By Neerja Chowdhury, IANS,
New Delhi : Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh has indicated he will not continue in the post beyond his term and, contrary to speculation, says he will not join the government if his party comes to power.
“Bahut ho gaya (I have had enough). By this year-end, four years will be over. Besides Atalji and Advaniji, I would be the only one to have completed four years as party president after 1980,” Singh, 57, told IANS in an interview.
Scotching speculation that there might be a change of guard soon in the BJP after the April-May general elections, he said he would complete his term. “Main apna karyakal poora karoonga, which is till January 2010.”
Singh had taken over the reins of the BJP in 2005 from L.K. Advani, now the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
There has been speculation that if the BJP forms a government, Singh is likely to join it as an experienced leader of the party. If, on the other hand, the BJP stays out of power, Singh could well make a bid to become leader of the opposition in parliament.
Singh, who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Ghaziabad, said: “I will not go into the government but will continue to do party work.”
He asserted that the BJP would emerge as the single largest party in the 545-seat Lok Sabha. “This is pucca (certain). We will form the government, and Advaniji will become prime minister.”
Speaking of his stint as party chief, Singh said: “When I became party president, we had a BJP government only in four states. Now we are in power on our own in six states and in coalition with others in five states.
“What is more, for the first time in the history of the BJP, we have formed a government in a southern state (Karnataka).”
He dismissed the suggestion that the BJP’s ideological parent, the Hindu rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), would play a more pro-active role under its new chief Mohan Bhagwat.
“The role of the party is different. The RSS is a socio-cultural organisation. The Sangh has never interfered in the functioning of the BJP. ”
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s criticism of Advani for his role in the 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque was an election gimmick.
“I was surprised that he reminded people of the Babri Masjid at election time,” Singh said. “That means he wants to give a communal message. It is part of the Congress’ vote bank politics. Why did he not raise it for five years when he was prime minister? If you raise it only at election time, your intention is clear.”
He also reiterated his support to Varun Gandhi, the BJP candidate from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh who is in jail for reportedly making communal speeches. The BJP chief said Gandhi had made it clear that the voice on the CD concerned was not his and that it had been doctored.
“Let the enquiry be completed. Until there is enough evidence against him, how can we hold him guilty? There is no question of ending his candidature,” he asserted. The Election Commission, however, says that Gandhi has violated the model code of conducted by making communal remarks at an election rally.
Was the BJP taken by surprise by the Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) decision to break their alliance last month?
“It was very surprising and unfortunate. But that is a question that the BJD should be asked. Why was the BJP okay for 11 years and how come it has become ‘garbar’ (problem) now.
“Morality demanded that they should have done it earlier if they had wanted to break the relationship but they allowed the government to run for five years and then broke the relationship.
“We may have lost one ally, but we have found three; that is, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Indian National Lok Dal and the Asom Gana Parishad. These three allies have influence in 49 seats, while the BJD had it in 21 constituencies.”
He also denied that he had chosen a “safe constituency” to contest, Ghaziabad.
“I have not selected a safe constituency which the BJP won last time. Nor have I gone on the basis of caste. Had that been the case, I would have chosen Gautam Buddha Nagar. We were number three last time in Ghaziabad.”
What does he consider the biggest challenge before the BJP today?
“To win the Lok Sabha election, to keep the country safe. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has endangered (the country).”