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Coalition with large parties better, says PM
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 9
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee believes it is better to have a coalition with “large parties” and that General Election should not be viewed in the limited perspective of who gets or doesn’t get minority votes.

Rejecting suggestions that he had expressed fatigue at running a coalition of more than one score disparate political parties pursuing their own agenda, he maintained “we are not late in realising the need for a coalition, the Congress is.”

In contrast, even now the Congress faith in coalition politics was half-hearted and its capacity suspect, the Prime Minister observed in an interview to The Tribune.

Elaborating, Mr Vajpayee said the Congress had failed to forge an alliance at the national level whereas “we have gone before the people with a pre-poll alliance that have a common manifesto. We have successfully run a coalition government for the past five years and we shall again demonstrate our ability to do so if the people give us another chance.”

Describing as hypothetical the kind of realignment of forces he envisaged in a post-election scenario, the Prime Minister maintained that the NDA was all set to form government. “Our doors are open to all parties that support our platform of development, good governance and peace. If any party wants to join the NDA, why should we stop them”, he wondered.

Answering a wide range of questions, Mr Vajpayee dismissed as a “wrong understanding” that the BJP aspired to get a majority on its own without gaining the confidence of the minorities constituting 14 per cent of the population.

Emphasising that the minorities were beginning to support the BJP in significant numbers, he had no doubt that it would indeed be shown by the outcome of the current parliamentary elections.

“Since our very inception, we have been trying to gain the confidence and support of all sections of our diverse society, including the minorities. We are steadily advancing in that direction, election after election,” he explained.

“We do not keep any section of our diverse society outside the realm of our care and consideration. Ours is a national party, a nationalist party. As the name suggests, the Bharatiya Janata party stands for the people of India.”

Mr Vajpayee insisted that the opposition was “spreading falsehood” about the BJP that the party had not changed its track in Uttar Pradesh or that the “India Shining” campaign had peaked very early. He expressed optimism about taking the Indo-Pak peace process forward.

On his appeal to the minorities to give his government another chance at the Centre, the Prime Minister noted it was a serious matter which should not be viewed from the limited perspective of who got or did not get the votes of the minorities. A lie repeated a hundred times did not become a truth. Such false and irresponsible propaganda, conducted ceaselessly, did not contribute to communal amity.

He had little doubt that the minority brethern would look at the situation in its totality and make the right choice, even as the Opposition was indulging in such propaganda for narrow electoral reasons as it had no worthwhile issue to present before the people.

On taking the Indo-Pakistan peace process forward, Mr Vajpayee re-affirmed his commitment and said there was growing realisation in both countries that “we should resolve all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, peacefully and through sustained dialogue. This new mindset was the best guarantor of progress in mutual efforts.”

He pointed out the benefits of peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan, especially for the people of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. This was the age of development through regional cooperation, he emphasised.

Further, he said the Indo-Pakistan cricket series in the neighbouring country was a step in the right direction. It had helped build bonds of friendship between the people of India and Pakistan.

He explained: “We did not take this decision from any electoral considerations. Victory and defeat are part of the game. They are not to be associated with any particular party. When our team wins, the entire country feels good. Similarly, when there is defeat, everybody feels unhappy. But as the series turned out, the game of cricket won and the cause of friendship as well.”

On the “India Shining” campaign having peaked too early, Mr Vajpayee said the BJP had never claimed that the fruits of development had reached all sections or all parts of India equally.

“I should add that the poverty that you describe in your question is not the making of our government. We have inherited it from the past. The people must know this. We are determined to remove developmental imbalances and social inequalities. Which is why our manifesto talks of faster economic growth, with equity and social justice. We want to take the vikas Ganga to every village, every family. Accomplishing this is integral to our goal of making India a developed nation by 2020.”

He said nobody in the world or at home, except the Congress, disputed that India had achieved several shining successes on the economic front. Even a poor Indian would be happy to see new highways being built or new pucca roads being built near his own village. These gave him the awareness that India was on the move.

Mr Vajpayee did not think that the BJP found itself in troubled waters necessitating the party to change track in Uttar Pradesh, which contributes the maximum number of 80 seats to the Lok Sabha. The party assessment was the BJP would win more seats in UP this time.

Disagreeing with the proposition that the vision documents of the BJP and the Congress both were virtually similar, Mr Vajpayee was of the opinion that the BJP’s vision document and the NDA’s manifesto were far more comprehensive and programme-oriented that the Congress manifesto.

“We have set ourselves more ambitious goals and tasks such as launching the river-Linking project, unveiling the second Green Revolution, modernising India’s infrastructure and expanding the scope of Connectivity Revolution. To succeed where the Congress has failed is our resolve,” the Prime Minister concluded.

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