In course of an interview with Hindustan Times, the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray accused the BJP of backstabbing and breach of promise.
Lal Krishna Advani, Bhartiya Janta Party President, is wary about, making any comments to the press especially on the recent outburst by the Sena supreme, Bal Thackeray, that the BJP betrayed its’ promise. “The more I speak on this, the more it will give ammunition to our opposition”, protested Advaani when Hindustan Times caught up eith him at his halt in Mumbai on Wednesday en route to Nagpur to attend the first month shraddha day of late RSS chief, Balasaheb Deoras. However, on being persuaded Advani relented and spoke freely on various issues.
Q. Why did the BJP back out of its promise made to Thackeray for declaring five members of the party unattached in Maharashtra Council?
A. The BJP made no such promise
Q. Bal Thackeray has gone on record that Pramod Mahajan had assured the Maharashtra Chief Minister about BJP support for his plan. Besides, Thackeray has also said that it was good political strategy.
A. Pramod Mahajan did not make any categorical promise. Yes, Thackeray was keen that the BJP must declare some of its members unattached. but tell me, how can the BJP do that? How can the BJP throw out its member, some of them who have been in the party for years together? Would the members have accepted it? Pramod Mahajan kept me informed what Thackeray wanted. He also told me that Thackeray would ring me.
Q. Did you agree with Thackeray on the issue?
A. Thackeray rang me up and explained to me what he wanted. He said, “Advani you do not understand but what I am proposing is a good political strategy. Don’t you see the need for this?” I agreed that it was a good political strategy. But, I never made any commitment. In fact left it to the state BJP unit to determine the course of action. It was the state unit, which took the decision. Any way, let me not get into all this. Vajpayee has made a statement in Delhi and has given his reaction. I do not want to add to it.
Q. How, about the BJP situation in Gujarat. Has the Vaghela camp sent emissary Vishnu Pandya to New Delhi with an 18-page memorandum seeking Vajpayee’s intervention?
A. I have read about it. The BJP will have to take a definite view on such memorandums being submitted and that too the news about it being leaked to the press.
Q. Do you think that the BJP will split in Gujarat and Vaghela will leave the party with his band of supporters?
A. No, in Gujarat today, the compulsions of October 1995 do not exist. In October 95, the choice before the party was to enforce discipline; if as a consequence, the Government falls, so be it. With the Lok Sabha elections nearing, if Gujrat Government was allowed to fall, the congress would have no other plan except to focus on the issue that the BJP cannot run a government, even when given a two-thirds majority. The entire campaign would have revolved around the issue. At that point of time, the first and foremost object was to ensure that government continues, and if Government was to continue only by change of leadership, so be it. The matter ended there. The people who went to Khajurao, the people who submitted the memorandum to the Governorâ€¦. It was a definite act of betrayal and treachery. But it had to be condoned. After the elections were over, a message had to be sent that the party comes first. Otherwise, the support base of the BJP in Gujarat would have been eroded.
Q. But the matter has still not ended. Many BJP workers are resenting the removal of Kashiram Rana. How do you explain it?
A. See, we cannot have a state unit leader like Rana who could not carry the entire party along with him. Whenever anything happened, Rana would say, “the VHP faction did this, the Keshubhai faction did that”, He had to be replaced by somebody who would be more effective.
Q. Many BJP workers in Gujarat see your decision to replace Rana and a few other actions as partisanâ€¦
A. If you are talking about the factions in Gujarat, yes, some of them feel I am partisan. Yet it was necessary. I regard the October 1995 incident is a treachery. Decisions had to be taken. One cannot give excuses.
Q. Why after trying for so many years, has the BJP not able to enjoy power at center barring the brief period when Vajpayee became PM. It is as if the BJP is there and yet, not thereâ€¦
A. Those who say that the BJP is there and yet not there are persons who do not want it to be there. Even in Gujarat, we have done well. It is a curios fact that in India besides the BJP, every party’s share of votes and the seats have gone down continuously. In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress received a severe drubbing. The Party’s percentage of votes and seats declining; the same is valid for the Left and the Janata Dal. But BJP has grown from two seats in 1984 to 86 in 1991 to 161 now. The BJP’s growth is phenomenal. Yet, the tendency on the part of many people is to generalise that the BJP has declined. Yesterday, the Kerala Governor said that the 1996 elections was a verdict against Hindutva. How does it sound if I at the centre ask the president to proclaim that the 1996 elections was a vote against Marxism?
Q Speaking of communism, what do you feel about Inderjit Gupta’s apology? And how long will the Deve Gowda Government last?
A. I think Deve Gowda Government will last at most a year. And as for Inderjit Gupta, I see no reason why he should have apologised. His opinion about Narsimha Rao and the Congress was his personal. Nothing would have happened if Gupta had not apologised. Despite threats, the Congress is not ready for another general election. The Congress will withdraw support when it is confident of facing the elections. The Congress threat of withdrawing support was an idle threat. Any way, why has the CPI found itself in a soup? Why has the CPI become weaker as compared to the CPM? It is because the CPI has become a part of the establishment. It supported the Emergency in 1976 and was seen as a supporter of the Government. For all practical purposes, the CPI is now confined to Bihar and that too as the tail of Janata Dal.
Q. The Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are near. Will Ayodhya temple once again surface as an issue for BJP?
A. We (the BJP) do not have to even talk about it. The United Front Government is itself bringing the issue to the limelight. Some Minister in UF Government makes statement and senior leaders are forced to contradict it. Yes, it could be an issue in the UP elections. It also depends on what our adversaries talk about.
Q. Finally, you resigned your Lok Sabha seat vowing not to fight elections till you are absolved of all charges pertaining to hawala scandal. You also demanded a quick trailâ€¦
A. It has been six months since the issue surfaced. Nothing has happened so far. Even the charge sheet has not been filed. Yet, I am fully prepared for it. Knowing well the way Indian legal system functions, I took the decision to quit the Lok Sabha and not fight the elections even though I knew this could mean an end to Parliamentary career. Yet, for me party prospects come first and my career next. Therefore I took the decision.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna