BJP president Rajnath Singh speaks to Nistula Hebbar on the economy, politics and why he feels that this round of assembly elections is not a “semi-final” to the general elections.
The BJP had been highlighting inflation and the economy as its main election plank in the past few assembly polls. Now you are stressing on internal security and terror. Which do you think is a bigger issue for you?
First of all, in terms of assembly polls, the performance of the BJP government in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh is going to be a major campaign plank. That and highlighting the failure of the Congress government at the Centre on basic issues of governance. Both inflation and terrorism are equally important to us as issues.
After all, you have to be alive to eat, and of course eat to live. So these two issues are equally important to us. Frankly, for me inflation, terror, farmers’ suicide and now the global recession are all part of the Congress’ failure to govern and insulate the country from these forces.
The Left has been claiming it has helped India insulate itself from the global economy and the recession by blocking the reform agenda of the UPA when they were partners for four years.
That is an absolutely false claim. The Left turned a blind eye for nearly four years to the government’s acts of omission and commission. If the Left was really concerned about the health of the economy, it would have supported the BJP when I first raised the demand for blocking the Participatory Note route (PN route).
Look at the volatility in the market and the slide in the Indian stock markets is mostly because these foreign FIIs who had entered the markets through the PN route, have been withdrawing their money. When there was export of pulses despite a ban on it, the Left remained silent and it was the BJP which raised a hue and cry over it. Inflation has been rising ever since the UPA took over; what intervention has the Left led to control it?
Furthermore, which communist model is the Left talking about? Look at China, has it been able to insulate itself from the recession, and more to the point the West Bengal model where they went out of the way to attract global capital. The Left finds it very convenient to deny the benefits of industrialisation to other states but not their own.
Do you think an NDA government would have handled things better?
I know we would have. Firstly, just look at the excuses being offered by the Congress. They say that the international economic climate is largely responsible for the economic mess. We left them a thriving economy with the inflation exactly half of the growth rate, now the Congress is using the theory that high growth rates lead to inflation to justify double digit inflation. When we took over the international climate was, in fact, not favourable.
We were engaged in the Kargil war and there were international economic sanctions against us due to the Pokharan II tests. So what is the Congress really talking about? I would say that the NDA, in fact, anticipated a lot of the problems. We drew up a comprehensive plan for massive spending on infrastructure, like the golden Quadrilateral project. Something which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is now talking about.
These assembly elections are being termed the semi-final before the general elections?
This is not a semi-final; I don’t consider this as something which will show the way for the general elections. These are state assembly elections; these will be fought on a mix of big national issues and local concerns. Each election is different and the general elections will be different from these set of elections. As for our prospects, we expect to form the government in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi. We also expect to improve our position in Jammu and Kashmir and open our account in Mizoram.
The arrest of Pragya Singh Thakur has led to this new phrase ‘Hindu terrorist’. Does the BJP feel embarrassed about this?
I am surprised that the Congress has not protested the identification of terror with the Hindu religion. We in the BJP have never identified terror with Islam, although we do use the phrase Jehadi terror.
As for Pragya Singh Thakur, I am not ready to believe that she is a terrorist, since nothing has turned up in her narco-analysis and brain mapping. We cannot rule out the possibility that the government, in order to divert attention from Jehadi terror and for vote bank politics, wants to keep alive this so-called issue of Hindu terrorism. The problem with the Congress is that they are the ones who have identified the Muslim community with terrorism, impairing their ability to deal with terrorists.
If elected, does the NDA intend to continue with the social sector programmes launched by the UPA, like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)?
We have never opposed the NREGA. We do, however, feel that it needs more funding and better monitoring. Trust me, when the NDA returns to power, we will go beyond what has been done by this government in the social sector.
The NDA has a prime ministerial candidate already. What role do you see for yourself if the NDA comes back to power?
I will work in the party organisation, as I have been doing for a long time. My tenure as party president is not over yet and I intend to make the most of it.
6 months ago