'Are Muslims going to dictate terms in UP?'
Bhartiya Janata Party will not support either Bahujan Samaj Party or Samajwadi Party, says veteran BJP leader Lalji Tandon in an interview to Faisal Kidwai.
Urban voters have participated in unprecedented numbers and that will change the game for the BJP, says Lok Sabha MP Lalji Tandon. Calling the exit polls bogus, Tandon said the election results will surprise BJP detractors.
Excerpts from an interview with BJP leader Lalji Tandon.
Exit polls are projecting BJP at third or fourth position. The party must have conducted a poll of its own, so what is your reading?
If you remember, exit polls had projected a drubbing of BJP in Gujarat, but we proved them wrong. In Bihar, the party was expected to perform badly, but we proved them wrong there, too. I don't know who finances or backs these polls, maybe it's Congress, but we don't pay any attention to the numbers claimed by the media.
So, what's your projection?
We will get somewhere near 170 seats, that's our projection. We are hopeful of a good showing because this time urban voters have taken the trouble to vote in great numbers. They work for us for four years, but don't come out and vote. However, this time they have voted for us. Plus, we have seen a surge in support among the poorest of the poor, so the results will prove the detractors wrong.
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'BJP will not lend support to any party'
If you are unable to secure that many seats, would you consider supporting BSP or SP?
No. We will not back any party. We don't have anything in common with SP and we have had a bad experience with BSP, so we have decided not to support either of them.
Even if there is a possibility of President's rule?
We are confident of securing a good position but, even if we fail, we will not lend support to any party.
Some are saying that the expected poor showing by the BJP is due to lack of leadership and infighting. Do you agree with them?
Unlike other parties, the BJP is not ruled by a family or one person, it's a collective. We take part in elections as an organisation and don't bank on a single personality. Sure, we have had leaders of national stature, such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but we have always competed as a party and never built a cult around anybody. So, to say that lack of leadership might hurt us ignores that fact that we are not a family-dominated- or personality-dominated party.
As far as infighting is concerned, we might have differences inside the party, but we never go public. Whatever differences we have, we sort them out among ourselves, unlike other parties.
Take Congress, for instance. Digvijay Singh, a senior Congress leader, says something, but it is denied by Beni Prasad Verma, a Congress politician from UP.
Or, take Samajwadi Party. A member will say something today and the party will deny it tomorrow. All these parties are well-known for infighting and intrigue, while the BJP is known as a tight-knit organisation.
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Image: Uma Bharti, BJP in-charge of Uttar Pradesh
'Congress is not providing anything extra to Muslims'
You have said that the party doesn't believe in projecting a leader or banking on a personality, then why did the BJP bring in Uma Bharti from Madhya Pradesh to boost the party's numbers?
Well, what can I say? She is a national leader, she has a following and she is an asset to the party. There was even talk of her becoming the chief minister.
Don't you think that is bit odd considering the party already has senior leaders like you?
It is for the party to decide who becomes chief minister. As far as I'm concerned, I have no interest in that post. I have always worked for the party and to make this country great and will continue to do so. We still haven't shaped India the way we want to, so there's a lot of work left for me.
The party claims that it is moving away from divisive issues and is focusing more on things that matter more to the common people, such as employment and infrastructure. But then it brings in a firebrand like Uma Bharti. Do you think inviting her to UP could cost the party votes, especially of Muslims?
Are the Muslims going to dictate who we invite? Are they going to tell us whether we have saffron or some other colour? We are not going to let them tell us who should be in our party and who shouldn't be. We are not playing vote-bank politics. It is parties like Congress that are bringing up religion by announcing reservation for Muslims.
By the way, the Constitution doesn't allow reservations based on religion. I have asked the Congress many times to clarify whether the reservation they have announced for Muslims is part of the reservation quota already in place or will they be provided separate quota, but they still haven't provided a clear answer.
The thing to remember is that the quota, according to Supreme Court's ruling, cannot exceed 50 per cent, so that means the Congress is talking about the quota that already exists. In other words, they are not providing anything extra to Muslims, just hot air.
Image: Rahul Gandhi speaks to villagers in Uttar Pradesh