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February 9, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/Jana Krishnamurthy

'We do not have Ayodhya on our agenda. But we do not set the agenda for others'

K Jana Krishnamurthy, 69, long associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Jana Sangh, remained with the Bharatiya Janata Party when it was established in 1980, and is currently its national vice president. Besides being in charge of the BJP headquarters at Delhi, he co-ordinates the party's activities in different states, and was specifically responsible for building up the BJP in the southern states. Hailing from a leading family of lawyers, Krishnamurthy is a fourth generation advocate himself, and is a well recognised member of the Madurai Bar.

Krishnamurthy is the BJP's candidate from the prestigious Madras South constituency whose representatives in the past were C N Annadurai (the first DMK chief minister of Tamil Nadu) and R Venkataraman (the former President). His main thrust is on integrity and honesty in both public and private life, and as the publicity pamphlets put it, he is the 'right man for the right job in the right party'.

In an interview to V Ram, Krishnamurthy speaks about the current political scenario and his own poll prospects.

How did you reach an electoral understanding with the AIADMK?

I had personally done the spadework a few months ago through personal talks, which not even the intelligence agencies here were aware of. While we could reach a tacit understanding initially, she herself offered an open agreement, after making her own evaluation of the ground situation. We have been offered five seats to contest, mainly in constituencies where we have a reasonable electoral base of our own.

Was the attitude of the AIADMK big brotherly when it came to accommodating you?

Not at all. The BJP respects Jayalalitha as a force in Tamil Nadu and she is aware too of our pre-eminence on the national scene. Likewise, other parties in the alliance such as the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Pattali Makkal Katchi led by Dr S Ramadoss have their own areas of influence and this has been suitably acknowledged by her.

What are the prospects for the BJP, all India?

Overall, at the national level, we (the BJP and its alliance partners) are sure of getting a clear majority to form the next government. There are already all the signs of a clear edge for the BJP. The seat sharing arrangements have been finalised in most states without much problems.

We have offered a clear option to the electorate by naming Atal Bihari Vajpayee as our prime ministerial candidate. None of the other parties has dared to name its own leader of the government.

What are the prospects for the BJP in Tamil Nadu this time?

We will surely open our own account in TN for the Lok Sabha this time. The parliamentary election is being held independently and not along with the assembly poll where local issues dominate. The issue is 'who is to govern India', and the people will support the BJP over this issue.

We have been making steady progress in Tamil Nadu. Last time we got our first assembly representation and about six of our candidates had come close to winning the assembly elections. Also, P Radhakrishnan, the BJP candidate in Nagercoil, had lost the last time by a mere 20,000 votes. Jayalalitha's support should improve our prospects tremendously this time.

The BJP claims to be against corruption in government and politics. Yet, the party has now aligned with Jayalalitha who has been accused by the present government in TN, of high corruption.

The BJP is the first and only party to raise its voice against corruption. Like water, corruption flows from a higher to the lower level. When the BJP is in power, the Centre will be honest -- leading to a dry-up in corruption. In the 50 years of Congress and the UF rule, everyone -- householders, agriculturists, industrialists, professors -- have been made dependent on the government even for day to day life, and this is the major cause of corruption. We would be tackling this as a priority.

Anyone in power at whom specific charges of corruption have been made must step down and face the law, and can be reinstated only after being cleared of the charges. Now, in Jayalalitha's case, the charges have been framed after she has stepped down from power. She is not avoiding the charges and she has even been in prison for a month. The BJP will never interfere with the process of law and there is no compromise in the partnership. The courts will decide on the charges. But there is also the people's court, and public opinion at the polls will also decide the standing of a person or a party.

Does the RSS have any reservations over this alliance, in view of its anti-corruption stand?

No. The RSS has full faith in the BJP leadership and does not interfere in the party's strategies. There is no conflict of interest here.

Will the Ayodhya issue play a major role in the present election?

The situation now is not what it was in 1991. It is not an issue anymore. The Ram temple is there and we are for it and this will come about -- either through negotiations or the court. We do think that legislation on the subject may not even be necessary. The Imam of Ka'aba has also advised Muslims to adopt a spirit of positive negotiations to resolve this issue.

We do not have Ayodhya on our agenda. But you must remember that we do not set the agenda for others. The VHP and other organisations are independent.

What will be the BJP's attitude towards the minorities if it comes to power?

The idea that the BJP is hostile to the minorities has been impregnated by some of the opposing parties. In reality, this is not so. There is evidence of perfect harmony with the minorities in sensitive states governed by the BJP and its allies. We highly revere people like Dr Abdul Kalam who have contributed to the motherland. The basic problem, as we have identified, is the largescale illiteracy among the minorities and the reluctant low opportunity for employment for them. If this is tackled, the differences and the feeling of neglect will automatically come down. Appeasement is not the solution to the problem.

In what way is the BJP a party 'with a difference' as is being claimed?

There is a big difference -- the style of governmental functioning, rapport with the states ruled by different parties, priorities for facing national issues, capability to deliver results in a short time and efficiently.

I am reminded of an ad, by an oil major at a petrol bunk that I came across recently -- 'Fill up and feel the difference!' Test us!

The Rediff Election Interviews