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BJP on the threshold of power - Organiser

Ramesh Patange ()
February 15, 1998

Title: BJP on the threshold of power
Author: Ramesh Patange
Publication: Organiser
Date: February 15, 1998

Election to the 12th Lok Sabha has brought about a radical change
in the electoral responses of the parties and People to the
hitherto untouchable BJP, the undisputed front-runner in the race
to Parliament House. The, more people and parties align with the
BJP the more shrill goes the cacophony of committed and
commissioned BJP- baiters hurling contradictory charges at the
burgeoning BJP. To wit, having said, "BJP puts temple issue on
back burner", in the next breath they scream, andir in
Manifesto=94. In order to Reek clarification on several allied
question Shri Ramesh Patange, Editor of Mumbai weekly Vivek,
spoke to the party's ebullient and charismatic young General
Secretary Pramod Mahajan. Excerpts :

Who is responsible for this mid-term poll. Congress or United

Actually both the parties are responsible. The 1996 Elections
gave us a hung Parliament in the real sense of the term. In fact
the 1999 and 1991 Parliaments can also be deemed as hung insofar
as in the first V.P. Singh was supported by BJP and in the other
Narasimha Rao lured some 40/50 MPs to cobble up a majority. As
regards the 1996 Lok Sabha there was no pre-poll pact among the
various groups that later formed the so-called United Front. The
Congress, pathologically opposed to a BJP Government, offered
support to the 13-party alliance. But neither let the Government
work honestly for five years. The UF failed to accord the respect
due to the supportive Congress which for its part never desisted
>from blackmailing the UF into prolonging the corruption cases.
The Jain Commission Report brought down the curtain on the sordid

How much would the midterm election cost the country? Whom would
you blame for inflicting this expenditure?

The total cost is said to be a thousand crore. Again, assuming
that the 5 to 6 thousand candidates spend the legally permissible
amount of 15 lakh, it comes to another 5 to 8 crore. Then there
is the administrative expenditure on the part of the State
Governments. Thus the total drain on the economy may reach up to
10/12 thousand crore. Besides, with the election process on,
Government virtually stops functioning and the next one also
takes about three months to pick up the pace. Hence no poor
country can afford a mid-term poll. But the UF-Congress combine
has foisted this election on the country. Although a number of
MPs have

deserted the Congress camp only a few of them have joined the
BJP. The media hype about an 'influx' of Congressmen into BJP in
only to scare the party's loyal cadre that the new entrants would
hog the tickets and usurp their opportunity. This is absurd. In
the last elections we got 18 seats in Maharashtra out of which
only three were won by new entrants.

You seem to be in a hurry to capture power.

BJP is a regular political party which must strive to win power
which is a means to serve. Electoral gain is the final test of a
political party's strength, neither the strength of its
membership nor its agitations, nor the crowd it attracts.

It is alleged that the ability to spend is the criterion for
meriting a BJP ticket.

There is no basis for this allegation. BJP contests elections on
its own strength and helps its candidates with finance.
Winnability is, of course, taken into account.

New entrants to the party are favoured with prestigious
positions, tickets to contest elections, at the cost of old and
loyal workers whose number is growing. What are you doings about

This is not the case. The party does respect seniority and
sacrifice. If someone with a record of service outside politics
chooses to join us, surely, we cannot ask him to wait at the end
of the seniority list. A person's status in society and his
potential are certainly relevant when we consider him as a

BJP's distinct culture is doubled by a section of the press as
"mobile culture". What would you say to that?

I fail to understand this expression "mobile culture". Culture
connotes one's upbringing and values of life. Mobile is
associated with mobile phones. It is not correct to tear it from
there and tag it on to culture. With the progress of Science
the country now has Fax, computers, cars and pagers which are all
means to quick communication; they do not qualify culture.

How can you claim what you call "distinct culture" for your party
which now seems to suffer from all the ills that the Congress is
afflicted with? I mean groupism, intra-party splits, rebellion by
those deprived of the loaves and fishes of office.

I admit our party has since been tainted-albeit slightly-by
groupism and power struggle. And we are of course worried on that
account. But how long can we afford to indulge in politics of
defeat, however grand? If the over-all atmosphere is vitiated it
must affect even the most scrupulous elements, in spite or their
best efforts. How about the revolt in Gujarat .... ?

I agree it is an apt instance. We look upon it as the darkest
phase in the annals of the BJP. But then is it not an exception
among the party's seven ministries in the country? We held
elections to 450 Mandals (roughly corresponding to an Assembly
constituency) out of which 425 Mandals returned unanimous teams.
Of the 36 Districts (roughly a Parliamentary constituency) only
Thane witnessed a context for the post of president. But such
demonstration of unity does not make good copy for the media who
play up the tirade carried on by the odd man out.

Generally you are held responsible for the newly found malaise in
the party. You are accused of adopting a dictatorial style of
functioning. Why are such charges made against you?

I cannot understand how anyone can charge that my party is run in
an authoritarian may. At the least dissent we are challenged
whether we are really distinct from the Congress. And unanimity
in decisions promptly draws the charge of dictatorship.
Congenital critics are incurable. As for me being the target the
fact is that I have to act as the head of the family in
Maharashtra. Everybody is in good humour till he gets what he
wants; the moment he fails to get something he wants Pramod
Mahajan becomes the instant culprit. Actually a decision is
arrived at after consultations with all concerned. I just
implement the decision- only to draw flak.

There are rumours also about differences between the top two,
Vajpayee and Advani.

Advaniji had clearly stated way back in 1995 that Vajpayee would
be the Prime Minister which instantly brought a. flood of votes
in favour of the BJP. Those who are alarmed at this sudden flush
are deliberately indulging in this false propaganda. I would only
caution my co-workers to be wary of the vested interests that
indulge in such rumours, for they have an axe to grind.

Are you not in the race for the PM's post?

Absolutely not. Actually there is nothing like a race in the BJP.
Considering my seniority in the party, you will find a hundred
and one leaders in the BJP who are more competent than me and
have a longer record of work in the party. So, you see, even if
you put me into the race I can hardly reach the winning pole
during my life-time.

What precisely is at stake in the 1998 elections about which you
would want your workers to be mindful?

After 75 years toil a party wedded to Hindutva is on the
threshold of power. That is BJP- a party that believes in
cultural nationalism and is led by a swayamsevak. May no one make
a fetish about minor pin-pricks in a difficult situation. A
nationalist Government at the Centre must cause severe heart-bum
to the Communists. AB other opponents have gone haywire. The
Congress is sinking. It is the dawn of a new era that has a
saffron surge. The swayamsevak leader is wholly committed to the
Hindutva ideology. The country is facing a major economic crisis.
Even so we are on our way to victory and it is going to be a
historic event.

(Based on a report in Manogat a Marathi fortnightly.)

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