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'Whenever in doubt, I'll consult RSS'

BJP chief Rajnath Singh disagrees with predecessor LK Advani on the issue of RSS's "interference" in party affairs.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2006 17:35 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Seeking to bring back the party on its ideological path, new BJP President Rajnath Singh on Friday disagreed with his predecessor LK Advani's contention on public perception about RSS's "interference" in party affairs.

The former UP Chief Minister called for a nationwide debate on core Hindutva issues including Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code.

"I don't agree. I have been a Swayamsewak (RSS volunteer) since my student days and continue to be one. Whatever inspiration I have drawn from in my social and public life has come from the RSS. The Sangh never interferes in the affairs of the party", he said in his first interview after taking charge as party chief on January 3.

"The manner in which you consult your family or friends whenever there is any confusion, doubt or problem, I will not hesitate to consult RSS, which is my family," he said when asked about Advani's remarks at the party's Chennai national executive on the need to change the public perception that the Sangh interfered in its day-to-day affairs.

Asked why Advani referred to the public perception, he said, "It could be due to some confusion. Several party leaders and party workers have RSS backgrounds and hold the Sangh leaders in highest regard. They go to the RSS offices to meet the functionaries and it may be creating an impression that they are being given directions by RSS."

On what he proposed to do to bridge the communication gap between the BJP, RSS and VHP, which happened during Advani's tenure, he said, "I have good relations with all of them. I don't want to maintain any distance from them. There will be complete coordination".

Asked what steps he would take to rectify the party's 'ideological deviation' in the wake of Advani's remarks on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the 54-year-old Singh said, "Advani made it (his statement) clear at the Mumbai silver jubilee conference. Perhaps there was a communication gap".

"We will continue travelling on the ideological and political thought path we had begun", he said.

On what he proposed to do about the party's core issues such as Uniform Civil Code, Abrogation of Article 370 according special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the Ram temple issue, he said, "we want a country-wide debate on all the issues. Efforts should be made to arrive at a consensus".

Asserting that the BJP favoured construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, he appealed to Muslims to take the initiative to pave the way for its construction.

"It would strengthen cordial relations among the different communities", he said, adding, "justice to all and appeasement of none would be our guiding principle and this we believe is a pre-requisite for social harmony", he said.

Close on the heels of the party's General Secretary (Organisation) Sanjay Joshi stepping down in controversial circumstances, the new party chief said he was open to the idea of appointing three or four "whole timers" to the post for looking after the entire country.

Dismissing the possibility of any party man getting the key post instead of any RSS activist, he said, "We would like a whole timer. Rather, we would be happy to get three or four such people to look after different regions of the country".

Singh said he would consult the RSS leaders on the issue "if necessary".

The BJP president, who would be announcing his team and national executive after the national council ratifies his appointment on January 20, said he would ensure "total balance keeping in view regional and social equations".

He, however, ruled out "any major changes".

"All vacancies will be filled. There will be some minor changes. Youth will get importance and there would be increased representation of women", he said.

Asserting that he was least bothered about the initial tenure as party Chief till February 2007, Singh said, "Advani had made it clear that I can be re-elected for a fresh three-year term. My tenure will not be a hindrance in my work".

Maintaining he would take all decisions through consensus, he said, "all decision will be quick but would be taken collectively and after due consultations. The emphasis will be on internal democracy".

Asked about former party president M Venkaiah Naidu's reluctance to work under him, Singh said, "He was our president and is a very senior leader. He will continue to be part of our core group, irrespective of whether he remains in the team or not".

Asked what responsibility he proposed to give to his bete noire Kalyan Singh, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said, "he will play a very important role (in Uttar Pradesh). He is the leader."

On whether Kalyan Singh would be given a free hand to deal with the politically crucial state, which holds the key to the party's revival, the party chief said, "his hands were never bound nor will they ever be".

To a question on the possibility of expelled leader Uma Bharti's return to the party fold, Singh said, "it (her expulsion) was a decision of the BJP Parliamentary Board, which is our apex decision making body. There is no scope for any question mark on its decision. Moreover, she has not made any further representation."

Asked whether he would make efforts to bring back into the party fold leaders like former ideologue KN Govindacharya, the BJP chief said, "he is no more politically active. He is active in the social and cultural field and hence there is no scope of his coming back to the party".

Singh said efforts would be made to strengthen the NDA.

"We will work towards having more allies", he said but declined to comment whether efforts would be made to revive links with former partners like TDP and AIADMK.

First Published: Jan 06, 2006 15:05 IST