Debating India

PRESS CONFERENCE

’The Catch-Phrases Cost Us Dear’

Monday 7 June 2004

A subdued ’iron-man’ finally faced the press but maintained that while there’s ’a need for self-criticism and objective analysis of the reasons for the setback, there is no room for self-flagellation’.

OUTLOOK WEB BUREAU

On the outcome of the polls

We never expected such a verdict and it won’t be wrong to say that nobody else also expected this, including our rivals who are in the government now. It was completely against our expectations. But I would like the Congress-led coalition government not to misread the people’s fractured verdict as a decisive mandate for any alliance, much less for any single party and certainly not for any individual.

The only unequivocal interpretation of the divided verdict of the elections is that the people expect the new government to follow the path of maximum consensus, not only within the ruling alliance but also with the opposition.

While there is a need for self-criticism and objective analysis of the reasons for the setback, there is no room for self-flagellation.

The poll outcome calls for introspection and firm corrective action to remedy the many deficiencies that have cropped up in the party’s organisation in the course of our rapid expansion over the last two decades. The present verdict is a temporary setback and I am confident we will come back.

The outcome was an aggregate of state verdicts instead of being the people’s national verdict. In some states. we suffered along with our allies. In others, we suffered because we did not forge proper alliances. In urban constituencies, where we fared poorly, the turnout of our supporters was low. In some states, our organisational weakness contributed to our setback.

A fairly common factor was local anti-incumbency against sitting MPs.

In states like UP and Bihar, the influence of caste identity and caste combinations proved more powerful than our promise of development and good governance.

While India progressed considerably during the six years of NDA government, we failed to effectively communicate to the poor and the deprived that five years was too short a time to fulfill it.

On why else he thought the BJP lost

The two catch phrases used by us did not benefit us but perhaps cost us dearly. One of them, ’Feel Good’, was used perhaps by me for the first time at Bombay at a seminar organised by the Economic Times in October, 2003. " If you feel good, it must be India, 2003". The other catch-phrase ’India Shining’ was conceived by some ad agency.?

These phrases, though valid in themselves, were inappropriate for our election campaign...by making them verbal icons of our election campaign, we gave an opportunity to our political opponents to highlight other aspects of India’s contemporary reality — poverty and uneven development, unemployment among the youth, problems faced by the farmers — which questioned our claim.

It was easy for the opposition to point out, for example, " There is no water. Does it feel good? Is it India shining?" whereas we had to make long speeches to justify and explain that we could make India shine and make it feel good in future.

The viciously negative campaign of the Congress and Communists, replete with falsehoods, prevailed over the positive campaign of the NDA.

On Hindutva

While BJP considers as its strength the ideology of cultural nationalism and Hindutva, we shall continue to wage an ideological battle against those who portray Hindutva as communal for their narrow political ends.

On Sonia’s foreign origin

?The sequence of events that culminated in the installation of Shri Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister is satisfying. Our viewpoint is very clear that people of foreign origin should not occupy constitutional posts. It is a political issue not a personal one.

On the induction of ’tainted’ ministers in the UPA

It is regrettable that a person with a clean image like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to defend such ministers.

While for the sake of political expediency, there have been instances of condoning crime and criminals, it is for the first time that a government had to reward crime and criminals.

P.S.

With inputs from agencies

in Outlook India, Monday, June 7, 2004.

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