NDA convener Sharad Yadav tells NEHA DIXIT that the BJP must shoulder the greater portion of the blame for the poll debacle
As the NDA convener, the first thing you said after the Lok Sabha results is that the BJP was responsible for the debacle. What do you think led to the defeat?
There were many reasons for the defeat. The BJP was in charge of our national strategy while the JD(U) was in the driver’s seat in Bihar. The BJP should sit down and examine why this loss happened. Had this analysis happened earlier, we would not have lost. As the NDA convener, I have raised this issue with the BJP; there is a need to engage in serious introspection.
Sudheendra Kulkarni wrote in an article in TEHELKA that the electorate wanted a change but it was not convinced whether the BJP or the BJP-led NDA could provide the kind of change they wanted. Do you agree?
See, the philosophy of any party should be crystal clear. The JD(U) is clear on all issues, be it the Sachar Committee recommendations or any other issue. However, with the BJP, a turbulent internal debate has created confusion. Since the BJP is the largest party in the coalition, the greater burden of responsibility for our defeat surely has to be borne by them. Ultimately, it is true that somewhere or the other the NDA could not evoke the required confidence among the masses.
Soft Hindutva and hard-core Hindutva — does the BJP need to re-examine its approach towards Hindutva?
Currently, there is a Hindutva vs Hindutva debate in BJP. What the party has ignored is that for ages liberal and non-liberal versions of Hindutva have existed. They should have resolved this debate amongst themselves as believers. But by suddenly raising this issue in the party, the clarity of the agenda is gone. This has confused everyone. The main reason for the growing weakness of the BJP among its main base, the middle class, is this lack of clarity of agenda.
You had also said that the BJP had raised all the wrong issues. What were the issues that needed to be addressed?A lot of crucial issues were ignored. For example, the issue of the SEZs was not raised at all. The land on the roadside from Delhi to Chandigarh, Jaipur, Moradabad, Haridwar and Aligarh was given to people who had nothing to do with farming. It must be kept in mind that this land is the very best and most fertile land of India. As a result of this incorrect utilisation, SEZs failed completely. The JD(U) kept raising the issue but it wasn’t raised as the NDA’s issue in the Lok Sabha elections. We couldn’t raise the issue of high prices. The cause of 22 crore retailers in places such as Indore, Ranchi and Uttar Pradesh also did not become a part of the NDA’s agenda. All this had its after-effects.
Do you feel the BJP had an incomplete strategy, considering that the UPA’s failures were recounted but no proper policies and programmes were proposed as alternatives?
Many questions could have been raised on the economic and sociological front but never became a part of the NDA’s agenda. We certainly need policy alternatives. Even before the elections, I said that some economic issues must be taken up in the campaign, such as farmers’ issues. Compared to the UPA, we had a lot of farmers in the NDA, such as Badal, Nitish, Ajit Singh, Chautala, Yediyurappa, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh and Rajnath Singh. In the UPA, few, including prominent people such as Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Chidambaram and Rahul Gandhi, had links with the farming communities or rural areas. We could have used this to our advantage. We failed to address the problems of farmers. I raised this issue at least four or five times but the BJP did not pay attention.
When Varun Gandhi made hate speeches and indulged in negative campaigning, did you ask the BJP to withdraw his candidature?
Hate speeches by some people who I don’t want to name contributed to the defeat. It harmed the NDA’s image. Allies protested. As a secular party, the JD(U) opposed this and raised the issue with the BJP. However, we are two different parties. Distributing tickets is the BJP’s prerogative.
The BJP has an anti-Muslim image. It is believed that many allies deserted the NDA after the Gujarat 2002 riots. Do you agree?
There is no doubt that Chandrababu Naidu left the NDA because in the elections after Gujarat 2002, he suffered a major loss. He did not leave immediately but after the elections, he realised that the reason why he lost was this. In fact, when the communal riots took place in Gujarat, I and Chandrababu went to Atalji in protest. However, others like the BJD left because of the seat-sharing issue. They never said that they had ideological differences with the BJP.
Post elections, you said that the magic of Atalji’s days was missing. What were the missing elements?
I don’t want to comment on this. What I’m saying is that the election war was fought through the media, without touching base with the masses.
There was confusion over the name of the prime ministerial candidate. Modi’s name came up as well.
Advaniji’s candidature was unanimously approved by the NDA. So other names shouldn’t have been proposed. And if they had, they should have been disowned immediately.
Advani ran a presidential campaign, bypassing the problems of the BJP and the NDA. What was the consequence for the coalition?The BJP should answer this question. The country has a history of the coalition government. The deeds of one party do affect the entire coalition.
Your key ally, the BJP has a pro-rich stand. Its minority morcha is non-operational. As a leader of a party championing the cause of the weak and the oppressed, do you think the BJP needs to rethink its position towards the reserved categories, Dalits, tribals, Muslims and Christians?
The JD(U) advocates reservation for Dalit Muslims and Christians. Our ideological path differs from the BJP’s. We differ on a lot of issues. Despite that, a coalition has been formed. There is a national agenda towards which we work. Secondly, the Indian electorate has not been voting for a single party with a specific ideology for the last two decades. This is where the answer lies. The Congress and the DMK have great differences in their ideological positions. The same situation applies to the JD(U) and the BJP. We have to run the coalition. We can’t fight every day. In politics, there is an ideological roadmap and a behavioural one. The ideological one is the longterm one; the NDA’s roadmap is a behavioural one. If the BJP is not inclusive towards all sections, it can’t be helped.
The BJP has no young leaders and does not seem youth-friendly either. Do you think it needs an organisational overhaul?
The debate on the youth issue has been instigated by dynastic heirs. All these young guns in Congress have no connection with reality. They are saplings grown in flowerpots. It is plants grown on farmland that feed the nation, not flowers grown in flowerpots. There are leaders of various capabilities in Congress. There are the young but there are also the old and the experienced. The UPA has instigated this debate. I was 25 years old when I entered the Parliament and I was part of the 1974 movement. At that time, Jay Prakashji, who stood against the powerful Indira Gandhi, was not young but he succeeded because of his conviction. That was a youth movement. Is there any trace of such a movement today amongst those who say they are young?
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 26, Dated July 04, 2009