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December 2, 1998


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The Rediff Interview/Ramgopal Yadav

'To rule out the Third Front would be a grave misjudgement'

The resurgence of the Congress party in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh at the expense of the Bharatiya Janata Party has triggered talks in political circles that the Third Force, including the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, has virtually become irrelevant. But leaders of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha, comprising the SP and RJD MPs, strongly refute such a claim.

In an interview with Tara Shankar Sahay, SP leader Ramgopal Yadav rejects the contention that a resurgent Congress appears to have caused the marginalisation of the Third Force.

Your party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is refusing to read the writing on the wall that as a national alternative, the Third Force has been replaced by the Congress.

Our party chief has said the Congress had made electoral gains in the recent assembly election because of the anti-BJP votes, and we subscribe to this view. The BJP government's blatant communal policies against the minorities and others are well known. In just eight months, the Hindutva forces have shown their true colours all over the country. So we think that the voters have rejected the BJP in the recent assembly election.

So, in your opinion, the price rise was not a factor behind the BJP's defeat and the Congress's good showing....

( Interrupting) No, no, the price rise was very much a factor. After all, it is not for nothing that the BJP is not only known as a communal party but also as a party of traders and hoarders. The artificially created shortages of edible oil and vegetables, especially onions, in blatant disregard of the poor sections of consumers, who form the bulk of our population, has shown what the BJP is all about.

But please don't forget that our voters are essentially secular. Maybe the voters did want to give the BJP a chance earlier, but now they have found out that the BJP can never deliver the goods.

What do you think about the gradual shifting of the Muslims from the Samajwadi Party to the Congress as is being widely reported? Is it because the Muslims have realised that the SP is unable to effectively fight the BJP governments in the states and at the Centre?

The Samajwadi Party's contribution as a leading secular force cannot be minimised. The Muslim voters understand this very well. The SP is continuing its secular fight all over, and the Muslim voters are very much with us. Especially in Uttar Pradesh, we have been continuously striving against the communal BJP for its attacks against Muslims and other minority communities.

Your reply does not answer my specific question. Do you think the Muslims are not shifting away from your party to the Congress?

I told you, the Muslim voters are very much with us. If members of the minority communities have defeated the BJP by favouring the Congress, it shows the anti-BJP wrath of the electorate, rather than a pro-Congress wave. But the minority communities also know that the secular track-record of the Congress cannot match our party's credentials in this context.

Can you elaborate on this point?

It is well known that the Congress government of P V Narasimha Rao was in power at the Centre when the Babri Masjid was demolished. You will recall that our party and some other secular forces kept warning about the Hindutva elements' aggressive statements which indicated that the Babri Masjid was being targeted by these people. Narasimha Rao knew all this but did precious little to prevent the shameful act which has destroyed our country's secular fabric.

I don't think our Muslim brothers will forget the shameful act by the Hindutva forces ever, or the Congress's act in ignoring the threat to the Babri Masjid.

Only a couple of months back SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav appeared to woo the Congress. Now after the assembly poll results are out, your party appears to be distancing itself from the Congress. Why is that?

Look, the SP had earlier said that in order to dislodge the communal BJP government at the Centre, we would not fight shy of joining hands with others. In politics, you don't really close your doors but as far the BJP is concerned, we are opposed to communal forces.

What happened during the recent meeting between your party chief and Congress president Sonia Gandhi?

I think the two leaders discussed the political situation in the country and the ways that communal forces could be tackled. I think they also discussed the possibilities of an alternative arrangement at the Centre.

With Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav in jail for his alleged involvement in the fodder scam, do you think the RLM is in the danger of being politically marginalised?

No, I don't think so. In the Bihar assembly by-election, the RJD got three seats even in the absence of Laloo Yadav. The SP also won three seats in Madhya Pradesh. So I think the Third Force is still relevant.

What will be your strategy now?

Our fight against the BJP will continue and we intend to continue the mobilisation of secular and democratic forces. Therefore, to rule out the Third Front would be a grave misjudgement.


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