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September 20, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/ L Ganeshan

'We are not in a hurry, the Ram temple is going to come and nobody can prevent it'

T hese days, if one wants to enter the Bharatiya Janata Party office in Madras, one has to pass through several hurdles; the first hurdle is facing the interrogation of the security guards, which can irritate even the most patient person and then there will be a vigorous searching of the bag. Even after all that, the guard wants to make sure that you are from the press. He hasn't heard of, so he wants to know 'what it is' and then asks for my card," recalls Shobha Warrier.

"By the time I am let in, I have become quite irritated. But once you are inside the office, you meet only friendly and cordial faces and that includes Tamil Nadu BJP general secretary L Ganeshan.

Jayalalitha has attracted huge crowds everywhere. Does it worry you?

See, makamis a nakshatram that comes every month. Masi makam comes once in a year. And mahamakam comes once in twelve years. I am like makam nakshatram and when I go around every month, there will only be a small crowd to listen to me. Karunanidhi is like masimakam and he goes to all places once a year and Jayalalitha is like maha makam. She comes out once in twelve years! You can say whenever there is an election.

Naturally there will be more crowds to see her because they don't otherwise get an opportunity to see her at all. That does not mean that people will vote for her or support her.

I have seen Jaya TV that shows her meetings all the time. I have noticed that the crowd behaves as if it is a marketplace. Nobody seems to be listening to her. But in our meetings, people listen to us with rapt attention.

Why do you talk about Sonia's foreign origin all the time? Ordinary Indians do not think she is a foreigner. For them, she is a bahu who belongs to her husband's place.

Yes, it is a fact we are raising the issue of Sonia's origin. Whether anybody likes it or not, it is the talk of the day. Let me tell you about one of the pages of Indian National Congress's history written by Pattabhi Seetharamaiah. It says, 'In 1946, Abul Kalam Azad, the then president of the Indian National Congress, had written to the British Governor General opposing foreigners participating in the elections of India. He said, I have no objection in them staying here but we will not allow foreigners contesting in the elections'. And the working committee passed a resolution supporting the move. That is the history of the Indian National Congress. Of course, the present Congress has nothing to do with the original Congress; that was Mahatma Gandhi's Congress and this is Sonia's Congress.

On August 9, 1942, the Congress said, Quit India. In 1996, on the same day, August 9, Sitaram Kesri, as president of the Congress, invited Sonia to take over the Congress. Remember, on Quit India day!

Sonia's origin is only one of the issues and not the main or the only issue. We tell people, you compare Vajpayee with Sonia. Vajpayee has parliamentary experience of 40 years while Sonia has not even faced a panchayat election. Vajpayee knows many languages and Sonia is not even fluent in one language. Vajpayee is a highly educated person while nobody knows Sonia's educational qualifications. Finally we say Vajpayee is an Indian and Sonia is an Italian.

Vajpayee recently said controversial issues like the construction of the Ram temple and imposition of the Uniform Civil Code would not be taken up by the NDA.

See, we are realistic. We are facing the election with the help of some twenty parties. Whatever we want to do, we have put forward in the NDA election manifesto. We will implement only the things that are there in the NDA manifesto when elected to power. And this manifesto is for the next five years. If at all we want to think about those issues, we will go to the people and only then will we do it.

That is what I wanted to ask you. The NDA manifesto does not mention those issues, but some of your leaders are talking about it. Then, Vajpayee had to intervene and assure the people that those issues wouldn't be taken up.

The MDMK in its manifesto says it wants a separate Eelam. The DMK in its manifesto says Article 356 should be scrapped. So, various parties have various opinions. The BJP also has a manifesto of its own. Still all these parties have come together under the NDA manifesto. But we will implement only the accepted points that are there in the NDA manifesto. That does not mean we have given up all those issues.

So, the BJP has not given up on those issues.

Need not. The DMK has its own policies, the MDMK has its own policies and the BJP also has its own.

Does that mean the BJP will take up these issues later on?

Yes. We are not apologetic. We don't feel sorry about what had been raised. At present we are realistic that we cannot do anything. That is why those things are kept in abeyance.

What is the necessity to have a Ram temple at Ayodhya when more than 35 per cent of Indians don't even get one square meal a day? Why do you want to take up a religious issue like this when there are many more burning issues?

Having one meal is a different subject and having a Ram temple another. We want both; both Ram and roti. We never said, you sacrifice Ram for the sake of roti or sacrifice roti for the sake of Ram.

What is more important?

Both the mind and the stomach, because we are human beings. But at present there is no need for any political party to support the Ram temple issue because things are moving in such a way that there is no Babri Masjid. The structure is not there at all and only the temple exists there. The BJP intervened because the other political parties opposed the move. Now, there is no need for any political party to interfere in the Ram temple issue. But it is not necessary to talk about that at all as it is mentioned in the NDA. In the next five years, we will strictly follow only the points that are agreed upon in the NDA manifesto.

Why do you mix politics with religion?

You are asking me this question when we have not mentioned anything about religion in the NDA manifesto. We have not talked about the Ram temple at all. Still you are asking me the question.

Some BJP leaders did talk about the Ram temple recently.

See, when you ask a question, we have to reply. Otherwise, we would have kept quiet. You people are provoking and getting some answers from us. Constructing the Ram temple is not a religious issue. It is a national issue.

How can it be a national issue?

It is not a religious issue at all. It is a national issue. So, we are not mixing religion with politics.

In India, we have people belonging to all faiths. If the construction of a temple is going to create fights and cause bloodshed and loss of innocent lives, why do you need a temple? Are not human lives more important than a temple?

This malicious propaganda is the creation of the Congress and the Communist parties. After we won Independence, Sardar Patel formed a committee to rebuild the Somnath temple where there was a structure. He demolished the structure and constructed a temple in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi. Nobody objected to it. When Sardar Patel, a Congressman and the then home minister, can reconstruct the Somnath temple by removing a mosque-like structure, what is wrong in removing the Babri Masjid and constructing a Ram temple?

The thing is, the Babri Masjid structure should not have been removed the way it was removed. We never liked it. We want the Muslims also to come forward to remove the monument as a token. That was our idea. What had happened on December 6, was very painful and was not in our plan.

Because of all this, the minorities in India feel unsafe when the BJP is ruling. You know that, don't you?

It is all because of the propaganda by the Congress leaders. They talked as if a mosque was demolished when there was no mosque at all. A mosque-like structure was there with a Ram temple inside. Under the BJP rule, Muslims are living peacefully and mosques are also safe. But a different impression was created by the Congress. But let me tell you, this is not the right time to discuss the Ram temple at all. The Ram temple issue can wait for another five years. We are not in a hurry. It is going to come and nobody can prevent it.

If you have got acceptance all over India today, is it not because of Vajpayee as he is seen as a moderate person by all communities? Many people are not sure about the party.

Vajpayee is great, I agree. He is liked by all sections of the people. I accept that.

Don't you feel it is not the party but the person and his image that has got acceptance?

We are happy about the praise Vajpayee is receiving. At the same time, all we want to say is Vajpayee himself agrees that he is here because of the party. Vajpayee repeatedly claims that whatever good quality he has is because of the BJP. He goes to the extent of saying that it was because of the RSS training that he got in his boyhood! Remember it is because the tree is good, the fruits are also good.

It is like this: the roots are RSS, the tree is the BJP and the fruit is Vajpayee. So, if you call Vajpayee moderate, the BJP is moderate and the RSS also is moderate. We are happy that at least the fruit has been accepted by the public and the press. They will accept the tree and the roots later!

I agree with you that the onus of proving to the world that the BJP is not communal lies with us. The Communist parties and the Congress parties, for the past 40 years, through repeated propaganda created an impression that the BJP is communal. If they say the BJP is a Hindu party, I don't feel sorry about it. But branding us anti-Muslim and communal is not correct.

But when you are called a Hindu party, won't you be restricting yourself to the Hindus? Don't you want to known as a political party?

You are asking me the question because of the mistaken interpretation of the word Hindu. When we say Hindu, it does not mean any religion. Hindu is not a religion, it is a way of life, it is a dharma, a culture, and a nationality. India and Hindustan are the same. The citizens of Hindustan are the Hindus, like the citizens of America are called the Americans and the citizens of China are called the Chinese.

Recently when I interviewed Sankaraiah he said the BJP would desert all its regional partners and show its true RSS colours once you get power. Your comments.

Sankaraiah and the Marxist parties have lost credibility. Nobody believes them. I want to pose a question to Sankaraiah. Both the RSS and the Marxist parties were founded in the same year, 1925. And the Communists are repeatedly propagating that the RSS, Jan Sangh and the BJP are communal. From two seats, we have become the ruling party now. But the votebank of the Marxist parties is shrinking gradually. Now, they cannot even contest a single assembly constituency on their own. So, by repeatedly saying we are communal, they are losing and we are gaining.

What does that show? That the BJP is not a communal party and the people do not believe what the Marxists say.

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