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|April 24, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Vijay Kumar Malhotra
The party's chief whip in the House, the South Delhi MP has blamed the Opposition for stalling proceedings in Parliament on the Gujarat issue. Parliament lost six working days on the Gujarat impasse.
In spite of wanting to debate the issue under Rule 193, which does not entail voting, the government suffered a setback when the Opposition censure motion on the Gujarat government's failure in providing security to the minority community was admitted for discussion in the Lok Sabha under Rule 184, which will entail voting at the end of the debate. The voting is scheduled for April 30.
In an interview to Tara Shankar Sahay, Malhotra spoke about his party's stance on the Gujarat crisis, the Opposition's role in Parliament and the future political scenario.
Why has the BJP suddenly hardened its stand on the Gujarat crisis?
The BJP's stand on Gujarat has been consistent. We have repeatedly said that what happened in the state is unfortunate and we have taken various measures for relief and rehabilitation of the victims.
Our prime minister visited Gujarat and it obviously had a healing touch. Gujarat is getting [central] assistance in tackling the welfare measures. So the things are certainly much better than the dismal picture which the Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, are trying to paint.
If the prime minister gave a healing touch, as you claim, in Gujarat, how do you explain his virtual diatribe against the Muslims during the BJP national executive in Goa?
Your assumption is incorrect. What Vajpayeeji said in Goa put things in proper perspective so that the vicious Opposition propaganda could be exposed.
He asked which particular incident in Gujarat was responsible for the riots spreading all over the state. He pointed out that but for the Godhra carnage, the riots could not have occurred at all. That is the stark truth which the Opposition, particularly the Congress, has refused to acknowledge all along.
Our Goa national executive was for introspection regarding our party's strength and shortcomings. Therefore, all our leaders, had a frank exchange of views. The prime minister made a correct assessment of why the Gujarat riots occurred. So you cannot say that there has been any hardening of our party's stand on Gujarat. Our leaders have only called the Opposition's bluff on the issue.
How do you explain Union Food Minister Shanta Kumar, a veteran member of your party, castigating the Narendra Modi government if it did not leave things to be desired in the state?
You saw what happened, you saw that Shanta Kumar tendered an apology to our party chief Jana Krishnamurthyji. The apology says it all. I think the matter is closed.
Did Shanta Kumar speak out of turn?
Obviously, if our party discipline is broken, those responsible have to be accountable.
How do you account for resentment among ruling partners like the Telegu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress who are persisting with their sack-Narendra-Modi campaign?
We have told them that since the Gujarat state government is a BJP government, it is our [internal] matter and we will solve it amicably. Our allies know our point of view on the issue and I think an unnecessary furore is being created over it. Besides, the Modi government is a duly elected government which cannot be dismissed just because the Opposition does not want it.
Our political resolution in Goa authorised the continuance of the Modi government. The matter ends there.
But the NDA allies are far from satisfied.
I told you, we have explained to them what was to be explained. You will see how the matter ends on a tame note.
What is the prime minister's agenda? Does his statement in Goa indicate that his government will have things the BJP way?
The prime minister and other senior ministers have already pointed out that it is the NDA agenda which will be implemented as it is an NDA government.
Why is the BJP insisting it will not allow discussion of the Gujarat issue in the Lok Sabha under the substantive motion [Rule 184]?
We have clarified that while we are ready for discussing the Gujarat issue, it cannot be under the whims and fancies of the Congress-led Opposition which wants voting after the debate.
Is your party afraid that if there is voting, the Opposition parties will gain a victory because your allies could vote with them against the government?
No, we are not afraid of anything, least of all of the Congress. We simply don't want to succumb to its blackmail.
What do you think about the Opposition's role in Parliament?
A constructive role by the Opposition is to be welcomed. But the one being adopted by the principal Opposition party, the Congress, is far from constructive. The impasse in Parliament continued, thanks to Congress obstinacy [in demanding a discussion of Gujarat under a substantive motion].
The 13th Lok Sabha will stand out in parliamentary history for its disruption of proceedings, walkouts and stallings.
What can the government do if the Opposition is determined in disrupting proceedings without an iota of reason?.
Is gthe issue of secularism an Achilles' heel for the Vajpayee government?
It certainly is not. We believe in secularism but we are not enamoured of the pseudo-secularist variety like the one practised by the Congress. Pandering to the minority community for the sake of votebank politics is undesirable.
We treat all communities on an equal footing.
Design: Dominic Xavier
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