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October 5, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/K N Govindacharya

'We are not right or left but only forward'

KN Govindacharya, the controversial general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was sidelined by party leaders not long ago. A rumoured association with a senior BJP leader was reportedly used by rivals within the party to isolate the party's leading ideologue. He was, however, entrusted with some important assignments during the current election campaign.

The soft-spoken Govindacharya was constantly in touch with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Rajendra Singh in Delhi to discuss the parent organisation's strategy and ensure that its dictates were duly carried out by BJP leaders and grass root workers.

In an exclusive interview with A Ganesh Nadar in Lucknow, Govindacharya took time off from his busy schedule to share his thoughts.

How has the BJP gained at the Congress' expense?

We had planned the strategy three months ago. We had decided that besides Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, we should gain 40 seats in the rest of the country. In UP and Bihar we wanted to retain the seats we won last time. Hence, we came up with a separate strategy for UP and Madhya Pradesh and something else for the rest of the country.

What is your vision for India?

First of all, the basic needs of every citizen -- clothes, food, shelter and education -- should be guranteed. This is the ABC of progress of this nation. If this is fulfilled, the Indian youth will have the confidence to raise this country to the top of the world.

Social polarisation was expected after Mandal and the emergence of the Bahujan Samaj Party. It hasn't happened. Why?

I feel the BSP had good potential but it failed because they conducted politics for themselves. If it were intelligent enough to formulate policies for Dalits and widen its base to other Other Backward Caste groups, they would have done good service to the country. But they failed in their duties, they got confined to their own petty political interests.

Does Hinduism still play an important part in politics?

Hinduism is the essence of Indian nationalism. Hinduism will continue to dominate the scene till nationalism is there.

You have put all your ideals on the backburner. You have compromised your ideals for power. Why?

This is not true. It is a transitional phase in which we have increased our strength gradually. So we have not missed those issues. They have been suspended for some time, i.e. five years.

Wasn't Advani's rath yatra a counter to Mandal, and was it not your brain child?

No! Advani's rath yatra was planned in June 1990 itself. In fact, Mandal happened in August 1990 and the rath yatra started on September 25. There was general confusion that the rath yatra was a retaliation to Mandal. But in reality, it was planned on June 29. There was no connection between the two. And it was not my idea, it was a collective party decision.

Isn't it true that to survive and thrive in politics you have to move to the Centre than remain on the right?

No! We are not right or left but only forward. Our first concern is nationalism and the second is the poor. If you see the pro-poor approach, you will veer to the left. If you take nationalism, you will veer to the right. We are neither. We are only forward looking.

What proof is there that you won't follow your own agenda if you get an absolute majority. Can we trust the BJP?

Our track record has been that we ran an honest coalition government with a national agenda. This time we put forward our national agenda even before the election. It will be the basic document for governance. Even if we get an absolute majority we will be forming the government with our allies.

What are your achievements?

Pokhran which allowed us to raise our head high and an honest approach for solving the Cauvery issue. Despite all the sanctions laid down by the West, Indian foreign reserves are the highest today, inflation rate is at its lowest and the food grain production is at an all time high in 1999. Other than this we have initiated a lot of welfare programmes such as free education for girl child etc.

What is the difference between the BJP and the Congress?

For the Congress power is the purpose. For us power is what we use to serve the poorest of the poor. For them, politics is just a business. For us it is a mission. The Congress is a party of candidates for power. But we are a party of workers with a mission.

Apart from jingoism, do you have any remedy for real life problems like poverty, hunger and illiteracy?

We feel a proper rural orientation is necessary. India's problems can never be solved if like the Congress we invest in exports. We feel that increase in agriculture, proper wages, employment in the rural sector are the solutions to all our problems. We believe in more decentralised industries in rural areas. If small sector industries spread in the rural areas, then the problems can be solved.

The trend is towards globalisation. You think your small scale industries are going to succeed?

Even now the world is trying to capture our market. We should see to it that in the World Trade Organisation whatever unnecessary steps have been taken should be reviewed in November. India should take strong steps to change the unbalanced policies and decisions of WTO.

What about quality?

For quality, internal competition is enough not multinationals. What is quality in potato chips, cola and food processing. Our own people can compete and do all this. In automobiles, heavy industry etc where technology and quality are concerns, we should take help from the West. There is nothing wrong in it.

In China, electricity is available for one rupee per unit, and in West Asia it is available for 45 paise. How can we compete with them?

We can compete only by setting up small plants and subsidising exporters. Textiles, computer software, diamonds etc are some more sectors that need to be promoted.

Your government is exporting rice. Do you think we should export rice when our people are starving?

We should have a clear picture of our consumption and only export the surplus.

If you give subsidies only to exporters then the Indian consumer ends up paying more. What happens then?

But then foreign exchange is needed. Other countries are doing the same thing. We have to compete.

But if the price is higher in the local market, a consumer can import at a cheaper price. Then?

We subsidise fertilisers and diesel. Subsidy is a part of the economy, which is decided in the national interest.

When the framers of the Constitution decided on caste-based reservation, they had said it is a temporary measure. We have these reservations even after five decades. What do you say?

The Supreme Court has decided that 50 per cent reservation should be there.

But in Tamil Nadu, we have 69 per cent and in Andhra Pradesh I think it is 72 per cent. What about that?

In Tamil Nadu there has been reservations ever since 1902. In 1898, in Mysore state, there were reservations.

How long will you persist with reservation .You need guts to do away with it.

If your younger brother is sick and he needs medicine, the doctor says that he will get well in three days. He doesn't. The patient will have to take the medicine for a few more days. You cannot say that the doctor said three days and therefore I will not give my brother medicine. The point is that reservation will continue till the disparity continues.

What about merit?

It is the debt of your ancestors you are paying for centuries of oppression. Merit of the individual is secondary to the merit of the nation. Reservation is the remedy for social and cultural deprivation and not economic deprivation. So don't talk about economic reasons for reservations.

A few persons becoming meritorious cannot take the country forward. We should move forward as a country. The people who live with pigs do not know what is available to them. We have to help them. This reservation kindles a desire in them that they too can move forward.

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