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February 9, 1998


Vajpayee carpetbombs Vidarbha, seeks a mandate to govern

V Ram in Nagpur

Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday made an impassioned plea to the electorate to give the Bharatiya Janata Party an opportunity to govern at the Centre, now that other political groups had failed to deliver the goods.

The BJP's prime minister-in-waiting was addressing a late evening meeting at the Kasturchand Park in Nagpur. Earlier in the day, Vajpayee had covered Gondia, Akola and Wardha in his one-day tour of Vidarbha region.

Hearteningly for Vajpayee, his speech was being heard in rapt silence by a massive gathering, estimated at over 200,000.

When his 13-day government stepped down in May 1996, thanks to the one point programme of the 13-party coalition and the Congress to keep BJP out, the people were promised a five-year government, Vajpayee said, but "we are already at the hustings within 18 months". While describing general elections as the heartbeat of democracy, Vajpayee said too fast a heartbeat certainly spelt serious problems. Elections have been forced on this poor nation by the Congress, he added, even as the basic needs of more than half the population have not been met.

Vajpayee said the Congress had been decisively beaten in the 1996 election and the BJP was by far the single largest party. The Congress had not suffered such a defeat even in 1977. But they decided to support the UF which then had no leader or worker. Of the 13 parties, the largest had a membership in Parliament of less than 40 and even one-member, two-member parties were given ministership to keep the BJP out. The irony was that the UF had fought against the Congress in the elections and there was no common ideology among them except to spite the BJP. The people's mandate in favour of the BJP was ignored, Vajpayee charged. What was their morality in doing so, he asked.

But all this shows that parties in India are worried that the BJP, once it comes to power, will be difficult to dislodge as the party is bound to become even more popular through good governance, Vajpayee declared.

He held the Congress responsible for the sorry state of affairs in India today. The economic, social and political life in the country has seen a steep fall in standards, and morality has sunk to a new low. In his 40 years in Parliament and his 50 years in public life, Vajpayee said he had seen prime ministers from Nehru to Gujral. It pained him that India has been drawn to such a morass.

The wrong ideas about the BJP spread by the Congress and other parties are being dismissed by the people and they are now looking at the party with a new respect, Vajpayee asserted. From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, he said, the BJP has spread it influence and is in a position to get a majority. The BJP's alliance with different parties in the states have been crafted with the idea of promoting goodwill and co-operation, he added. He cited the alliance with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu as as example of north-south integration. The BJP as a national party will have presence in TN.

Similarly, he said, alliances have been struck in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, UP, Bihar and other states. No more can it be said that the BJP is an untouchable, isolated party. In the meantime the UF has broken into a thousand pieces, Vajpayee said.

The Bofors enquiry is nearing an end and the guilty are to be soon identify and that is the reason the Congress became jittery, Vajpayee said. The long delay in investigation was also due to the Congress being in rule for most of the intervening period, he added.

Vajpayee talked of the BJP's dream of India as a great country, and felt a sense of sorrow and anger that big leaders indulged in corruption and let down the country, to appease their own egos. Why did the Congress withdraw support twice in 18 months, Vajpayee asked.

Internationally, Vajpayee said, our stock had plummeted. Every one knows development is not taking place and hundreds of thousands of villages still do not have potable drinking water. There are 80 million unemployed, and about 50 million of our children labour at hard tasks for a living. About 50 per cent of the people are illiterate.

India has all the potential to be a great country, Vajpayee asserted, indeed India is a country born to be great. The present day sorry picture of India, he said, was only due to a lack of good leadership and proper direction. Honesty cannot be bought from outside, he said, it must come from within.

The Indian tradition does not confer nobility by birth but by one's deeds. Vajpayee said. The BJP should be judged by its actions and not by the misinformation being spread by opportunistic alliances and parties, he told the gathering.

The BJP leader appealed to the people to vote his party to a clear majority. Only then, Vajpayee said, would he have the chance to lead the government and bring about a sea-change in the Indian polity for the progress of the nation.

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