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'Congress has forgotten how to rule'
February 18, 2008
BJP vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu talks to Nistula Hebbar about the political situation in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and his distinctive style of oratory
The most obvious question to you is about Karnataka. We know the BJP fancies its chances in the state, but the Congress, too, is strategising. How do you view that?
Right off the bat, let me say that there is a huge groundswell of support for the BJP. We are in a position where we will form the government on the strength of our own numbers in the state. This is due to the fact that the people know that we have been duped out of government not once, but twice. First, when the results were announced and we were the largest party in the Assembly, despite which the Congress subverted the verdict, and the second time when Janata Dal (S) went back on its word. Also, a lot of development programmes that the governor is clearing were actually announced when B S Yeddyurappa was the finance minister. The Congress' strategy, if it means the return of S M Krishna, will just be of borrowing more trouble. Let us not forget he was the one who led the Congress to defeat in 2004, and many in the Congress do not like him. I hope the Congress is prepared for the infighting within the party.
What about the party's chances in your own state, Andhra Pradesh. You no longer have an ally in the state, while there are other factors like the TRS and the reported entry of Chiranjeevi [Images] into politics.
That, I admit, is a difficult task for the party. We had an ally in the TDP, (but) now they are, too, busy running behind the Communists. In Telangana, where we had a good base, the TRS has hijacked the statehood agenda. For the Lok Sabha, we are going to leverage the fact that it is the BJP which was responsible for the creation of three smaller states, and that it is only with the BJP at the Centre that it will be possible. Others are just pandering to vote banks. For instance, I have heard that K Chandrashekara Rao (TRS chief) has said that he would take Telangana back to the age of the Nizams for the sake of Muslim votes. The Nizamate and the Razakars were a feudal system which we have moved away from for our own good. Now this man says we should go back. What kind of politics is this?
Any lessons from the 2004 defeat?
Yes, one definite thing that we have learnt as a party is that our governments have always performed, but we have not been able to convey this to the people. It is not just important to perform, but to market it as well. The NDA government was one of the best this country has seen, but we failed to capitalise on our own achievements. Therefore, in Karnataka, we have been very firm that our minister takes these bus tours across the countryside to interact with the people and tell them about all the things we have done.
One achievement of the NDA government was the SEZ policy, which you now oppose?
Well, I admit that the SEZ policy was formulated by us and now we do oppose it in certain cases. This is just part of the experience, there are always things that we learn when policies are implemented and we, too, have learnt certain drawbacks of the policy. We do not disown it and we still feel it is a great tool for development, but food security and the rights of landowners and farmers are equally important. The state cannot act as a real estate agent for business houses, and fertile land cannot be given over for industrial development. In fact, states ruled by the NDA have got maximum SEZ projects, and there have been no significant agitations by farmers there.
L K Advani has been declared your party's prime ministerial candidate. Who will play Laxman to his Ram?
Advaniji's character, calibre, capacity, conduct and commitment are making him the tallest leader not only in the party, but also in the country. I do not understand all this talk of second generation leadership and factions. Yes, we have many good leaders in our second generation, like Narendra Modi [Images], Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Why second generation, we have third generation leadership as well. We have a party president and a prime ministerial candidate and we work in that framework. The rest is all speculation.
How will the campaign for Advani look like? He has a distinct personality from your earlier prime ministerial candidate Vajpayee.
His decisiveness, his rock-solid integrity are all plus points for us, in addition to the qualities that I have mentioned previously. Compared to the fact that the Congress-led UPA has been a dithering government not capable of taking decisions in anything, we have a leader with solid credentials. It seems the Congress has forgotten how to rule or take decisions after being in Opposition for 10 years. We have a plan which has worked in the past, (but) they have given a government where the Right proposes, the Left disposes and the Centre confuses.
You have a distinctive style of public-speaking and use alliterations a lot. Do you practise them or do they come naturally. They have become the political equivalent of 'Siddhuisms'.
No, I do not practise it, it just occurs to me as I am speaking. I picked up the style from our senior party leader Shri Jagannath Rao Joshiji. It automatically occurs to me. In Telegu, we call it taking care of 'yeti' and 'praasa' (rhyme and reason). I use alliteration so that whatever I speak is registered in the minds of the listener. Don't you think people tend to remember my alliterations?
Are you superstitious? Do you believe in astrologers?
Absolutely not. I believe in God, and my own hard work. I have never visited an astrologer, mendicant or 'vaastu' person. I firmly believe in the power of hard work.
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