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The Rediff Election Interviews, 1999

'Corruption under his regime has reached the zenith'
'He [Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal] has forgotten all about the Punjab Accord, our river water dispute with Haryana and Rajasthan. He has been busy siphoning off money and filling his pockets.' Simranjit Singh Mann lashes out.

'Pawar would've made a better leader for the Congress'
'She [Sonia Gandhi] is still not known in the country. That is her very big disadvantage. Maybe when she is known, that may become even bigger disadvantage, I do not know! Cho Ramaswamy in full flow.

'There was no consultation over the names. It was George's duty, if not courtesy, to do so'
'He should have at least had the basic decency, to tell me, "Look, there are elections coming in Bihar. We need to prepare the JD-U, and we therefore need to accommodate one more MP from there," and I would have understood. After all, becoming a minister is no one's birthright,' Ramakrishna Hegde tells Krishna Prasad.

'Victory brings its own set of problems'
'Like providing good governance to the people. We put together an implementable manifesto, and we should now put that into action. That is a gigantic task in itself, and the new Congress government in Karnataka should rise up to it as quickly as possible,' says S M Krishna.

'We are not right or left but only forward'
'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,' argues BJP leader Govindacharya.

'Sonia will do very well as prime minister'
'Who has had the experience of running the country as prime minister? Did Atal Bihariji have any experience as prime minister?' asks Congress veteran N D Tiwari.

'Naidu's contribution cannot be measured in direct terms'
'Naidu has taken several initiatives - the creation of the Indian Institute of Information Technology, International Business School, Hi-Tec City, etc - which would bring results in the long term,' says B V R Mohan Reddy.

'When Vajpayeeji's government is reinstalled, naturally my party has to be repaid'
'Jyoti Basu has told his partymen in the rural areas that he will have their guts for garters if the Trinamul makes a similar showing there as my party did in and around Calcutta last year. That is the level of the chief minister's fright,' says Mamta Banerjee.

'Technology is not the issue... It is about managing the change'
'With the basic level of infrastructure that has been created, I would think that within one year we should have sufficient local content which would drive the further growth of the sector', says R Chandrashekhar

'The BJP is selling something which gives indigestion to the people of Bengal'
'The BJP can never get a hold on Bengal. For that reason, I think the BJP-Trinamul alliance is very temporary. Mamta is bound to go away,' feels former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray.

'If a leader is a leader, he cannot be sidelined'
'I was a minister under Narasimha Rao when I ordered the arrest of Chandra Swami. Was I sidelined? Could he sideline me?' Rajesh Pilot, in a forthright interview.

'My goal is to bring together Mulayam Singh and Kalyan Singh under a common banner'
'I wish to forge a re-alignment of backward forces and change the course of the country's politics and undo the damage caused by the likes of Sharad Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav to the cause of the OBCs,' says Sachchidanand Sakshi Maharaj.

'Results will speak for my performance'
'I don't want to paint a rosy picture. But, I must say that we all have worked very hard to revive the Congress party in the state. We have had to rebuild the organisation in the state from scratch. We gave ideological bites to our grassroots workers. We achieved the almost impossible task of winning back the minorities,' says Salman Khurshid.

'The future chief minister of Karnataka will be my leader Yediyurappa, the man who built the BJP brick by brick...'
'When the people empower us to govern, as I am sure they will this time too, why should we sit in the opposition?' asks Civil Aviation Minister, and potential chief minister of Karnataka, Ananth Kumar.

'Kalyan Singh has destroyed Uttar Pradesh'
'I am contesting because I want save the people of Rampur from being divided. Vested interests have been trying to divide our people on the basis of their caste and religion. The Bharatiya Janata Party is at the forefront of this effort. But they will not succeed,' says Begum Noor Bano.

'Congress should be happy if it manages to win Amethi'
'Atal Bihari Vajpayee's charisma is one factor that is working across the country. The National Democratic Alliance will get more than 320 seats and Atal Bihari Vajpayee will head the new government,' says Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi..

'Chandrababu is totally bankrupt. He wants to cling to any straw that comes his way...'
'The way his profile has been built up the outside world thinks he is someone really big, really great. It is not so. People at the grassroots level have seen what he really is', says Y S Rajasekhar Reddy.

'I am still in the family'
I'm a Gandhi. It is a matter of fact. It is only those people who aren't sure about themselves who have to keep proclaiming it,' says Maneka Gandhi.

'I don't give a damn for the exit polls'
Mulayam Singh Yadav says the Congress and the BJP are working to edge his party out of UP, and that the media is hand-in-glove with them.

'A Congress government will certainly be headed only by her'
'The Congress is not averse to Left parties because they have already pledged their support to Sonia months ago. We do not want to mix national politics with state politics,' says K Karunakaran.

'She is an Indian in body and in mind, and loves this country from her heart'
'If she was truly a foreigner in India, wouldn't she have tried to bring us up differently? Would we be so Indian in the way we speak, the way we look, the way we dress?' Priyanka defends her mother.

'I want the PM's position to be a matter of pride for India'
'I am asking a simple question. Had Sonia Gandhi been a Negress, would these people have accepted her? No. The Indians are obsessed with white skin.' S Gurumurthy, outspoken!

'Manipulators get exposed in due course'
'Congressmen never show their own face and win an election. They always show someone else's face. They are incapable of doing anything without the Gandhi family, dead or alive,' says Anant Nag.

The Rediff Election interviews, 1999 - PART 2