We miss Vajpayee, says Arun Jaitley (Interview)

April 29th, 2009 - 3:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Darshan Desai
New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) A day ahead of the third round of Lok Sabha polls, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley has conceded that his party does miss former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the “tallest leader,” but said this will have no impact on the final outcome.

“Of course, we miss him. He is the tallest leader,” Jaitley told IANS in an interview, quickly adding that it would not have an adverse effect on the final election result. Vajpayee, 86, is out of action because of ill health.

“Every leader has different qualities and strengths, Advaniji has his own, Atalji has his,” the 57-year-old key BJP strategist said, when asked if L.K. Advani (81), the party’s prime ministerial candidate, would carry the same weight in the elections.

He claimed that the party’s assessment after the first two phase of the polls was that “there is a greater possibility of predominance of a non-Congress and anti-Congress grouping after the elections, the nucleus of which will be the BJP”.

But where are the allies BJP will need to form a government? “I replied to this. Show me one major state where the Congress is getting a majority.”

Jaitley sees a revival of BJP in Uttar Pradesh, where it got only 10 of the 80 seats in 2004, “because of the important Ajit Singh alliance and also better (selection of) candidates”.

Enthused by the ghost of the Bofors scandal rearing its head during the elections, he said: “Bofors will surely be an issue now and this will help us. The Congress is in the dock.”

But he added: “No, no… it will not supersede our other issues. It will be one of the important issues.”

So is Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi prime minister material? Jaitley answered: “There is no confusion anywhere except in the media. It is not we broached it on our own. Someone asked Arun Shourie about Modi, and he said he had the capacity.

“Then, you people (media) asked me, I said I am happy if someone praises Modi; the headline comes next ‘Jaitley seconds Shourie’,” he laughed.

Is the BJP more focussed on personal attacks on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rather that speaking of real issues in the campaign?

“I don’t agree. Terrorism and economy are the two issues and when we call the prime minister to be weak, this fact emerges from his handling of them,” Jaitley said.

He opined that the “political structures in our country are not disciplined enough,” when told that the party’s issues were not heard as loud as Varun Gandhi’s reported inflammatory speeches or the leaders’ constant harping on “weak PM”.

“This is why sometimes side incidents occupy more media space and you think the issues are not heard. But such incidents don’t occupy ground space,” Jaitley added.

“I feel”, he continued, “there has been a maturing of the Indian electorate which looks at real problems, development. Caste and religion still work, but more on the side.”

Is this why terrorism, Amarnath Yatra and the Ram Sethu have a shorter shelf life now?

“Now, you have to put this in perspective. See, terrorism, Amarnath, Ram Sethu still have the capacity to mobilise nationalistic fervour.”

And he explained in the same vein that by voter maturity he meant that “irresponsible attacks on a pub or some other place are disliked by most in India. Don’t club irresponsible conduct with ideological position”.

He denied that the BJP government in Karnataka supported the Sri Ram Sene, the self-styled Hindu moralistic brigade which attacked a pub in Mangalore and beat up women.

“No, we did not. We disowned them completely,” he said. And on Varun Gandhi’s reported hate speeches, he said: “(Similarly) our position was always clear.”

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