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Vajpayee calls it quits
Amberish K Diwanji in Mumbai | June 24, 2004 02:30 IST
Ata bari nako, pushkall zala!
These words, in Marathi, uttered by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the fag end of a somewhat lacklustre speech were in response to calls by party workers to lead them to power once again.
Flanked by former deputy prime minister L K Advani and Bharatiya Janata Party president M Venkaiah Naidu, he made these remarks at a book release function when his supporters shouted a popular slogan: Agli bari, Atal Bihari (Next time, Atal Bihari).
Also, with the Maharashtra assembly elections barely three months away, the party is waiting with bated breath to be led into battle.
In the event, the former prime minister preferred to dwell on the past and seek protection of his legacy. Looking fatigued, he said that this is the first time he is being attacked as a politician, a reference to both the Congress party's complaints against his government's economic policies and to the battles within his own party over replacing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Vajpayee is keen to replace Modi saying the Gujarat riots were partly responsible for the party's debacle but is unable to counter the hardline faction within the BJP, which fears such a move would antagonise supporters of the party's ideology.
He also dwelt on his party's legacy of economic reforms, telling his 3,000-odd audience, seated in one of Mumbai's premier performing arts theatre, the Shanmukhananda Hall, that he was worried at the way the economic policies were being targeted by the new government and its allies.
"These polices were framed through a consensus of all the parties to be the economic road map for this country," he said and expressed anxiety at the future of India under such a disparate coalition government.
He also dwelt on the high cost of elections and campaigning, warning that elections were becoming so expensive as to prevent poor people from participating in the democratic process. The high cost would turn India's democracy into a plutocracy with no voice for the poor.
Earlier, Advani dwelt on the history of the BJP and its origins as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He also spoke about the Jana Sangh's founder-president Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, whose death anniversary fell on Wednesday. The reiterated the party's aim is to make India a developed nation before 2020.
It was party president M Venkaiah Naidu who gave the clarion call to arms, exhorting the Maharashtra unit to ensure the party's victory in the assembly elections and set the foundation for the return of the BJP to power at the Centre. "Maharashtra has always led the way for the BJP's rise to power and I am sure it will do so again," he said to thunderous applause.
He criticised the United Progressive Alliance government's policy of 'pseudo-secularism', referring to the Congress's concerns voiced over the death of Ishrat Jahan, an alleged terrorist, and its decision to review history textbooks on the grounds that the National Democratic Alliance government had distorted history. "The Congress prefers to believe the ISI but not the RSS," he said.He insisted that the party would never abandon Hindutva.
More reports from Maharashtra
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