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The Rediff Election Interview/Law Minister Arun Jaitley
April 06, 2004
Arun Jaitley, Union minister of law and justice and commerce and industry, is one of the most sought after leaders within the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In an exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh at 11 Ashoka Road -- the BJP headquarters -- Jaitley
said he would have been happier had the party allowed him to contest the Lok Sabha election.
"But the party wanted to use my services in running the campaign and campaigning for party candidates. I have to abide by the decision," he said.
Jaitley felt the National Democratic Alliance would do exceedingly well in the general election and cross the 300 mark in Parliament.
How is the party doing so far?
We will do exceedingly well. I am sure after the counting is over on May 13, the BJP and its partners will emerge victors and Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be sworn in as prime minister once again.
The NDA hopes to get 300 plus seats. Where are the seats coming from?
The tragedy with the Indian media is that they start analysing the [election] wave only after the poll. But before the poll they are myopic and refuse to see what is coming.
I am not going to get into individual states with you, the kind of undercurrent, where people are left with a very poor alternative to Vajpayeeji, is going to leave the people with no option but to vote this government back with a huge margin.
Is Mr Advani's Bharat Uday Yatra helping the BJP?
Of course, it is! It is galvanising the party. Advaniji will be passing through over 120 constituencies. It is also keeping our issues and debate alive on the front pages of national dailies, local newspapers and television networks.
In the states through which his yatra passes through, the party cadres get electrified.
The BJP has adopted an aggressive campaign posture for the election, particularly in the media. Is it getting more mileage?
It is for the media to say whether we are aggressive in our approach or we are defensive. We are proud of the achievements of the NDA government led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji. We are proud of our leader, and therefore we are projecting both aggressively in our campaign. Obviously, as a result of this entire campaign we are going to articulate our point of view very clearly.
Why is the BJP seeking to play down Article 370 and the Ram Mandir issues in its Vision Document?
We are a thinking party and we express our stand in an idiom which suits the moment.
We are very clear about these two issues in the Vision Document. Use of adjectives, playing up or playing down is the work of the media. The BJP categorically says in the Vision Document that the question of the stature of Jammu and Kashmir is only temporary and transient in character.
The BJP had clearly stated that as far as the Ram Mandir is concerned our stand is preferably for negotiations or alternatively for a judicial verdict.
I do not know how you can say we are playing this issue down. Obviously, we are using the idiom for the requirements of the moment.
Why has the BJP failed to give adequate representation to women candidates?
I plead guilty, partly to this charge. Our target is to give 33 percent reservations to women. We are endeavouring to make sure that at least 10 percent of seats go to women candidates. I am certain we would be able to give more seats to women than any other political party.
Are you unhappy you were not allowed to contest the election?
I would have been happier if I had been allowed to contest the Lok Sabha poll. When we become members of a political party we are forced to exercise certain restraint on ourselves. We submit to the discipline of the party and it is the party which takes a decision what a particular worker or leader would do. At the end of the day you become so involved in the discipline of the party that you take all the decisions of the party in your stride.
Your party has come in for criticism for bringing film stars, television artists and cricketers within its fold. What do you have to say?
I consider this criticism baseless. Political parties could be criticised for bringing in criminals into the party fold and not for bringing achievers in various spheres of life. I think every citizen has a role as far as votes are concerned. I see no harm if those who joined the BJP in recent weeks from any quarter help the party bring in more votes for the party.
Is the BJP going to expand its base in the Northeast and South India?
I see Karnataka becoming a major gateway for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the south. As far as the Northeast is concerned, the BJP is decidedly going to win more seats than we have ever done in the past.
How many seats is the NDA going to win?
In politics overstatement is never a virtue. Even if it means giving you the reality, I would not give you what the predictions for the polls are. All I am telling you is that we are going to do exceedingly well.
Do you feel surrogate ads have a place in the campaign?
Whatever decision is taken in this regard should be taken as a political consensus. The Congress is to blame because it started surrogate advertising.
Isn't the BJP also doing the same?
In politics when you find one party breaking the rules then it should be ready for responses as well. The Congress cannot blame us for this. It is they who set the ball rolling.
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