Presidential Speech by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu at National Executive Meeting,
Raipur - July 18-20, 2003
"The BJP has UNITY. The BJP has CLARITY. And the people are willing to give the BJP and our allies a bigger OPPORTUNITY."
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this meeting of the Party's National Executive in Raipur. The last meeting of the National Executive was held in Indore in May. The journey from Indore to Raipur has been short, both in time and space. Yet, politically, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Government of the National Democratic Alliance, under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has traversed a long distance in these three months.
Chintan Baithak, a direction-setting event
As far as the BJP is concerned, the most important development in this period was the holding of the four-day Chintan Baithak at Rambhau Mhalgi Probodhini's campus near Mumbai. We have an old tradition of holding such brainstorming sessions in an informal atmosphere from time to time. I have the pleasure and satisfaction of reporting to the National Executive that the Chintan Baithak was highly productive and useful from every consideration.
We had a free and frank discussion, within a structured format, on all the major issues before the Party and the Government. We conducted an in-depth review of the political situation, both at the national level and in individual States. We discussed the performance of various developmental and welfare initiatives of the Government, and agreed on a new set of initiatives for the benefit of the people. I am pleased to note that the Government has already started to act on some of these suggestions from the Party.
Participants in the Chintan Baithak expressed satisfaction that the interaction between the BJP and other nationalist organizations has been intensified and become more regular in recent times.
The chief outcome of the Chintan Baithak was that it helped sharpen our focus on the two major electoral battles ahead: Operation 2003 and Mission 2004. We came out with a strengthened resolve to achieve resounding victory in the Assembly elections in five States scheduled to be held later this year; and follow it up with a renewed and bigger mandate in the Parliamentary elections, which are slated for the latter half of next year.
Interaction between Party and Government
Dear colleagues, you will recall that in the meetings of the National Executive in the initial years of the NDA Government many members used to feel for the need to have greater interaction between the Government and the party. I am happy to say with considerable degree of satisfaction that the level of interaction between the Government and the party has exceeded my own expectation. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for responding positively whenever required to address the issues raised by the party on the basis of the feedback that we receive from the grass roots. Many of our suggestions and ideas are being quickly accepted and even implemented. In this context, I must inform you the incredible speed with which some of the suggestions made at Chintan Baithak have been already implemented. Even earlier the Finance Minister and other Ministers have been very responsive to our suggestions on matters such as Kelkar Committee report, VAT, problems of the powerloom sector, small scale sector, telephone rentals, Employees Provident Fund - just to name a few.
I must here also express my gratitude to Shri Advaniji for giving his time and guidance whenever we seek it, thereby acting as the main link between the Government and the party.
I am also happy that the Ministers in the Government have increased their involvement in party's activities by coming to the party office regularly, taking up party's programmes in different parts of the country and also interacting with party workers. This has helped the Ministers to receive the feed back from the party workers and also to make them aware of the many pro-people initiatives in their own Ministries and in other Ministries.
The past one-year has also seen greater interaction between the party functionaries and workers through novel initiatives such as Sahyog. Based on this positive experience, I would like to propose to all the State Units to follow this initiative at their level.
Please recall our resolve to complete organizational elections by the end of this year at all levels. I am happy to share with you the progress made so far and I am hopeful that the entire process shall be completed as per schedule.
Proud record of the Government's achievements and initiatives
As far as the NDA Government is concerned, the period since the Indore meeting of the National Executive is marked by big achievements - both on the domestic and external fronts. First of all, on behalf of the Party I wish to warmly congratulate our Prime Minister on his highly successful visits, first to Germany, Russia and France and then to China. At Evian in France, he represented India, for the very first time, at the summit of the G-8 nations and effectively put forward the case of developing countries for achieving sustainable and equitable global development. At both Evian and St. Petersburg in Russia, his fruitful meetings with several world leaders not only strengthened our bilateral relations, but also helped in further widening international support for India's stand on Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and other issues.
The Prime Minister's visit to China was path breaking in many ways. It helped in inaugurating what promises to be a new and mutually beneficial relationship between two of the largest and fastest-developing nations in the world today. The BJP hopes that the new framework for talks on the vexed border dispute between our two countries, which has been agreed to in Beijing, would yield positive results in the near future. The agreement on trade and economic cooperation also bodes well for the economies of our two countries, given the fact that trade between India and China is growing at an astonishing speed.
The Prime Minister's renewed peace initiative with Pakistan has been welcomed and appreciated around the world. It has established India's earnestness and the Prime Minister's commitment to achieving normalization of relations with Pakistan. However, the world community also realizes that the onus is now on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism and completely dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism that has been built over the years on its soil. This point was strongly argued by Deputy Prime Minister Shri L.K. Advani, during his recent visit to USA and UK.
In this context, we in the BJP cannot but express our deep dissatisfaction over the lack of a firm and positive response from Pakistan to the Prime Minister's peace initiative. The pronouncements of Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, suggest that he is unwilling change Islamabad's traditional anti-India agenda. It is also obvious that General Musharraf is engaged in a serious battle with the forces of democracy in his own country. There seems to be a growing opinion within Pakistani society in favour of resolving all issues with India through bilateral talks. Two of its former Prime Ministers, both of whom are now in exile, have openly expressed this opinion. However, this view has not yet crystallized into a clear position in Pakistan's political establishment, which has locked horns with the ruling military establishment on the question of legitimacy of General Musharraf's authority. The situation is fluid and the outcome of this battle is as yet uncertain. Therefore, the Government has rightly decided to tread very cautiously in its efforts to improve India's relations with Pakistan. This stand, I must state here, has won the support and appreciation of our people. Even on the issue of sending troops to Iraq, the Government has acted as per the national interest.
Pro-poor thrust to the Government's policies and programmes
On the domestic front, the period since the last meeting of the National Executive has been one of several new initiatives and landmark achievements by the NDA Government. I wish to congratulate the Finance Minister, Shri Jaswant Singh, for the launch of two important social security initiatives -- the Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana for senior citizens with an assured annual interest rate of 9% and the Universal Health Insurance Scheme, which is a highly attractive initiative for reaching basic healthcare to the poor. Both are first initiatives of their kind, further reinforcing the Vajpayee Government's reputation as a caring and compassionate government.
Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, has further strengthened this reputation by launching the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana. Under one of its components, the Government has decided to set up as many as six super-specialty hospitals on the pattern of AIIMS in different regions of the country. The Prime Minister has laid the foundation stone for the first such hospital in Bhubaneshwar two days ago. I would also like to compliment the Minister of Labour Shri Sahib Singh Varma for the bold initiative taken in assuring 9% interest on EPF. This step re-inforced the Government 's commitment towards the welfare of the working class this would not have been possible but for the support extended by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
I urge our Party workers to actively popularize these initiatives. In the case of the Universal Health Insurance Scheme, they should, either directly or through dedicated NGOs, also work as intermediaries and mobilize poor families' participation into the scheme.
Suggestions for some new initiatives
Agricultural credit - lower interests for the farmers
The timely arrival of the monsoon in many parts of the country has brightened the prospects of a good harvest this year. I suggest that the Government, taking note of the good rains, give a call to farmers to do their very best to achieve at least a 10% increase in food production this year. This is entirely possible, provided we launch a concerted and multi-dimensional effort, involving the Centre, State Governments, banks and credit agencies, and organizations engaged in distribution of seeds, fertilizers, etc. However, the success of this effort depends to some extent on mitigating the critical problems affecting Indian agriculture. High cost of agricultural credit is one of them. The poor health of rural credit societies is another. I urge the Finance and Agriculture Ministers to have these matters examined and come up with workable solutions soon. I would like to compliment the Finance Minister for announcing 9% rate of interest on farm loans to farmers. The interest charged on the loans to purchase agriculture implements like tractors should also be reduced considerably. The BJP would like the Finance ministry to consider providing similar interest rates on loans taken by farmers for desilting of agricultural wells, filter points, motors and pump sets, strengthening and upgradation of bunds of agricultural lands.
A major challenge before the Nation is to create productive employment and self-employment opportunities for all able-bodied citizens, especially the youth. Thanks to the Government's various schemes, programmes and policies, employment and self-employment opportunities have indeed increased in recent years. Nevertheless, there is a big need, and an equally big scope, for further enhancing these opportunities. In my view, KVIC and the small-scale sector can deliver a lot more in this regard, provided they receive more resources and greater attention. The Planning Commission has recently presented two excellent reports to the Prime Minister on the development of Bio-Fuels (ethanol, bio-diesel and others) and Bamboo. Both have a tremendous potential to create employment opportunities, raise tens of lakhs of artisans and farmers above the poverty line, achieve import substitution worth tens of thousands of crores and also earn considerable foreign exchange. The party would like the Government to quickly and effectively implement the recommendations of these two reports.
Setting up of various Commissions
At the Chintan Baithak, there was a unanimous view that the Government should set up a National Judicial Commission and a separate development commission for nomadic tribes. There was a suggestion for review of the functioning of the various Commissions and Development and Finance Corporations. I would like the Government to act fast on these issues.
I would also urge upon the Government to set up a Commission to take care of the problems of the disabled people. The party has also recommended to the Government the need to set up a commission to study the problems of economically backward classes among the so-called forward communities and the feasibility of providing reservation to these sections. I hope the Government takes an early decision on these issues.
The Party urges the Government to scrap the IMDT Act at the earliest, so that the glaring legal and administrative loopholes in checking infiltration from Bangladesh can be plugged. In this meeting of the National Executive, we are going to discuss a draft resolution on Women's Reservation in Parliament and State Legislatures. Therefore, I shall limit my comments on this subject only to saying that the BJP is committed to Women's Reservation and would like to build consensus on a new and workable set of ideas on women's political empowerment.
Massive Educative Campaign - Gaon Gaon Chalo, Ghar-Ghar Chalo
Our Government has launched many programmes and projects in the past five years that are unprecedented in nature, unmatched in their scope and impact. Yet, it seems to me that our Party supporters are not well informed about these initiatives. Our supporters should take pride in the performance of the Government and communicate it to the people with conviction and confidence. I suggest that the party must go for a nationwide massive campaign to highlight the achievements and our local units shall visit every village and every house during the course of this year. This can be called as Gaon Gaon Chalo, Ghar Ghar Chalo Abhiyan. In this context, I wish to emphasise that the Government too should further strengthen its communication to the people so that they can be partners in the nation's development.
Feel Good factor in the country
Dear Colleagues, the situation in the country can be summed up in just one sentence: THERE IS A FEEL GOOD FACTOR. This is because the people have seen, tested and judged the performance of the NDA Government under Shri Atalji's leadership. As I observed in Indore, too, there is perhaps no precedent for a Prime Minister to remain as popular as Shri Atalji is after five years in the saddle. This gives the confidence that, under his continued leadership, the BJP along with our allies will win a renewed and bigger mandate as and when Parliamentary elections are held.
Not only are the people positively inclined towards the Government, but they are also strongly disinclined towards the Opposition. There is division and despondency in the Opposition ranks. The starkest contrast between the BJP and the Congress is in the area of leadership. We have a leader in Shri Atalji, who is not only the leader of the BJP, not only the leader of the NDA, but also the leader of the entire Nation. On the other hand, all the Congress can do is take shelter under the Dynasty.
Drained of all vigour and originality in thought and action, the Congress party has taken to imitating the BJP. If we had a Chintan Baithak, they had a Manthan Shibir. We adopted the strategy of alliance politics way back in 1996. Now the Congress has finally been jolted into accepting the ground realities of Indian politics, but its readiness to take allies has so far found few takers. It is highly unlikely that the Congress will find many allies even among the other parties for whom the BJP is anathema. For instance, I challenge the communist parties to declare that they would form a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
We are ready for a debate with the Congress on Development
The Congress has no issue left in its armour to take on the Government, hence it has fallen back to the worn out bogey of communalism. I challenge the Congress leadership to counter us on the plank of development. Let there be a debate on 47 years of Congress misrule versus 5 years of the NDA Government's pro-development rule. But the Congress knows that it cannot question our development record, without cutting a sorry figure. They cannot countenance a contrast between our track record of social and economic justice for weaker sections and their track record.
We are ready for a debate with the Congress on Secularism
Which is why, at its Shimla conclave, the Congress has once again taken out its rusted and blunted weapon of communalism, and called for the formation of an alliance of self-styled secular parties to defeat the BJP. I would like to tell our friends in the Congress party that we are in the least bit worried by their shrill propaganda that the BJP is an anti-secular party. We are prepared for an open debate on secularism. But first the Congress should answer a few uncomfortable questions and clarify its stand on a few issues:
" Whether or not the Congress wants the Ayodhya issue to be resolved with the construction of Ram Temple at the Janmasthan;
" Whether or not the Congress high command agrees with the assertion made by its Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh that Hindutva is not a religious concept;
" Whether or not the Congress high command thinks that the advocacy of its Chief Minister in Chattisgarh for a Ram Katha Temple in his State is communal or secular;
" Whether or not the Congress high command agrees that its Chief Minister in Kerala was right in criticizing the adamancy and unreasonableness of the Muslim League.
I also suggest that those criticize the BJP day in and day out to be "an enemy of secularism" should take the trouble of referring to the Prime Minister's recent speech at the international conference in New Delhi on Dialogue Among Civilisations. In this conference, the Prime Minister affirmed that the Indian concept of secularism (understood as Sarva Panth Samabhaav) should be accepted by all countries in the world, so that tolerance and inter-faith cooperation become global ideals.
While explaining to the people about the developmental initiatives, educate them about important issues like Terrorism and POTA, NCERT syllabus, dangers of infiltration, scrapping of IMDT Act, need for anti-conversion laws, ban on Cow slaughter, inter linking of rivers, population control, and need for providing reservation for economically backward people.
Operation 2003 and Mission 2004
Friends, we are meeting in Chattisgarh. It is our Government at the Centre that created this state, along with Uttranchal and Jharkand, with the aim of catalyzing development of the backward region. The Congress has ruled Chattisgarh continuously for 10 years --- Eight years when it was a part of MP and Two years thereafter. The performance of the Congress Govt has gone from bad to worse. It has failed miserably on all fronts. Instead, in order to cover up its failures, the states Chief Minister has resorted to every kind of gimmick, including sitting for dharna in front of the PM's residence in Delhi.
The Congress rules four of the five states going to the polls later this year. The Congress rule in these states has become synonymous with corruption, scandals, increasing atrocities on women and weaker sections, and neglect of people's welfare. The people in all these states are completely fed-up with the Congress Party and want a change. The battle lines are being drawn. Our immediate objective is to succeed in Operation 2003 - that is, to unseat the Congress from power and a big win for BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Delhi. I congratulate the State units in these four States for their devoted efforts to achieve this objective. I compliment the Central Ministers who have taken up specific responsibilities to participate in the campaign activities in these four States. Let there be teamwork and tireless work at all levels of the Party organization. There is a strong anti-incumbency mood among the people in all the four States. People want to support the BJP. Now it is up to us convert this groundswell of support into a convincing and complete sweep in all the four States.
Simultaneously, I call upon Party workers, functionaries, Ministers, MPs, MLAs and leaders at all levels to gear up for Mission 2004. Be always on the move, reach out to the masses, explain our achievements and assert the soundness of our policies. I repeat what I said earlier "Think progressively, Assert ideologically and Campaign aggressively". Here our objective is to reach as close to a clear majority for the BJP as possible and secure a two-thirds majority along with our allies. It is not an impossible goal. We can do it. We have UNITY. We have CLARITY. And the people are willing to give us a bigger OPPORTUNITY.
Hindutva is the soul of India. We are proud of it but it cannot be an election issue. Nor can Hindutva be projected as a narrow religious concept. We are committed to secularism but are opposed to pseudo- secularism and appeasement for the garnering minority votes.
We are proud of our ideology. Do not hesitate to state our stand on any issue, but remember that we are leading a coalition government and there is no question of thrusting our agenda on any of our partners.
Corner the Congress from all corners. Do not allow the Congress to divert the peoples attention from their past misrule and present failures. Emphasize the main points of our agenda -- namely National Security, National Unity, Good Governance and Development. Challenge the Congress to debate these issues with us. These shall be the main themes of our campaign.
We are strong on each of these issues and our opponents are weak. Compare 47 years of misrule of the Congress and five years of performance of the BJP led Government.
We should tell the people, " You gave absolute majority to Congress at all levels and you have seen what they have done on development front. You have seen what they did to our national security. You have given us a limited mandate still you have five years of good governance before you. We need a stronger mandate to carry forward the agenda of making India a stronger and more developed nation. Hence the call for Mission 2004 and Vision - 2020 ( Shaktishali Bharat ke liye Shaktishali Bhajapa).
Project the BJP as a Nation First party -- pro-poor, pro-farmer, pro-rural, pro-youth and a party committed to India's all round development.
I would like this to be the main message of the meeting of the Party's National Executive in Raipur.