yatra, he said, "they are not enthusiastic about me. Ever since I made those remarks on Jinnah, it has been there."

To a question about the Sangh Parivar criticism that BJP had not worked towards construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, Advani said, "Our Government was a coalition Government and was committed to finding a solution either by agreement or court verdict."

He said the BJP-led Government was hopeful that on the basis of talks held that it would get it solved.

Asked whether he foresaw the possibility of Ayodhya issue being resolved at any time, irrespective of whether BJP was in power or not, he said, "I do foresee a solution. It will be by mutual agreement."

However, he added, that for any solution the VHP and the Babri Masjid Action Committee have to be involved.

Asked about the perception that despite his resignation as party President he still had a vice-like grip over the BJP, Advani said after he demitted office, he had told his successor Rajnath Singh that he should be allowed to concentrate on Parliament work.

Rajnath Singh was asked to take full charge of the organisation which he has been handling "very ably". Decisions were being taken together in consultation with all senior leaders, he said.

Queried about his Chennai national executive speech on the public perception that RSS was "remote controlling" the party and whether Singh's frequent consultations with the Sangh fountainhead perpetuated this, he said, "I don't think so".

Asked whether the Madhya Pradesh Police clean chit to former General Secretary (Organisation) Sanjay Joshi in the sleaze CD controversy had vindicated him, he said, "it seems so."

Giving the background to his decision to embark on the Yatra, Advani said while three judicial pronouncements and two scandals formed the backdrop, the Rajinder Sachar Committee's decision to seek a headcount of minorities in the armed forces "provided the trigger".

Advani said Governments have been in the last 50 years practising policies of appeasement of minorities but the Committee's questionnaire was unprecedented that the three Service Chiefs had publicly criticised it "underlining the nation's outrage".

In the last two years, the UPA Government had been taking a series of "appeasement" decisions such as reservation for Muslims in AMU, job quota in Andhra Pradesh, amendment to the Foreigners Act after the Supreme Court struck down IMDT, he said.

There was also need to explain to the people the two scandals - Volcker and Quattrocchi. While Natwar Singh and Buta Singh were made scapegoats in the Volcker and Bihar Assembly dissolution controversies, there was no accountability on the part of the Congress party or the Union Council of Ministers which took the decision on Bihar, he said.

Advani said while the Yatras were "strenuous", they not only taught him a lot but also "the advantages that accrues are so enormous that in subsequent elections also, it yields results".

Maintaining that the Government's policies equally hurt the country and the minorities, he appealed to the "so-called minorities" to "concentrate on education and emanicipate yourself from the pedlars of vote bank politics".