April 11, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Tamil Nadu BJP President L Ganesan

'We got what we deserve'

For a party that opened its account in the assembly only in the last election, the BJP has found quite a privileged spot in the DMK-led front in Tamil Nadu.

As the second largest ally, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has magnanimously allotted 21 seats to the party in the forthcoming assembly election. And even if the Tehelka expose did pose any problem for Karunanidhi, at no point did he show shown any indication of being ruffled.

L Ganesan, the Tamil Nadu state BJP President candidly discussed the run-up to the election, including the impact of theTehelka expose, in an interview to Shobha Warrier.

Here in Tamil Nadu, the DMK-led front of which you are a part, is trying to project itself as a clean front against the previous corrupt AIADMK regime. Now, what are you telling the people after the Tehelka expose?

Even now, we will tell people that ours is a party with difference. When there are accusations, we are prepared for an inquiry. On the other hand, the leader of the other side (AIADMK front) is not only chargesheeted but convicted too. Those who are with the party (AIADMK) want to make the leader of the party their chief minister! We will explain this clearly to the people of Tamil Nadu, and I am sure they will understand the difference between that alliance and this alliance.

It is highly unlikely that some positive result will come out of the inquiry before the election?

That's why this time was chosen for such a scandal. Because elections are so near. The time chosen make us feel suspicious about the motive behind the expose.

Yes, the present judicial system in our country is such that you cannot know the truth before the assembly election. Even if they conduct the inquiry on a daily basis, the verdict will be out only after six months. By then, the election will be over. And that is exactly what they wanted.

The general talk is that the DMK has been very kind to the BJP by offering 23 seats and also making you the second largest ally in Tamil Nadu. Some even say that the BJP does not deserve these many seats. Your comment?

We got what we deserve.

How many seats do you expect to win?

We have selected the constituencies which are winnable by the BJP. We will try to get all 21 seats in the constituencies identified by us. Don't be surprised if we win all 21 seats!

Many, for example the MDMK, which has a cadre base throughout the state, is quite unhappy with the way they were allotted seats.

The allotment of seats is a very difficult job, especially when there is a mad rush for the NDA. That itself is a good signal and I am sure our front is going to win. All those who wanted to form a third front are now ready to join the NDA. When the number of parties in the front increase, it is tough to allot seats. There will be some heart burning for some. It is quite natural. But as far as the BJP is concerned, we are happy.

There are so many political parties in Tamil Nadu now. Is there enough space for all these parties?

The so-called castiest parties also have come to the NDA. In a way, that is good. Otherwise, they would propagate on caste lines. Now, that will not happen. They now have to talk about the National Democratic Front, about Atal Bihari Vajpayee and about Karunanidhi.

Is it good to have parties that represent castes? Are the big parties not trying to exploit these castiest parties?

I agree it is not good for Tamil Nadu at all but we have to find out why there are such political parties. Why they are getting the support of the people who belong to a particular caste. Is it because they have some genuine grievances, their interests have not been taken care of by other political parties. That is the reason why they are encouraged by its members.

Do you feel it was because of the failure of the Dravidian parties and the Dravidian movement itself?

No, I don't want to comment on that. One thing is certain -- all those who have floated these parties are from the Dravidian school of thought.

By inviting these castiest parties to your front, are you also not encouraging castiest parties?

I don't agree. By joining the NDA, they have joined a broader front. So, there is no question of talking about caste now. But if you allow them to remain as castiest parties, during elections, they will say: 'We belong to this particular caste. So, all of you who belong to this caste vote for us'. In a way, I welcome the move of the NDA chief Karunanidhi.

But are these two fronts not looking at these castiest parties as vote banks?

Everybody's concern is to win the election. So, to win the election, we as a partner of the NDA have given full freedom to the chief to include as many political parties as he wants. Naturally, he has invited all the political parties.

The talk is that Jayalalitha is in an advantageous position because she has the support of the Thevars in the southern districts and the Vanniyars in the northern districts…

See, every political party has the freedom to evolve their strategies. The DMK or the AIADMK may think on those lines but the BJP des not think on those lines. We have listed the constituencies only on our organizational strength. We have not thought of any caste background or even Hindu vote bank.

Do you feel the time has come for a coalition government in Tamil Nadu?

No, not at all. The DMK will win on its own and I am sure about it. The question of coalition does not arise at all.

So going back to the earlier question, will the Tehelka expose affect the DMK led front in Tamil Nadu? There is a feeling among people that there is no difference between the BJP and the Congress.

Yes, there was an immediate shock all over (the country). Even I was shocked on that day. But now that we have explained our position, people have realized that whatever was shown was false propaganda.

How can anyone say that? The video shows your party president accepting money and putting it in the drawer? Don't you think the picture will have a greater impact on the minds of people than any explaining on your party's part?

I agree with you. But then, the person, Mathew Samuel, as he gives the money says it is for the party as donation. While accepting the donation also, Bangaru Laxman says, this was the first donation for the New Year. Both say that the donation is for the party. These things are very clear in the video clippings. Now, the acting President Jana Krishnamurthy also says that it is accounted for in the party accounts. So, the problem is over.

Okay, for arguments sake, we agree that something has gone wrong. But Bangaru Laxman has resigned, and so have Jaya Jaitly and George Fernandes. And, what more do you want? We are prepared for any inquiry. For a debate in the Parliament but the Congress is not prepared.

We have even invited Sonia Gandhi for an open debate on Doordarshan but she is not ready. Why? It is very clear that the Congress has no argument to put before the people. That is the reason why they stalled the proceedings of the Parliament. So, I will say that all this is going to be counter-productive for the Congress party. People have realized what exactly is happening.

You mean people will understand your point of view?

Of course. We will not only defend ourselves but also remind people about all previous scams, from Bofors to the suitcase to Harshad Mehta. Has any prime minister resigned because of those scams? We will explain everything to the people.

If the donation Bangaru Laxman accepted was for the party, why did you ask him to resign?

We did not ask him to resign. He did it on his own.

But what he initially said was that he would not resign but after a meeting with the prime minister, he resigned. Does it not mean that he was forced to resign?

He might have said so first but later, he might have felt that it was better for the party if he resigned.

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