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HVK Archives: 'We have no intention of playing the Ayodhya card'

'We have no intention of playing the Ayodhya card' - Sunday

Sharat Pradhan, Lucknow ()
January 4-10, 1998

Title: 'We have no intention of playing the Ayodhya card'
Author: Sharat Pradhan, Lucknow
Publication: Sunday
Date: January 4-10, 1998

"Log Musalmano ko gumrah kar rahen hain, hum unhe humrah karna
chahte hain (While others have been misguiding Muslims, we want
them to come with us). "Astonishingly, this comes from none other
than the Bharatiya Janata Party's national vice-president and
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, whose party has
traditionally kept Muslims at arm's length.

The man who masterminded the coups in the Congress and the
Bahujan Samaj Party and inducted every defector to form his giant
93-member Cabinet now has a bigger task before him - to ensure a
big win for the party at the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections from
UP, that could change the political destiny of the nation.

Singh, pursuing a strong Hindutva line and facing trial as the
key accused in the Babri Masjid demolition conspiracy, makes no
bones about his party's plans to woo Muslims. Excerpts from an
interview:

SUNDAY: What will he your criterion for the selection of Muslim
candidates?

Kalyan Singh: The candidate must have the potential to win.
Winnability will be the most important criterion in the selection
of party nominees and the same will apply to Muslim candidates
too. Let me assure you if one has the potential to win a seat, he
will not be sidelined simply because he happens to be a Muslim.

Q: How does your party hope to pacify the Muslims, particularly
in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992, when
you headed the BJP government in UP?

A: Well, barring a few misguided Muslims the larger section is
aware that no mosque was demolished in Ayodhya. It was a
structure where no namaz had been offered since 1935.

Muslims also know that Hindus had been offering prayers before
the deity of infant Lord Ram inside that structure for decades,
and they are also convinced that the temple will continue to
remain there for all times to come.

Q: What is your selling point to attract Muslim votes,
particularly, when the BJP is known as a communal party?

A: The larger section of Muslims do realise that BJP regimes have
always ensured riot-free environment everywhere. You could see
our track record. Never has there been any riot during the course
of BJP rule, whether in Uttar Pradesh or in any other state.

Q: Do you think you could woo the Shias - who are favourably
inclined towards the BJP's prime ministerial nominee, Atal Behari
Vajpayee - by lifting the 20-year-old ban on the azadaari
procession in Lucknow?

A: Well, a good chunk of Muslims including Shias supported the
candidature of Atalji even at the last elections, because they
realise that today's economic prosperity among Muslims is
attributable to the opening of doors for employment in Gulf
countries, that was Atalji's gift to Muslims when he was the
external affairs minister in 1977.

As regards the azadaari procession, I am keen on resolving the
long-pending issue that has led to violent protests and bloody
Shia-Sunni riots, the most recent of these being witnessed barely
six months back. I will personally have an across-the-table talk
with representatives of both sects and I am sure we will be able
to thrash out a solution.

Q: Then what is going to happen to the Ayodhya issue which you
were expected to play up in view of the elections?

A: We have no intention of playing the Ayodhya card at all in the
coming elections. But I would not be surprised if our opponents
and critics will make the issue alive, though I am sure that will
go only to BJP's benefit.

Q: Don't you seem to be giving the impression that your party has
deviated sharply from its traditional Hindutva line?

A: BJP has certainly not left its Hindutva line, but the fact of
the matter is that there are other even more vital issues that
cannot be ignored. But let it not be misconstrued that we are
going to compromise on our principle of ensuring justice to all
and appeasement of none.

Q: So you have realised that without a broader approach it may
not he possible for the BJP to establish its credentials as a
party that could rule the nation.

A: For years canards have been spread about us that we are
communal; we are an upper-caste party. However, if you go by
figures, you will find that we have many more Dalit MPs as well
as MLAs than any other political party.

I fail to understand. why the media often led to believe that the
entire Dalit community was represented by BSP, or that all OBCs
were rallying behind Mulayam Singh Yadav. That is a misnomer.

Q: Despite the continued enstrangement between your two main
rivals - the BSP and the SP - an eleventh-hour rapprochement is
still not ruled out. How would your party be placed in that
situation?

A: First of all, such a possibility is too remote, specially
because of the mutual animosity that runs down the rank and file
of both parties. Even if the leaders of the two parties agreed
to come together the hard feelings in their respective cadres
would not be easy to overcome.

Yet, if there was a patch-up it will not affect our prospects of
taking our tally well over that of 52 in the recently dissolved
Parliament (out of the state's 85). Though of course I do not
deny that in such an event there could be a fall in the winning
margin of BJP nominees; that's all.

Q: But even as they were divided, each of them polled about 20
per cent votes taking their combined tally to 40 per cent, as
against the BJP's 32 per cent in the last elections in UP.

A: Aren't you aware that in terms of seats, their individual
tally did not go beyond 22 - 16 SP and 6 BSP? So you see, even
if they were to come under a common banner, it would really not
make any difference to our strength in terms of seats.

Q: And what if Sonia Gandhi eventually decides to take the plunge
in a last-ditch effort to save the Congress from doom?

A: Soniaji is well aware of the ways of her partymen. She has
had a taste of the strifes that she attempted to sort out in West
Bengal. So, I am sure she will be prudent enough to keep off
politics. But even if she chooses to take a plunge, I am sure she
does not have the potential to rock BJP's boat that is all set
for a smooth sail through the rough seas ahead.

Congress is irrelevant, JD and Left parties are dead, while BSP's
sun is setting. And whatever little force remains for us to
reckon with is SP - and you'll see how BJP gives them a run for
their money.

Q: How sure are you of your party getting an absolute majority?

A: BJP and its allies will get the desired majority to form the
next government at the Centre. You see, people are sick of
instability and they are conscious that BJP alone can provide
them a stable government that in turn could combat corruption and
take the nation out of the vicissitudes it has gone through over
the recent past.


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