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Interview: Arun Jaitley

Interview: Arun Jaitley

‘It was the BJP’s duty to raise the issue of terror’
BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley, who led the party’s charge in the assembly polls, tries to rationalise its failure to NEHA DIXIT
Critics say your ‘drawing room strategy lectures’ are the reason why the BJP campaign lost its edge.I don’t think so. An election is won or lost on more than one factor. An election has a series of issues that decide the result. The most important is the political environment of the state. Then, there is pro-incumbency or anti-incumbency, leader’s image, and the quality of leadership promised. The social and political split of votes, quality of candidates and the national level issues that arise also matter.
But the BJP campaign was not only negative, it was also listless.
When you are in opposition, it’s your duty to point out the failures of the government and promise something for the future. The BJP campaign was a combination of the two. Is it possible that with the price rise situation at the level at which it was, and terrorism going unchecked in the country, the BJP as a nationalist opposition party could ignore them? The party rightly took up these issues. Moreover, the party also took up a large number of local issues such as the quantum and cost of electricity, the traffic problem in the capital, the problem of people in unapproved and resettlement colonies etc. I think simplistic analysis ignores issues like these.
What about asking for votes by politicising terror?See, the argument that terror should not be politicised is not accurate. In an election you always raise the issue for the government to adopt a strong policy against terror. If you don’t raise it, you will be failing in your duty as an opposition party.
You have been accused of accommodating your own political secretary, OP Sharma in the Delhi elections. Do you agree that tickets were distributed randomly?
The accusation is absolutely wrong. He is a political worker of 40 years standing. He is the Vice-President of the district party in Delhi. He is not an employee. He is a political worker in his own right. It might have been possible that in some constituencies we could have had a better selection of candidates but that could only be a contributory factor. I don’t think that could be the only reason for our defeat.
What about lack of grassroots leaders and fresh faces?We put a large number of them. Our candidates were a blend of experience and youth — some won, some lost.
Rebellion within the party is being seen as the major cause behind the BJP’s defeat in Rajasthan.
There was no rebellion within the BJP. We only had two disgruntled rebel candidates. It did not adversely hurt us. The Congress had more rebels.
The results expose the party’s complacency and exaggerated estimate of the party’s prospects. Do you agree?We have won in more Lok Sabha segments than the Congress. We lost Rajasthan by one percent. Even in Delhi, the vote difference is only three percent. We need to bridge that gap. In Rajasthan, we need to check the problem of rebels. In Delhi, we have to work for that extra vote which will give us the edge. Don’t forget, a little swing on the other side, and we will get the decisive edge.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 50, Dated Dec 20, 2008
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