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HVK Archives: 'In UP we were experimenting with realpolitik'

'In UP we were experimenting with realpolitik' - The Times of India (New Delhi)

Bhaskar Roy ()
7 November 1997

Title: 'In UP we were experimenting with realpolitik'
Author: Bhaskar Roy
Publication: The Times of India (New Delhi)
Date: November 7, 1997

For BJP president Lal Krishna Advani it is not a new experience to suffer a
severe setback or savour a euphoric victory. From the dizzying success in
the 1989 parliamentary elections to the loss of three states following
assembly polls in 1993 to the toppling of the BJP government in Gujarat and
the party's emergence as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha in 1996
-he has been through it all. However, the astute helmsman of the saffron
brigade was in a dilemma when pressed hard to explain the ultimate outcome
of the Kalyan coup in Uttar Pradesh.

In his first interview to the media since the Lucknow denouement began to
loom over the political landscape, Advani was not sure to what extent he
could approve the Kalyan effect in politics. He told Bhaskar Roy that
though neither he nor his senior party colleagues were quite comfortable
with the UP situation the BJP ranks saw in it a sweet revenge for the loss
of Gujarat following the split that Vaghela had caused in the party.

The last time I interviewed you the BJP was dearly on a downslide. It was
still reeling under the blow from Vaghela's revolt in Gujarat, and the
party was nowhere near power in Uttar Pradesh. But today the party is on
the offensive on the prowl. It has not won a major election, interestingly,
in the intervening months. How do you explain this new aggression?

A: But of course we won the election in Punjab since then. The flurry of
activity being seen these days in New Delhi has less to do with the BJP and
more with the internal problems of the Congress. Look at the issue of
amendments to the anti-defection law. It was passed in 1985, periodically
problems cropped up. In fact. Shivraj Patil (former Lok Sabha Speaker)
convened a meeting three years ago. He told the government to correct the
shortcomings. The government agreed but nothing happened. Now there is a
furore only because Congress legislators left the party in UP.

Are you really in a position to break the Congress Party in Parliament?

All this is just a panic reaction from the Congress. We have been asking
for midterm polls all along. I have not met any Congressman. It's a
different matter that our MPs meet their Congress colleagues. But I am
aware of group meetings in the Congress. It's the state and health of the
Congress that is responsible for the panic conditions.

Your party spokesman said the other day that all options are open, that
nothing can be ruled out.

That's in a way something contrary to what we have been saying so far -that
we want elections. But then the panic reaction of the Congress made us
think and consider whether to keep our options open if such a situation

What are those options?

If someone, for instance, says 'we want to support a BJP government',
should we say no? If the Congress breaks, if one-third of it comes out, I
see no reason why the BJP should not think in terms of forming a
government. But it does not depend on me, it depends on the Congress Party.

There is another scenario being talked about -that the BJP will support
from outside the breakaway group from the Congress.

This has not been considered - not on the cards. I discount this possibility.

Your USP so far has been the image of a party with a difference. Don't you
think the size of the UP cabinet, the faces in it, has impaired that image?

Some of our critics have often said, "Your idealism makes the party
impractical; there should be a blend of idealism and pragmatism." But most
of those in the front rank of the BJP are not happy, not at ease with what
is called realpolitik.

Perhaps we are learning our lessons, taking our training. It was the short
notice served by the UP governor to Kalyan Singh to prove his majority that
resulted in the untidy arrangement of the ministry. I call it an untidy
arrangement. I don't feel happy about it. If there was reasonable time we
could have seen that it was sorted out.

How do you justify the presence of people with criminal antecedents in the
Kalyan Singh cabinet?

There are diverse views on that issue also. One or two of these people
came and met me. They said, "Hamara naam kahekeliye isme gina ja raha hai,
hamare khilaf kuchh bhi nahi hai." (Why are our names being counted among
those with criminal cases; there is absolutely nothing against us.) I have
asked Kalyan Singh to send me all the particulars. We will see later what
can be done.

One interpretation of the BJP's UP act is that knowing its geo-political
limitations - that despite best efforts it cannot grow beyond a point - the
party has resorted to defection as an instrument to capture power.

No, not at all. In UP we were confronted with a sinister conspiracy m
which the governor was the pilot. In 1989 when we were discussing seat
adjustment with V P Singh, he was not willing to give us more than 10 seats
out of 85 in the state. You don't matter in UP, he would say. From that
point we have come a long way because of our growing support.

Is it necessary for the BJP to become another Congress Party to rule from

No. The core of idealism has to be there. But there has to be a measure of
realpolitik. When we decided to support the BSP from outside in UP we were
experimenting with realpolitik.

Despite its internal problems the Congress could complete the process of
its organisational election and elect the president But your party shelved
it half way.

The poll process has been completed in the states. The all-India president
will be elected in December after the Parliament session.

And you stick to your position.........

Yes. No third term for me and no amendment to the party constitution for
this purpose. If the party wants me to continue for a few more months (in
view of snap polls) the plenary can take place after the elections.

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