Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Union minister Jaswant Singh says the core idea behind the NDA's bid for power is to provide a stable, efficient and result-oriented government where the commitments made are actually delivered. In a conversation with Aditi Phadnis, the senior BJP leader says the NDA will promise governance
We understand the agenda for governance for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has been finalised.
Yes, I was responsible for preparing this document for the NDA in 1998, 1999 and 2004. The 2009 Agenda for Governance was also entrusted to me. It was ready in January and has been circulated to various NDA partners and senior BJP leaders as well as Murali Manohar Joshi, who is preparing the BJP manifesto. LK Advani will convene a meeting of the NDA and the document will be released before the nomination exercise is over.
What is the central thought behind the NDA's bid for power?
The core idea is to provide the people of India with a stable, efficient and result-oriented government where the commitments made are actually delivered. So, the thrust is on governance.
The three broad areas are security, especially internal security, where we have offered a variety of ideas, the spelling out of external priorities and how we will tackle economic challenges. There are significant suggestions regarding agriculture, health, water and encompassing food security . The Agenda is essentially about young India.
On internal security, what have you suggested?
Suggestions relate to anti-terrorism laws and expeditious delivery of criminal laws. Once adopted by the allies, the agenda suggests there should be uniform anti-terror laws across the state. There are also suggestions for reforming the intelligence and police.
Suggestions on this have been made by the reports produced by the Kargil Committee group of experts. Your government had plenty of time to implement them.
We did implement many of them in 2002 when the report was presented. But some of the recommendations needed time to be rolled out. Government machinery works creakingly. Also, in some, like intelligence reform, there is no full stop to reform. Improvement is not the destination. It is a process.
What does the agenda say on India's external relations?
It is not as if there is a whole thesis on the foreign policy. We are concerned about relations with our neighbours as developments there impinge on our security; then there are issues that affect foreign policy like food, water and climate change. Cross-boundary issues like these do require engaging with others: for instance, flood control. You cannot have a meaningful flood control policy without engaging neighbours like Bangladesh and Nepal.
The biggest challenge is climate change. Personally, I am of the view that just as the Amazon belt is a global factor in influencing climate change globally, the Himalayas are equally significant. Receding glaciers is just one part of this.
There has been a demand from some quarters in your party that India should develop a muscular foreign policy.
We are building muscle.
We believe 'one rank-one pension' must be implemented. We will also take forward reform like the contributory health scheme for the armed forces and accelerate housing: I am boastful enough to say that was my contribution when I was defence minister.
What about the economy?
We're faced with stagnation and deflation after trying to manage inflation earlier. Oil is back at $51 a barrel. We want to ensure jobs, production and purchasing power.
But we are also concerned about food security. The first charge of the national economy has to be of the disadvantaged. This is my personal creed and also of the NDA.
So the single big idea?
Governance. There are elements in the UPA that have power but no responsibility. To which profession does that quality belong?