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HVK Archives: India will never be a theocracy

India will never be a theocracy - Newstime

T R Ramachandran ()
January, 1998

Title: India will never be a theocracy
Author: T R Ramachandran
Publication: Newstime
Date: January, 1998

Why should give a chance to the BJP to govern at the Centre?

This is a good question. People want stability. The BJP is the
only party which can ensure stability and (provide) good
governance. Congress was responsible for withdrawing support and
bringing down, two governments of the United Front. The United
Front stays divided, a conglomeration of 13 parties suffering
>from inner contradictions. They did not govern the country. They
did not carry Parliament where they had the numerical majority
with them. Important bills were not passed. Nothing concrete was
done in the field of agriculture or education. So people are in
favour of the BJP being given a chance. Will the BJP grab the
chance this time with both hands or do you apprehend falling
short of 30 to 35 seat in reaching the magic figure of 273 In the
Lok Sabha?

This time we are sure of a comfortable majority.

Comfortable majority with your allies?

Yes. Some of the allies are our partners. We axe running state
governments in cooperation with them. Some have joined hands
recently and we want to emerge as the central largest party the
biggest party and with the cooperation of other parties we will
in a position to provide a stable government to the country.

There could be problems with some of your allies like the Samata
party which does not ace eye to eye with your policies and
programmes. Could that lead to a parting of ways?

Last time the Samata party supported my government from outside.
They did not join. Again they can adopt the same policy but we
are sure of their support. Our endeavour will be to evolve a
common programme. There are issues which are controversial. We
would like to discuss them with our allies. A minimum common
programme will be chalked out which will get the support of all
the parties particularly those having an alliance with us.

Congressmen are flocking to the BJP but none of the heavy-weights
are coming. Why?

We do not want heavyweights. We would like to travel light. We
welcome young people.

These people are unable to pull their weight in their own
regions. How are they going to help the BJP?

They are thinking about their future and they realise that
Congress party is a sinking ship. They would like to serve the
country. They have certain hopes and dreams. They think only the
BJP will be an effective vehicle to realise those dreams and to
achieve those goals.

At a conservative estimate how many seats do you expect in Andhra
Pradesh which has 42 seats to the Lok Sabha?

Too early to say anything. I may tell after my visit to
Hyderabad.

Along with you, another star performer has come on the horizon in
Sonia Gandhi who in campaigning for the Congress. The BJP which
had ignored the Sonia Gandhi factor initially appears to be
changing track and strategy?

I don't think there is any change.

You yourself urged the Prime Minister to make the papers
connected with Bofors public.

Because Sonia Gandhi asked the government to publish all the
papers (connected with the Bofors case). We have been demanding
that for so many years. The government did not listen. And Sonia
Gandhi thought that attack is the beet form of defence. So she
herself raised the question of Bofors. Well and good. Let the
government publish all the papers in particular we are insisting
on the publication of the CBI report in regard to the Bofors
case. The report contains certain names. Newspapers have given
wide publicity to those names. We are also asking the government
to approach the court. The court is supposed to monitor the
entire case in this particular matter also. The court had said
take some initiative. Let all the facts be brought before the
people and that should be done before the elections. This matter
should not be kept hanging.

It your government comes to power how will you deal with the
Bofors issue?

We will expedite the inquiry and punish the guilty.

However high or mighty they may be?

Yes. The law is the same for everybody. Equality before law is
the cardinal principle of our Constitution.

Our Constitution makers had not foreseen a foreigner or a
naturalised citizen becoming the Prime Minister of India. If the
BJP comes to power will it amend the Constitution setting out the
parameters an to who can become the Prime Minister of India?

It is a very important question but we have not given any thought
to that so far.

In the overall context at this juncture where is the country
heading?

The country has a bright future. India has immense
possibilities. Those possibilities have not been fully utilised.
We have the land, the people, technically trained manpower. Our
farmers are hard working. Then there is the young generation
which is prepared to sacrifice. There is nobody to inspire them.
When Indians go abroad they make a name for themselves. They also
make money. They send some amount of that money to the home
country. But when they come back something happens to them. It
has got to do with the "stem and also with the leadership.

Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral has fears that if the BJP comes
to power at the Centre, the RSS will indulge in backseat driving
and foist a theocratic state in India?

(Laughs). These apprehensions are baseless. BJP is an independent
political organisation. Many of us have been connected with the
RSS, a socio-cultural organisation. They don't interfere in
political matters. We do take their advice sometimes as we
consult others but there is no question of any backseat driving.

Gujral says you are all masks of the RSS?

(Laughs). You can't carry on with the remarks of the last fifty
years. There is no mask.

Have coalitions come to stay and do you visualise a scenario
where the BJP can stake its claim to form the government on Its
own steam?

We have been working for that. Till we get a majority of our own,
we will have alliance with friendly and like-minded parties and
carry on.

Being a visionary and thinker what is the BJP doing to assuage
the Muslim psyche which has been hurt by the carnage in Ayodhya
on December 6 1992. Are the minorities important in BJP's scheme
of things?

I would not like to go into the Ayodhya question. The case is in
the court. The structure was destroyed. Narasimha Raoji has been
made a scapegoat. Why other Congress leaders don't take
responsibility for the demolition. Arjun Singh had gone to Uttar
Pradesh. He was in Lucknow at that time but be. came back
convinced that nothing untoward was going to happen. Frankly
speaking there was no plan, there was no conspiracy. The people
had gathered there is large numbers. They thought that they would
be allowed to start the construction of the temple. Remember
that the foundation stone had already been laid which was done
during the regime of Rajiv Gandhi. N D Tiwari was present when
the foundation stone was laid. And all that the kar sewake wanted
was that when the foundation stone was laid they should be
allowed to start the construction of the temple. Suddenly they
were told no, this (construction of the temple) will not be
allowed. They went out of control. Something happened which
should have not happened. I did not like it... the demolition of
the structure though I know there was a temple which was
destroyed in order to build a mosque. I am convinced of that but
that is besides the point. Why others don't take responsibility.
As far as the minorities are concerned there is a definite change
in their attitude towards the BJP. They now realise that they had
been misled, they have been treated only as a vote banks and
nothing has been done to solve their socio-economic problems.
They are citizens of the country with equal rights for education,
the question of education, the question of employment. These are
important questions which are agitating the minds of the minority
communities particularly the young Muslim men. So they are coming
to the BJP In large numbers.

But this is not reflected in the list of candidates announced by
the BJP.

No.... the selection of a candidate is a very complicated affair.

There are not enough Muslims nor women.

You are right. We wanted to give many more tickets to women,
members of the minority communities but the question of
winnability came in the way. That is why we want reservation for
women. We have given tickets to some but we are not satisfied.

How will you tackle these issued if you come to power at the
Centre?

We will pass the bill (reservation for women). There was
overwhelming support for it. Only a section of the Janata Dal
opposed It. And that section did not allow even their own Prime
Minister to speak m the bill. This has never happened before in
our Parliament.

You are such a liberal person carrying conviction but there am
always discordant notes in your party. Congressmen who have
joined the BJP have genuine fears that the tiger they am riding
now might change its stripes once it comes to power.

Those who joined the Bharatiya Janata party recently will not
repent it. When they see our working they will be fully
satisfied. The BJP is running four state governments. In
Rajasthan on our own and in other states in alliance with other
parties. Do the Muslims have any complaints in those states that
they are being discriminated against on the basis of religion.
There is no such complaint. The courts are there. The Human
Rights Commission has been constituted. Then there are minority
commissions. Well no such complaint has been made. All citizens
are being treated equally. So these allegations are unfounded.
This in propaganda by interested parties.

The Samrasta programme in wooing the Dalits and other
underprivileged sections does not seem to have taken off. Why?

Yes. we have been supporting their demands (of Dalits and other
weaker sections). We are in favour of reservation for Scheduled
Castes, Scheduled Tribes. We have taken up a number of projects
under which students belonging to weaker sections are being
imparted education. We are trying to help them in many ways. In
the last Parliament we had the largest number of members
belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. When I quoted
the figures other parties were taken by surprise.

Would you prefer a presidential form of government?

No ... not at this stage. Let's see what happens in the
elections ... and then we will think of the future.

What is your vision of India in the 21st century?

I would like India to be economically healthy, happy, socially
forward looking, militarily strong to defend herself If the
situation arises. A great India playing its due role in world
affairs. We are an ancient country. We have to build a modern
state and that cannot be done without the help of science and
technology and developing a scientific temper. But we cannot cut
ourselves off from our roots. We have to take inspiration from
the past and build a brighter future.

Do you feel the Election Commission has been unfair in putting
restrictions on opinion and exit polls?

No, I don't think so. You must have seen the cartoon in which an
astrologer is sitting on the pavement and somebody from the
Election Commission telling him that predictions are prohibited.
That can't be stopped.

Will the role of regional satraps at the Centre load to
distortions and weaken the unity and integrity of the country an
some leaders fear?

No, I don't think so. It will be a great plus point for regional
leaders to take part in nation building efforts at the Centre. It
will help them to understand the nature of problems that the
nation faces.

In a way it is the failure of the national parties that they do
not take enough care of the aspirations and requirements of
various regions. Some of the regions and people thought they were
being neglected by New Delhi. They also thought that the entire
power, economic and political, is concentrated in New Delhi. So
naturally they were not very happy That is why the Sarkaria
Commission was appointed but even its moderate recommendations
have not been implemented so far. We are in favour of according
greater autonomy to the states.

Will you implement the recommendations pertaining to the
appointment of governors so that they don't act an agents of the
Union government?

Yes. We have suffered.

What will your economic agenda be. Will the reforms continue and
what changes do you have in mind?

We are in favour of economic reforms. We would like bureacratic
controls to be removed or brought to the minimum. We would like a
competitive spirit. We did not agree when the Congress party
decided to expand the public sector indiscriminately. I am
reminded of an incident when Nehruji was the Prime Minister.
There was a debate in the House whether the government should
spend money on the construction of Ashok Hotel or the
construction of a hospital. I stood up and spoke in favour of a
hospital. The Prime Minister did not like it. He mod he
(Vajpayee) is a new member and he does not understand economics.
Now look what is happening. The government's job is to build
hospitals. So we have to ensure socio-economic development. Our
progress has been very tardy. And in the last 18 months
agricultural production has gone down. So is the case with
industrial production. Our exports have reduced. Foreign debt Is
mounting. The Rupee has also slumped and the prices are high. So
there is something wrong somewhere. Perhaps we did not prepare
the country fully for the changeover. That's why industry must be
given some time to prepare themselves to face the new challenges.
If you shut them down indiscriminately that will not help. Where
will the people go. There was indiscriminate expansion of the
public sector and we did not develop any managerial class.

Could you clarify the situation on Hindutva or cultural
nationalism. The Prime Minister in convinced that Hindutva posed
a threat to the country's secular fabric and unity.

After seeking the support of the Akali Dal my friend Gujral
should have no apprehensions. You know that Sikhs do not believe
in the separation of church and state. They believe in
unification of both these concepts. But that is besides the
point. After the judgement of the Supreme Court which has defined
Hinduism not as a way of worship but as a way of life. There
should be no difference of opinion and no apprehension. India was
partitioned on the basis of religion.

Why Pakistan was divided. Religion is the same. Both Pakistan and
Bangladesh are Islamic countries. Then what is the difference ...
it is the culture that separates them. If a Bengali gentleman
goes from Calcutta to Dhaka he finds himself more at home in
Dhaka. Then If he comes to Delhi or goes to Jalandhar the
language is the same.

We have lived together for centuries. So culture is not religion.
all nations are in search of their roots and they get inspiration
>from their ancient culture. And culture has nothing to do with
the mode of worship. I can change my mode of worship tomorrow but
I can't change my culture. Culture is something more abiding,
more binding. It is a way of life. When we talk of cultural
nationalism there should be no apprehension. Instead of cultural
nationalism I would like to call it Bharatiyata. For me Hindutva
or Bharatiyata convey the mm meaning.

What to that meaning.

Unity in diversity. Tolerance. God is one but there are different
paths. We said it before Muslims came to this country. We
believed in that maximum before Christianity came. And that has
to be preserved. And that has to be further strengthened. Well
India will never be a theocracy. I've said it so many times
because Hindusism is like the commonwealth of religions. There
are so many modes of worship that you can claim that you are
different. Frankly speaking there Is no difference.

In other words you want to assure your critics that the country's
secular fabric will be strengthened?

Yea. We believe In positive secularism. India win never be anti-
religion. Indian people will never be irreligious. There will
never be state religion and there will be no discrimination on
the basis of religion. That is the ethos of our country. The
first mosque was built in Kerala. It was built by Arab traders.
So is the case in respect of a church. The first church a Syrian
Church was built In Kerala. And permission was given by a Hindu
king. So this is in our blood.


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