With a number of regional political parties joining its fold, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance is well-placed to return to power. In a conversation with Aasha Khosa, BJP President Rajnath Singh says the party's focus will be on economic issues as all sectors are hit by the adverse economic policies of the incumbent government.
What is your assessment about the outcome of the general elections?
We clearly see the BJP emerging as the largest party and the National Democratic Alliance enjoying a full-fledged majority in Parliament after the election. This is based on our internal surveys. Our position has been strengthened by the parties like Asom Gana Parishad, Indian National Lok Dal and Rashtriya Lok Dal joining the NDA camp recently. The Biju Janata Dal had indeed left the NDA. But even then it has meant a net gain of eight seats for us. The BJP had 21 members in Parliament, while INLD, RLD and AGP together have 8 more members.
What will the BJP's focus in its election campaign?
We believe the UPA rule was lacklustre in comparison to the achievements of the NDA government. We have to present this comparison convincingly before the voters. The focus will be on economic issues, as all sectors are hit by the adverse economic policies of the government. The growth rate in all major sectors is falling. We are telling people how the NDA had taken off with a 5 per cent GDP growth and taken it to 8.2 per cent. Today, the GDP has fallen to 7 per cent and many international financial agencies say it may touch as low as 5 per cent. The NDA had handed over a healthy economy to the UPA, which it has mishandled.
The Congress is projecting its young leaders, while the BJP is offering an 81-year old leader as its prime ministerial choice. How do you see this?
As a party, the BJP is much younger than the Congress. But I can bet we have more young leaders than the Congress. In fact, the Congress has young leaders because of its dynastic rule. They are from one family or are the scions of elitist leaders from a few top families. Projecting young leaders is a compulsion of the Congress to let dynastic politics continue. But in the BJP, we nurture leaders from the middle class and poor families. This is how a person like me, born in an ordinary family, could rise to the position of the party president.
There seems to be no breakthrough for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. How is the situation this time?
The BJP will improve its tally from UP in the Lok Sabha elections (the party currently has nine Lok Sabha seats from the state). This time, we have worked very hard to plug our organisational weaknesses. We have set up party units at the level of polling booths.
Our other advantage is while both our rivals -- the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party -- have ruled the state in the recent past there is so much to highlight against their misrule. But the sad reality of UP is that it remains a caste-driven society and this impacts elections too. I see this as a major drawback in the growth of national politics as well.
We in BJP have tried to break this stranglehold by fielding candidates from all communities and castes. Only today (Monday), a group of Muslims from Ghaziabad (his constituency) visited me and offered support. I was touched.
So you have worked hard on UP this time.
Arun Jaitley (BJP general secretary) had been given the charge of UP two years ago and I must say he has done a splendid job.
How do you decide on party candidates for contesting elections? Do you follow any specific criterion?
Generally, we seek the opinion of our cadres from the constituency. The image of the person, his public conduct, is another key criterion.
While we in the election committee sit to scrutinise the lists, we definitely look for women candidates. However, currently there are very few women candidates who can manage a victory.
In case of a fractured mandate, are there any political parties from whom the BJP would never seek support for forming a government?
We are confident that the NDA would get a clear majority. Still, I feel except the Congress and the Communists, the BJP would not be averse to talk to any other party.
What would be the focus of your party's manifesto this time?
Our manifesto, which is being prepared by Murli Manohar Joshi, will focus on all ideological issues with which the people identify the BJP. However, there is another group headed by Jaswant Singh (former Union minister), which is preparing a sector-wise agenda for governance.