By Gyan Varma
Newly appointed President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rajnath Singh, tells Gyan Varma that the Land Acquisition Bill needs some more amendments since it is not absolutely pro-farmer’
Did you know about your selection as the candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president? What was your initial reaction? You had reportedly said the situation under which you have been appointed the party president was not a happy moment...
I was aware that a meeting was taking place in the evening of January 17 but I had no idea that my name was being considered. I was a little surprised that I was not invited for the meeting. That was unusual, and I wondered about the nature of the meeting in which I had not been asked to take part. I thought it was to do with Nitin Gadkari’s re-election as the party president because I had supported his candidature for the second term. It is unfortunate that my colleague [Gadkari] had to resign from the top post because of some baseless allegations. I was pained by the development and so, I have maintained that the situation under which I was appointed the BJP president was not a happy moment.
You are back as the party president after three years. Do you feel you should have got a second term in 2009? Looking back, how do you feel about your previous tenure?
When I was the BJP president in my first term, there was no provision in the party’s constitution for a consecutive term for a president. There was a discussion that the constitution should be amended but I had opposed it. I had categorically said I would not allow it, since it was my last year at the top post. But I had assured the BJP leadership that whosoever became the next BJP president, I would move the proposal to amend the constitution. And so I did at the national executive meeting in Mumbai, and again at the national council meeting in Surajkund. When I look back now, I feel I have gained some experience from my last term.
The BJP’s internal differences are repeatedly being talked about. How do you plan to end the differences among the party’s senior leaders? What is the biggest challenge ahead of you?
There is no such challenge before me as the party president. If there were differences within the BJP, there would not have been a unanimous decision in favour of me.
Assembly elections in Karnataka are due in a few months, and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa is creating problems for the party. Do you plan to speak to Yeddyurappa, or work out a deal to bring him back to the party, like in the cases of Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh?
There is no such proposal to bring Yeddyurappa back to the party before me. We have already started preparing for Assembly elections in Karnataka. And we are hopeful that the BJP will form the next government in the state. The present chief minister is from the Lingayat community, and I don’t think the community is annoyed with the BJP.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is limited to only four alliance partners. With the Lok Sabha elections coming up, how do you plan to expand its alliance. Which are the parties that you consider could join hands with the NDA?
All the allies of the BJP will remain with us, and the NDA will contest elections together. It is possible that a pre-poll alliance with other political parties may happen, but if that doesn’t happen, a post-poll alliance will surely happen. It will only depend on the total number of seats won by the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is one of the most popular leaders of the party. What kind of role do you see for him in the national politics?
There is no doubt that Modi is the most popular leader, but the final decision will be taken by the Central Parliamentary Board.
There is a lot of talk and speculation about the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA. The Janata Dal (United) is of the opinion that the prime ministerial candidate should be named before the election. Who are the strong contenders for the top post. Will the BJP name its candidate before the general elections?
There is a tradition in the BJP that nobody comes forward and claims the post of prime minister or chief minister. This is a healthy tradition. The final decision on whether to announce a prime ministerial candidate before the elections or not will be taken by the Central Parliamentary Board.
Some of the important legislations, including the Lok Pal Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill, the Food Security Bill, could be brought for consideration in the Budget session. Will the BJP support these legislations?
The BJP will definitely support the Food Security Bill. My only worry is the purpose of the Food Bill getting defeated. I am not sure if the Union government has the resources to implement it. But we are in favour of the Bill, and we’ll not go against it. As far as the Land Acquisition Bill is concerned, we think it needs some more amendments. I am still not convinced that the Bill is absolutely pro-farmer, and we are going to participate in a discussion on it in Parliament.
The BJP has decided to boycott Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on his comments on saffron terror...
We will boycott Shinde out of Parliament. The home minister should express regret for his comments, and he should take it back. We will raise the issue in Parliament but we will not disturb the Budget session.
What kind of Union Budget do you want to see, given the low economic growth and rupee devaluation?
The Budget should have a vision for the country’s comprehensive development. The government should find an answer to control the fiscal deficit. The current account deficit is at more than four per cent; the value of rupee has also fallen. During the NDA regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India was a current account surplus country; now it has become a current account deficit one. Inflation has also remained in double-digits. The government has not been able to control these for a long time. The Budget should find answers to these issues. I strongly believe these concerns have not been answered by the government, given the Union government’s economic policies and lack of planning.
Within a span of three months, the Union government decided on both Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab’s execution. Do you think it’s the Congress’ strategy to divert attention?
I believe such decisions should be taken at the earliest. Once their mercy petitions were rejected, and because the legal procedures were in their last stage, the decisions to execute them had to be made. It would have been nicer if the government had not delayed these so much.