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'Sanyas is going to be my path of the future. I want to keep aloof from all the dirty things going on'
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray reiterates his decision to take a break from the hurly-burly of politics.

'Naidu was a master in the art of deception'
UF spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy questions the morality of the man who was, till recently, the head honcho of the United Front.

'Ram Janambhoomi, Article 370, common civil code, these are the basic commitments of the BJP'
Union Civil Aviation Minister Ananth Kumar lays down his RSS views on the line, in an interview with Savera R Someshwar.

'If members are intent on digressing from real issues, I shall be tough'
The Speaker of the 12th Lok Sabha, G M C Balayogi, in his first interview since his election.

'We will give the BJP time'
'Are these conditions unreasonable? No. These are conditions which have been in existence for several years. If you don't fulfil and protect these rights, you can never rule. Such type of cold feet was never expected from the BJP. I would say that this is a lesson for them that in order to ensure a stable government, they have to ensure our rights too, our people's rights, our state's rights.' Selvaganapathy, the AIADMK's organising secretary, explains his leader's blow-hot blow-cold attitude to the BJP.

'From our side, supporting the Congress is the only option'
'I do not know how the BJP is going to get a majority. They have to compromise on their ideology to do so. I don't think they can form the government. The UF also cannot. If at all anybody forms a government, it will be the Congress.' TMC leader G K Moopanar, in his first post-poll interview.

'We will persuade Sonia Gandhi to become prime minister'
Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, the Tiger of Cuddapah, speaks!

'The days of the Shiv Sena, BJP are over. People are tired of all this drama and theatrics'
Congress leader Murli Deora on what will happen next.

'Naidu is interested only in making money'
Congress leader K Vijayabhaskara Reddy speaks out!

'If my father is a rapist, I cannot, should not, defend him only because he is my father'
'Smaller parties -- like mine -- are always looking to extend their spheres of influence, to attract more public attention. If the government. I am part of functions well, fine, I get my mileage by being a part of it. If my government functions ill, I got mileage by opposing it -- so you can be sure I, and the other coalition members, have everything to gain and nothing to lose by playing watchdog.' Samata Party leader George Fernandes, in an illuminating election result-eve interview.

A Princess Remembers
'Sometimes you catch a tear in their eye because they think you are the Rajmata’s daughter, who has come to see them. It is then that I think ‘'Oh God, we’ve really failed.’' ' Yashodhara Raje Scindia, in a fascinating interview.

'Ultimately, the Sena's rank and file will merge with the BJP. But today, Thackeray is a necessity for us'
Sardar Angre, RSS ideologue, in conversation.

'Those who challenge Mrs Gandhi, they should first make it clear whether they are democrats or not'
Madhavrao Scindia, caught on the campaign trail.

'I want to release politics from the confines of the mahal and bring it to the common people'
Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya, former Bajrang Dal president, has taken on the might of Madhavrao Scindia.

'The next government will be Congress-led and not BJP-led'
Prithviraj Chavan, rising Congress star, brims with confidence.

'Thackeray has increasingly become a liability, not an asset'
'He is a peculiar kind of character. If he is your friend, it is a one way thing. He believes he has every right to insult you, whether in public or private. But if you attack him or say anything against him, he goes crazy, he says stupid things, and increasingly, his sayings are proving to be an embarassment for his party.' Sharad Pawar, in his most eloquent interview ever.

'Pawar is a manipulator -- he threatens the Congress leadership, then makes a deal that makes him even richer'
Viraj Babulal Kakde, the David to Sharad Pawar's Goliath slugs out.

'Jyoti Basu is the biggest fraud, cheat and conman in West Bengal'
Who else would say that, but Mamata Banerjee?

'BJP and the Trinamul will be wiped out'
West Bengal Congress chief Somen Mitra breathes fire.

'Gandhinagar should be proud Advani chose it as his constituency'
Keshubhai Patel, who was ousted from the chief ministership by Shankarsinh Vaghela and who appears all set to have the last laugh this time, discusses the BJP's prospects.

'The party machinery is not properly geared up to transform the Sonia enthusiasm into votes'
"The unfortunately myopic vision of some Congress leaders led to the breaking-off of the alliance with the RJP. The BJP will certainly benefit from this," says Harubhai Mehta, the Congress candidate for the Ahmedabad Lok Sabha seat.

'Sonia will stimulate the Congress cadre, not the voter'
Krishnam Raju, the BJP's candidate for the Kakinada Lok Sabha, on the state's response to the saffron brigade.

'If we win Bombay North-Central, the Sena government should resign'
RPI candidate Ramdas Athavale believes his party will wrest the prestigious seat.

'Muslims can be divided into two. Those with the BJP and those who are indifferent'
Gujarat BJP leader Narendra Modi explains why his party will sweep the polls in the western state.

'I want to expose Advani'
Chaitanya Shambu Maharaj is the Hindu priest whom Shankarsinh Vaghela has chosen to take on the BJP president in Gandhinagar.

'I will do anything, repeat anything, to defeat the BJP'
Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, unspooled.

'The BJP is not untouchable'
Giant-killer Churchill Alemao keeps his post-elections options open.

'They tried to bury me alive. How can I tolerate that?'
Former state minister Mudragada Padmanabham, the uncrowned king of the dominant Kapu caste, is known for his rebellious outbursts.

'The Sonia factor is there, but mainly it is the failure of the UF and BJP that is helping us'
When the whole party swears by Sonia, Rajesh Pilot boldly ventures to say that the Congress's life-force is just another factor that has brightened the party's chances.

'No party wants a watertight anti-defection law'
Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap, in a frank interview.

'The BJP is not willing to accept any Muslim. They only want people with Muslim-sounding names'
'Whatever the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal says, Vajpayee will be compelled to dance to their tune.' Arif Baig, the only Muslim ever to win a Lok Sabha seat for the BJP, in a revealing interview.

'The BJP is running everywhere like a venomous snake after Sonia started campaigning'
Controversial Kerala politician Abdul Nasser Madani, in a provocative interview.

'The RJP government is preventing Kutch's progress'
"The people of Kutch should not forgive the RJP government which merely made big noises about development, but did nothing concrete," says former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta.

'The Congress has come to such a pass that it is dependent on a housewife'
'I know her; I have met her; I have had lunch with her and her husband. She was looking after the children and all that. I wish her luck. What else can I say? But she is in a party which is destroying India. That is why I feel sorry for her.' West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, in a rare interview.

'Politics in the country has broken up statewise'
'I think states like Tamil Nadu have realised that they have to look after their own interest, they cannot be taken for granted. Once that happens, they (and the regional parties that come into power) will play a crucial role at the Centre.' Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in a brief encounter on the campaign trail.

'If the bomb was planted by somebody other than the BJP, they would definitely have killed Advani'
Tamil Nadu Congress chief K V Thangabalu on the Coimbatore blasts and after.

'Hindutva is a fascist agenda'
'Hindutva is nothing but a struggle to make 85 per cent majority Hindus the permanent majority in India. Permanent majority means no dissent, no opposition, no democracy and no competitive system.' Professor Zahoor Mohammad Khan explains why Muslim intellectuals don't trust the BJP.

'But I am not the BJP! I am the Pune Vikas Aghadi'
Former Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi is confidence personified.

'If the Congress comes to power, the story behind Rajiv Gandhi's death will never come into the open, not in a 100 years'
Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda is angry and hurt.

'I want to be more than a showpiece'
Vinod Khanna, in an intimate encounter.

'I have never advocated this kind of understanding with the Congress. I doubt their credentials. I mistrust them'
Samajwadi Party leader Raj Babbar tells Pritish Nandy.

'Yeh garib dukhiare Laloo Yadav ko bhool nahi sakte, kyonki Laloo hi unka masiha hai. Baki sab bilkul bakwaas'
An encounter with Laloo Prasad Yadav on the campaign trail.

'I am sure Sonia will take up the leadership once the party is in a position to form the government'
Kunnoth Karunakaran, the Chanakya of Congress party, on Polls '98.

'Why should I even react to what is a cheap political stunt by Sonia Gandhi?'
'If you commit rape or murder and then say sorry, can it really heal the wounds of the victim, of his/her family? Bluestar was worse -- our temple, the focus of our religion, was desecrated. No apology can heal those wounds.' Bhai Ranjit Singh, jathedar of the Akal Takht, in his first reaction to Sonia's apology.

'To implement anything, the BJP needs a two-thirds majority in both Houses, and I don't see them getting that for a long time'
Ramakrishna Hegde, caught in a mellow mood.

'Any party which wants to rule India has to be secular in its true sense'
Nitish Bhardwaj defies the stereotype of the star-politician. In an informed interview, the articulate actor, who was denied a Lok Sabha ticket from Jamshedpur which he won in 1996, speaks about his present role, the BJP's prospects, its agenda and the politics in Bihar.

'The responsibility for all actions of the Cabinet -- including those relating to Ayodhya -- was that of all members of the Cabinet. I hold myself equally responsible for what happened'
Dr Manmohan Singh tells Pritish Nandy.

'I will continue my fight against Chandrababu Naidu'
Lakshmi Parvathi, in a rare interview.

'We do not have Ayodhya on our agenda. But we do not set the agenda for others'
An interview with Jana Krishnamurthy, the BJP ideologue who built up the party in Tamil Nadu and who is contesting the prestigious Madras South seat.

'The BJP was encouraged to promote majority communalism because the Congress supported minority communalism'
Communist Party of India-Marxist Politburo member V S Achutanandan, in a candid interview

'India needs a generation revolution'
Elder statesman C Subramaniam's prescription for contemporary politics.

'As long as Kesri and Vijayabhaskara Reddy are in the Congress, it has no future'
Nizamabad MP G Atmacharan Reddy, an NRI who switched to the BJP after the Congress denied him a ticket, in candid conversation.

'Laloo has gone mad'
Samajwadi Party leader Rajesh Ranjan 'Pappu' Yadav denounces his former mentor.

'My detractors have run out of issues. So they are raking up old issues'
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu says he cares two hoots for the pollsters, in an exclusive interview.

'Out of the 1 billion Indians and 600 million voters, you can't find 543 good people? Are you joking?'
'...In the last six weeks, we have sacked from field duty many collectors, commissioners and deputy inspector generals of police in six states. Wherever we had the slightest doubt, out he goes.' Chief Election Commissioner Dr M S Gill, in an exclusive interview

'Chidambaram has turned out to be a third-rate failure'
'The BJP cannot say that their devotion to Ram is higher than the Constitution of India. If their devotion is so much, let them go and build a temple at Dhanushkodi which is lying in ruins. If they are such great bhakts of Shiva, let them go and fight with China and bring back Mansarovar.' Gadfly politician Subramanian Swamy in a typically feisty interview.

'Why has the blame been transferred from those who destroyed the structure to those whose responsibility it was to protect it?'
'What could I do? Do you expect any prime minister, be he a fool or a wiseman, to ignore the advice of his governors? Imagine the consequence if I had stepped in, against the governor's advice, and the situation had gone out of hand!' P V Narasimha Rao speaks out at last!

'We are prepared to sit in the Opposition'
'Nobody can finish off anyone else. No political party can finish off another political party. Neither will we finish off anyone nor will the others finish us off. It is all a wrong notion.' Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, in a rare encounter.

'There is no necessary correlation between Sonia's public meetings and votes on polling day'
'Political parties cannot manufacture charismatic leaders. Charisma comes from being able to take action which is meaningful to the people and at the same time convince them.' Former Union minister K C Pant explains why he left the Congress this week.

'In the last seven years nearly 5 million Biharis have left the state'
'I have known Laloo for the last 30 years. In fact, I know him better than any RJD leader. I know his plus and minus points. And that is the reason why we have been able to gain in Bihar.' Sushil Kumar Modi, the BJP leader who led the campaign against Laloo Yadav in the fodder scam case, in an eloquent interview.

'Does Sonia want to save the DMK and the TMC?'
Congress rebel and Jayalalitha ally Vazhappadi Ramamurthy, in a typically aggressive interview.

'Elections are won on hawa, not on the work an MP does'
'The BJP's plank is stability, but they are fooling the people. When you talk to them privately they themselves say they can't form a government on their own. They can never form a government with their existing allies, because in one-third of the country the BJP does not exist.' Bombay Congress boss Murli Deora, in his most eloquent interview yet.

'Making Kesri Congress president was like giving a knife to a monkey'
'In the Congress, every day it was an effort to be close to Rao, Kesri or Sonia Gandhi. For instance, if you are not on Sonia's side in the Congress now, your marketshare is gone. This stooping down before different leaders is not there in the BJP.' Aslam Sher Khan, in an exclusive interview.

'I don't think Sonia will contest the election'
Sharad Pawar, in a brief encounter.

''What was Kesri? A lackey who became party treasurer through sheer sycophancy'
'Only a mean and a lowly person will stoop to the level of denying a ticket to Narasimha Raoji who has not only been the prime minister but also the former Congress president.' Rao ally Bhuvanesh Chaturvedi, in a hard hitting interview.

'We must look after the Muslims and treat them as part of us'
Bal Thackeray tells Pritish Nandy.

'Is fighting corruption indiscipline?'
Banwarilal Purohit, the BJP MP from Nagpur who was denied a seat this week, blasts the party leadership.

'I was not disappointed with the BJP leadership'
Rajni Patil, the BJP MP from Beed who left the party this week, in candid conversation.

'Zero plus zero adds up to zero. The BJP plus anyone will always be zero'
'The BJP has no scruples, no principles, no ideology except to break up India. Its candidate for prime minister -- whatever he may say today -- has always been a rabid communalist,'' Union Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav trains his guns on the saffron brigade in an exclusive interview to Pritish Nandy.

'Laloo's alliance with Kesri's Congress implies that it is an alliance of criminals'
'How long are we going to keep the Babri mosque as a kind of cut-off date to decide political activities in the country? How long are we going to treat any political party as an untouchable? Because touchability and untouchability have to be decided by the people.' George Fernandes, in a fiery interview.

Advantage Advani
'Hindutva will be alive and potent as long as pseudo-secularists will it to be -- it is up to them. Instability, corruption and thefall in ethical standards are the issues plaguing India today -- and those are the ones we will embrace.' L K Advani tells Varsha Bhosle.

'The BJP's new-found secularism is a reckless exercise to hoodwink the people'
Congress Working Committee member Pranab Mukherjee blasts the saffron party and the United Front, in an exclusive interview.

'Without power, Laloo has gone mad'
Union Railways Minister Ram Vilas Paswan hits out at the Bihar leader.

'Sonia Gandhi is an unopen envelope. Nobody knows what is written inside'
'Once she enters politics, it is only natural that everything will come up. Starting with her refusal to take Indian citizenship for so many years to all issues relating to corruption during the Rajiv Gandhi era...' BJP leader Pramod Mahajan tells Pritish Nandy.

'Kesri's Congress will be wiped out, Sonia or no Sonia'
'I let Soniaji know that I am totally disillusioned with Kesri and his leadership of the Congress. But what did she do? She did not disclose her mind. Kesri expelled me and there was no word from 10 Janpath.' Mamata Banerjee breathes fire in an exclusive interview.

'The Congress is better off without Mamata'
An exclusive interview with West Bengal Congress chief Somen Mitra.

'Gujral is a decent man being exploited by power-crazy UF men'
'The people want me back as I am the undisputed leader of the poor and the downtrodden in Bihar.' An exclusive interview with former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Goodbye Ayodhya!
'Others misguide Muslims. We'll take them along,' says BJP vice-president and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, a key accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, in an exclusive interview.

'If God is with you, the PM's post will come on its own'
''Our voters are very, very mature. Because of the electronic media, they are also well informed,'' Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma tells Pritish Nandy, in an exclusive interview.

BSP wants to split upper-caste vote
'A weak government in New Delhi suits our interests best. We look forward to a majboor (dependent) rather a mazboot (strong) government,'' firebrand BSP leader Mayawati tells Rediff On The NeT.

'Biju was killed by people like Srikant Jena'
'Biju Babu treated Jena like a son and the latter repaid his debt by stabbing by the former in the back.' Dilip Ray, who resigned from the Gujral ministry this week, reveals why the Janata Dal split in Orissa and has decided to form an alliance with the BJP.

'The question of SP leaving the UF does not arise'
So says Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh.

'If the Congress MPs had not been kept confused, they may have changed sides'
Rajiv Pratap Rudy, one of the leaders of the first-term MPs forum, in a revealing interview.