NATIONAL EXECUTIVE 12th April 2002 - Panaji, Goa
We last met in Delhi four months ago in December last. Since then there has been a few developments which have to be taken note of by this Executive Meeting now being held in Goa. As we all know Goa is to go to polls very soon and it is but appropriate that we hold our National Executive Meeting in this beautiful city of Panjim at the invitation of our Goa Pradesh Unit.
We had held our National Executive earlier also in the city. Earlier to that also we had met here. Hence our Goa workers have sufficient experience in making all necessary arrangements for this meeting of ours and I would like to thank the entire Goa workers for hosting this meeting.
Goa is to go to polls soon. The ministry headed by Shri Parlikar endeared itself by its work to the people of Goa but then situation got built up to necessitate a fresh poll. Let us all hope the people of Goa will choose a BJP Government for the full term of five years.
When we met last, we had hopefully looked forward for electoral success in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and also in Punjab where we had our ally in Akali Dal. Our hopes have been belied. The verdict of people in all these states was negative as for as we were concerned. In Uttar Pradesh we were to be content with the third position while we were reasonably sure that we would retain our number one position. As a true democratic party we respect the verdict of the electorate and therefore we decided to sit in the opposition.
In Uttaranchal, which was part of Uttar Pradesh till a year and odd ago, we were the ruling party on the basis of strength we had acquired during 1996 elections. During election campaign the public opinion also was favourable for a BJP Ministry being formed there. But the results proved otherwise. In Punjab we got the worst beating. There was anti-incumbency factor but it affected BJP more then Akali Dal which was the major partner.
Delhi Corporation results has capped our electoral disappointment. We have been worsted in the corporation polls. It cannot be denied that public opinion was not exactly in our favour. We had to pay the penalty for some of the factors which were within our control and the rest which were not within our control.
In a democracy and that too for a mature party like BJP poll reverses should make us go in for the factors which are responsible for our electoral reverses rather than rueing over the loss. Yes, as our Prime Minister succinctly put it, we are to go in for introspection.
This is not the first time we have had to face electoral defeat. The greatest set back for us was in 1984 when in Lok Sabha election we managed to secure only two seats one from Andhra and another from Gujarat. Our tallest leader also had to face electoral defeat. At that time everyone especially our political opponents and critics predicted the demise of the party itself but history is witness as to how we retrieved the party from its peripheralisation and today we are the biggest political force.
It is this determination, this acceptance of challenge to our very strength and existence which have been the hallmarks of our party's strength and character that will meet the situation now also.
We will have to await the detailed report from the states concerned to know what exactly went wrong and where exactly we erred in our assessment and campaign. It is only after that we can take corrective steps if need be. But then the time now requires the combined and cooperative effort of all of us in party organisation to prove to the world that whatever electoral set back we have suffered in the recently held election is a temporary phenomenon which will get rectified in the following few months. The route of escapism, escaping from responsibility and accountability can never be the choice of strong willed and determined karyakartas of a political party and much more so in our party. So let us not try to run away from our responsibilities, let us not shy away from the harsh realities of our political life and let us also not wish away our reverses. Time has come to reassess the situation, reassert our stand on various issues and reevaluate our strength and weaknesses.
There is an impression that some of our budget proposals have also contributed to our setback. Even our Prime Minister has made mention of it. This is a matter that needs to be gone into carefully and if this impression proves to be correct then the matter needs to be examined as to how to neutralise the adverse impact or to go in for immunisation
The last three years have not been exactly favourable for Gujarat. The year 2000 saw that State reeling under severe drought. Even while it was recovering from the ill effects of it, a severe earthquake took place in early 2001. Thanks to the strenuous efforts of the State Government the State was speeding up the reconstruction work when this year communal riots of severe nature, have gripped Gujarat. No state much more so Gujarat deserves to such successive natural calamities and manmade calamity. The resilience and determination of Gujarat people are well known and even as they bravely faced the calamities they had to endure in the year 2000 and 2001 they are sure to come out of the testing times of 2002 also. In all these three years the State Government very firmly dealt with the situation it faced and it goes to the credit of the people and Government of Gujarat for having left behind their experiences of 2000 and 2001 as bad dream and for having travelled along the path of relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation. I am equally sure that the Gujarat Government now also will over come the present difficult situation and put Gujarat on the road of recovery and progress. I must mention here that the role of opposition and our critics was not exactly commendable but on the other hand condemnable. Every time Gujarat faced severe situations as above mentioned, our opponents and critics mounted a severe attack on State Government and with orchestrated voice demanded the head of the Chief Minister. When the people are facing a calamity and when the Government was struggling to calm down the situation the role of opposition and our opponents was to have been to strengthen the efforts of all those who are strenuously exerting themselves to contain the situation but on the other hand their efforts were directed towards demoralising and discrediting those who were carrying out their responsibilities sincerely. I strongly condemn the hue and cry of those who demanded the head of Chief Minister of Gujarat. The nation needs to be saved from these forces whose only aim seems to be to distabilise the BJP Government even when the situation demanded the cooperation of every one to restore normalcy in a riot torn state.
The country will have to find a solution to the communal strife if it were to progress. Social disharmony and internal strife cannot help our nation to move forward. All sections of people need to ponder over this seriously. Every section of society when it thinks that it is whole of the part must realise that it is simply part of the whole so much so its welfare and well being depends upon those of the entire society. In any communal strife there is always one who provokes and another provoked. The effort has so far mainly remained in advising and attacking the provoked. This has given rise to a psychology amidst the provoked that it is the victim in every sense. If the message can go to everyone in the society that whosoever provokes another, and whoever takes initiative in provoking or attacking another whatever religion he may belong to as goondaism does not have religion, the state as well as society will come down on him heavily to punish him, then the whole society and everyone in society will remain assured that there is justice rendered to all with no appeasement of anyone. I feel this is the only solution to this vexed problem and I appeal to everyone especially the political parties, social and other organisations, media etc. to ponder over this and cooperate.
I am sorry to point out that the attitude of the main opposition is not at all healthy and not at all conducive to the healthy growth of democracy. Whether Congress likes it or not, the Indian electorate has given its verdict in favour of an NDA Government at the Centre and made Congress to sit in the opposition. This verdict of the electorate must be respected and Congress must learn to respect it. As an opposition it has its right to criticise and attack the government. We do not deny that right. But they are crossing all limits. Take the case of POTO. It came up for discussion in Parliament. They can oppose any provision they object to. The Party which brought TADA, the Party which misused TADA, the Party ruled States whose Chief Ministers, Director Generals of Police and Chief Secretaries have by and large agreed and wanted such a type of law as POTO to deal with terrorism whose ugly face is seen in many parts of our country, opposed the very need of such a law. They opposed to the very last in Rajya Sabha necessitating the summoning of a Joint Session of both the Houses of Parliament.
In the last few years BJP has been moving in the direction of politics of consensus from that of confrontation. We are succeeding in our efforts. We could evolve consensus with more then twenty different parties on the basis of a Common Agenda and thereby provided good governance with a stable government. Our desire is to go in for consensus even with the main opposition party atleast on vital issues such as eradication of poverty, minimising unemployment, growth oriented economic approach, fight against terrorism building up social harmony upholding the unity and integrity of the country etc. In the name of the best national interests I urge the Congress to see reason and cooperate where it can and should. But if the Congress chooses to stick to the path of confrontation the BJP inspite of having chosen the path of consensus is prepared to accept the challenge of Congress in its politics of confrontation.
Economic Reform measures are crucial if one is seriously committed to bring the economy out of mess. In a fiscal situation where the country has to borrow even to meet part of the debt servicing, let alone being able to meet developmental and current expenditure, tightening up of belt is a must. Moreover, it is quite essential to generate resources to meet social sector developments like primary education, healthcare and drinking water. The party is deeply committed to social sector development since we can not afford to keep a section of the society out of developmental benefits for long. Corrections of fiscal imbalances and need to meet social and physical infrastructure developments necessitates some amount of sacrifice by the comparatively better off sections.
But the crucial question in this context is how much the party would be able to convince the section of society which is affected by the economic reform measures-specially the second generation. Phase and sequencing of economic reforms should also keep in mind our capacity to manage politically. Time has come for an indepth analysis of the issue so that a healthy balance could be struck between economic rationality behind economic reforms and capacity of the party for political management.
In a country like India where we don't have adequate social safety net, often retired persons have to depend on their hard earned savings during their old age. Whatever may be the economic justification behind cut in interest rates, many retired persons have, suddenly, been made to look around for support due to fall in income through interests on savings. It is purely a humanitarian issue. Where should they go for their livelihood ?
Therefore I appeal to the government to introduce adequate social safety net measures before initiating steps towards the lower interests rate regime, which no doubt, is necessary for economic development.
It is crucial to have cooperation of people for implementation of economic reforms. While they have to tighten their belt, whether it is surcharge on income tax, cut in interests rates on small savings or hike in prices of petroleum products, people expect that their sacrifice would go for noble national cause. In this context, austerity measures by the government would go a long way in winning goodwill of common people.
Bulging food stock of around 60 million tonnes, which is expected to cross 75 millions tonnes during the next procurement, is turning into a big headache. No doubt, the government has initiated many steps to deplete the old stock-such as increased allotment under food for work programme, lowering of issue prices etc. Though allocation for BPL families has been raised to 35 kgs a month this alone may not enable the BPL families-which by and large are daily wage earners to have access to PDS. Instead of distribution on fortnightly basis (or weekly basis as in Kerala) there should be flexibility on distribution so as to enable poor wage earners to purchase on daily basis. Probably, issue of food coupons may be a better proposition in this context.
I desire to repeat a suggestion which I had made earlier. Our country has gone in for liberalisation for the past one decade and more. We are now moving into second generation reforms. It is as it should be. But then the country has reached a stage, especially when it has moved into second generation reforms and it is absolutely necessary to make a thorough assessment of the impact of the first generation reforms, whether its has achieved it purpose, whether its impact has accelerated the growth and development of economy, whether any correctives in approach, in direction and in implementation needed are all to be studied so as to keep the course of economy in the right direction. I feel the country and its economy needs such an assessment. My suggestion therefore is to appoint a committee of competent persons to study this and submit its report without delay say within three to six months. This will enable the Government to assure itself that it is pursuing the reform process rightly and earnestly.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Government one more matter. The textile industry sector - Mill, Powerloom and Handloom together - is second only to agriculture in providing jobs to lakhs of families. Today this sector is afflicted with problems. Every one of these sections of Textile Industry cries for our attention. May be some of their problems are creations of their own, some may be due to high competition from other countries and perhaps a few owing to governmental policies and lack of due attention or coordination. The sum total of the present situation is the industry is in doldrums and needs special attention as otherwise lakhs of families dependent on this are likely to be thrown into the streets. The Central Government has adopted and announced New Textile Policy. It is intended to help the industry and help in its restoration. I suggest to the Government to take coordinated efforts by healthy interaction between ministries concerned like Textile Ministry, Finance Ministry, and Small Scale Industry Ministry etc. so that the entire industry gets restored to its health and once again stands on its own feet. This is most essential as it is facing very stiff competition from foreign goods.
The gruesome burning of innocent women and children in a train at Godhra, the suicide bomber attack on devotees at the Raghunath Temple in Jammu and several other recent incidents of mayhem perpetrated by the ISI sponsored terrorists are a clear message that there will be no let up in cross border terrorism. General Musharaff's unwillingness or inability to control the jehadi elements is quite evident. That his Jan 12 speech was merely a ploy to hoodwink the international community is now quite well established. He has refused to hand over Daniel Pearl's abductor to the U.S. and has flatly rejected U.S. advice to comply with the Indian demand for the twenty most wanted terrorists who have been given refuge in Pakistan. A large number of extremist elements arrested in Pakistan in January have been released. The jehadi groups continue to operate as before. Musharaff's duplicity is now quite apparent. Even some American political commentators have acknowledged this fact even though the U.S. Government continues to repose faith in Musharaff's good intentions.
While it is obvious that Pakistan has no desire to live in peace and amity with India and that we have to learn to live with a hostile Pakistan for quite sometime, there is no dearth of over-optimistic, and perhaps misguided, elements who keep calling upon the Government of India to enter into a dialogue with Pakistan. As a former Prime Minister said recently, you cannot have a dialogue with a gun pointed at your head. We have no alternative but to deal firmly with cross border terrorism. We believe that our armed forces will have to remain constantly vigilant and the ISI network in the country must be exposed and thoroughly smashed.
Elsewhere in our neighbourhood there have been some positive developments. The cease-fire agreement between the Sri Lanka Government and the L.T.T.E. has raised hopes of an eventual solution of the problem of the status of Tamils in Sri Lanka. We welcome this move and extend our best wishes to both sides in their efforts to bring about lasting peace in Sri Lanka.
The visit of the Nepalese Prime Minister Shri Sher Bahadur Deuba provided an opportunity for further strengthening Indo-Nepalese relations. His discussions with the Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and other Indian leaders have provided a framework for extensive and intensive interaction in a variety of spheres. The Nepalese Prime Minister has also been assured of all possible assistance in dealing with Maoist insurgents, who intend to overthrow the established order in the Himalayan Kingdom.
The External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant Singh's visit to China earlier this month has paved the way for a structured and continuous dialogue with the People's Republic of China at different levels. China is an important neighbour of ours and we believe that a good understanding between India and China can contribute enormously to peace, security and economic development of the region.
The country is passing through testing times. We have succeeded in providing a stable and progressive government at the centre along with our allies. The NDA is cohesive and is also a cooperative effort. Adherence to Common Agenda and full faith in the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee are twin factors of successful functioning of NDA. These two factors can remain the inseparable bond that binds all our allies together so long mutual trust, mutual confidence and mutual relationship remain intact under all circumstances. I would like to stress this aspect also and assure our allies that BJP has such a trust, confidence and relationship in the rest.
Attempts are being made by opposition parties to destabilise us. We should be conscious of it. We must remember always that National Democratic Alliance has been promoted to provide for a good governance of the country on an agreed agenda. It must be our endeavour to strengthen this arrangement. NDA also is an effort to carry more and more sections of people together for the betterment of the nation. This also should continue.
But in all this we who constitute BJP should ever remember that the strength of NDA depends upon the strength of the Party round which NDA has been built. So it is our responsibility to see that BJP becomes the strongest in every sense of the term. The recent electoral setback suffered by us need not dishearten us while on the other hand it should steel our resolve to succeed.
In Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Punjab we have lost an electoral battle. We must strengthen ourselves to win back these states. Newer challenges are there to be faced and won. Goa and Jammu and Kashmir are to go to polls this year. Next year (2003) will see ten of the states going to polls including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi etc. Let our preparations begin right earnestly now. Let us get ready electorally. Let us strengthen our party organisation. Let us endear ourselves by our work, by our performance and by our functioning as a cohesive body to the general public.
We might have lost a meter but we are here to win a kilometer. We might have lost the day. We are sure to win the year.
Let us therefore move ahead.