National interest today demands that Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party seriously think of forming a coalition government -- based on a common minimum programme -- after the next general elections, filmstar-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha has said.
Asserting that his vision of a joint BJP-Congress government fits into the 'India First' concept of his party's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, the BJP MP said such a decision by the leaders of the two parties would result in a strong and stable national government, which is the need of the hour.
It would prevent any blackmailing tactics from regional players and smaller parties in the event of a fractured mandate after next year's general elections, he said.
On a weekend-trip to Washington, the 67-year-old BJP leader said he was speaking as a conscious citizen and as an artist for whom the nation is first and is on top of all other priorities.
"This is certainly not my party's view. But I hope, wish and pray that one day it becomes my party's view as well as the view of other parties including the Congress party," Sinha told PTI in an interview.
"It is time for India First and not party first," he asserted, adding that the first option would be to form a majority government of the BJP at the centre.
But in case of a hung parliament, the two parties should give a serious thought to a strong coalition government based on a common minimum programme, he added.
Recollecting the bitter experiences of the NDA and the current UPA, Sinha argued that a BJP-Congress government is essential to "end the daily political blackmailing" by smaller and regional parties in the event of a hung parliament.
Arguing that "No one is untouchable in Indian politics now," Sinha cited the examples of various political formations in the past at both national and state levels to buttress his point of a joint BJP-Congress government, which he said is the need of the hour to have a strong and credible national government that would send a strong message to the world.
Sinha said both the Congress and the BJP have a lot in common when it comes to national interest. This includes a similar view on foreign policy, defence issues, and economic reforms.
It is in the interest of the nation that both the Congress and BJP should keep aside their differences, come together to develop a common minimum programme to address larger national issues like poverty, corruption and transparency.
Noting that the prime minister should be from the party having maximum number of seats and on a rotational basis if the two parties have equal number of seats, Sinha, however acknowledged that there are no takers for his views inside the party.
But he hoped that leaders from both the Congress and the BJP would give a serious thought to it in the next six months even as they fight it out against each other in the electoral battlefield.
"If DMK and Congress can join hands together, Mulayam Singh Yadav supports Congress; Mayawati forms government with support from the BJP, Mamata can be part of the both NDA and UPA at different times, why can the BJP and Congress not work together?" Sinha asked.
"The question is in the large national interest, functioning of the government, good governance, stable government, and of course a government of checks and balances, why can't Congress and BJP join hands together," the senior BJP leader asked, insisting that his views are purely personal and do not in any way reflect the views of his party.
"Both the Congress and the BJP have learned and intelligent people, both have popular leaders and our policies are almost the same -- economic policy, foreign policy, industry, defence and terrorism," he added.
Responding to questions, Sinha said there is no time for a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the BJP, but in the national interest the two parties should have "room for flexibility" to consider a post-poll alliance.
"I am sure even in the Congress, many young leaders, even senior people, who are matured and learned and even in BJP leaders like L K Advani, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Shourie, Sushma Swaraj...there should be churning on this issue," he said.
"Modi has given a great concept of India First. It is a visionary thing. He (Modi) has said 'India First'. I am also saying the same thing, country is above party and politics," Sinha said.