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August 31, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/ Cho Ramaswamy

'The BJP stands to gain because of the division of the anti-BJP votes'

But it has created problems for the other partners.

Yes, it has created problems. Karunanidhi should not have rushed into it like that.

How did Vazhappadi's TRC get those two seats?

Vazhappadi has been given two seats and one is for Vazhai and another is for Padi! Only that way, you give him two seats, otherwise, he doesn't deserve two seats. But his clout is that Ramadoss listens to him more than to anybody else. So, you satisfy Vazhappadi, you have satisfied Ramadoss. You disappoint Vazhappadi, you disappoint Ramadoss. To keep the PMK with you, you have to accommodate the demands of Vazhappadi. That is the situation.

What will Vaiko do now? He is sulking because he is given only five seats.

He has also not been handling it well. He ought not to have gone about making statements that accepting five seats is a great shame and it would be humiliating to accept anything less than seven. He has clearly established that if he accepts five seats, it is a shameful thing. He only has created this problem for himself. On the other hand, if he had said, whether it is five or six or seven, I am worried about the seats I win so I will negotiate. Then he could have easily accepted this five seats and there would have been no dishonour in that. He has so vigorously painted earlier that accepting five seats is such a shameful thing that he is very embarrassed now.

In Tamil Nadu, who is in a better position now?

I think the DMK-BJP alliance has an edge along with the MDMK. Even then I Wouldn't say it would be a sweep and all that. They are better placed, that's all. I Can't venture beyond that now.

Where does that leave the TMC?

I don't see the TMC performing well at all. People tend to ignore parties, which are only spoilers ultimately. It is neither in this camp nor in that camp.

What about the situation in Maharashtra?

The Congress may stand to lose in Maharashtra because of Sharad Pawar's exit. They had a good number of seats from Maharashtra last year. I don't see the Congress improving its strength dramatically. But in UP, it is going to be a three way split of votes among Mulayam, Congress and the BJP. The BJP votes will anyway be with it. The anti-BJP votes will be divided between Mulayam and the Congress. So, the BJP stands to gain because of the division of the anti-BJP votes.

With Sharad Pawar fighting the elections separately, do you feel the anti-BJP- Shiv Sena sentiment among the people won't affect the ruling alliance?

The anti BJP-Shiv Sena sentiment was there. But because of the Sharad Pawar factor, they may manage to win. There would be a division of the anti-BJP- Shiv Sena votes between the Congress and Sharad Pawar.

In the recent assembly elections, the BJP fared very badly in the northern belt. Do you expect them to perform better this time?

During the assembly elections, Jayalalitha's tantrums were at their peak. The BJP gave the impression of a very weak government. The prime minister was successfully building up an image for himself as a man groping in the dark. On top of it, came the onion crisis. So they suffered. Once Jayalalitha was out of the government, the caretaker government performed more purposefully, more meaningfully than the regular government. It is only after Jayalalitha's exit that Vajpayee is seen as the prime minister. Before that, people were not sure who the prime minister was.

As of now, I don't know how things are going to change, I feel the NDA will be managing a majority in Parliament.

Why do you say, as of now? Do you feel the situation may change?

Let us see. Who knows? The attitude of the people may change due to something or the other. Maybe some alliances, may be some understandings, may be some many things can happen in politics. How can one rule out anything? Or, some other incident happening... who expected Kargil? Who expected Coimbatore blasts last time? It did play a very crucial part in determining the vote in Tamil Nadu.

The Janata Dal leaders have been commenting that India is evolving towards a two party system, the BJP and the Congress.

Not yet. The Congress and the BJP are not that strong. The Congress has become very weak and the BJP is not growing that fast. After another election, the BJP may attain the status of a party which has substantial support in all the states.

Will the BJP be able to break away from the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal?

The BJP is already becoming more and more independent of them. At least they have not been able to satisfy those groups. They should definitely have nothing to do with outfits like the Bajrang Dal. With the VHP, they can afford to sympathise with some of their demands, but not all. With the RSS, it is an umbilical cord, it cannot be broken. It will be there.

If that cord remains, how will they get acceptance from all people including the minorities?

The minorities will start accepting the BJP after one or two elections because the BJP government is behaving well with them.

But why should they continue their connection with a Hindu organisation?

What is wrong? The RSS is not asking for the blood of the minorities.

If the umbilical cord remains, will it not affect the image of the BJP as a political party?

I don't think it will. Otherwise, they would not have grown this much. If that had been the case, a Fernandes or a Hegde or a Mamta Banerjee or a Karunanidhi would not have joined hands with them. How did they confidently enter into alliance with the BJP? It was because of the fact that the BJP is not seen as a communal outfit that they aligned with the BJP. The minorities may have their own doubts as of now. But even that may be erased in due course of time.

You are seen as a BJP sympathiser.


As a political analyst, when you look at certain things, won't you be biased in your conclusions?

No. Nobody castigates the BJP as I do when they do wrong. When they were dancing to the tunes of Jayalalitha, I was ridiculing them and attacking them very strongly in my journal.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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