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‘I Never Met Sadhvi Pragya Or Col Purohit’

The president-elect of the BJP is very different from his predecessor

Rajnath Singh, president-elect of the BJP, is very different from his predecessor. Counting the period when he was party chief after Advani resigned, this is the third time he heads the party. He spoke to Panini Anand on the challenges ahead.

The NDA is left with four parties, and some of them are opposing Modi as a prime ministerial candidate. Is Modi a liability or an asset for the next general elections?

Narendra Modi is a popular and capable candidate, but as far as the BJP’s candidature for the prime minister’s position is concerned, the party will decide at our parliamentary board meeting. We’ve been following this procedure from 1996 to 2009. I believe this is the procedure that will continue.

You come from UP, where the party has performed badly in recent years. There are many state-level leaders and now Kalyan Singh is back. Isn’t the state a big challenge?

I agree that we achieved less than what we expected in the last polls. But because of misgovernance by the Congress at the Centre and the poor law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, thanks to SP misrule, we stand to gain.

Congress leader Digvijay Singh says you went to meet Sadhvi Pragya and Col Purohit, both accused of involvement in terrorist activities, in jail.

I never met them, either in jail or outside. Many Congress leaders, including the home minister, are playing the communal card for votebank politics. This is very unfortunate, irresponsible and condemnable behaviour.

As party president, are you a compromise candidate, agreeable to the party and the Sangh?

It’s not that I have been given this responsibility for the first time. I was in office as president before and I have been asked to serve the nation and the party once again.

What are the biggest and most urgent challenges you see as president of the main opposition party?

Inflation and bad governance are the biggest problems. To meet people’s expectations on these fronts is our biggest task.

How are you going to control internal problems in the party, and its troubles in Karnataka and Jharkhand? How will you handle rivals like Yediyurappa?

Yediyurappa, former Karnataka chief minister, is not in the party now. As of now, there is no proposal to talk to him.

How do you see the conflict between the party and the Sangh playing out in future?

There is no conflict between the Sangh and the party. The Sangh never intervenes in affairs of the party. It is true that many of us in BJP come from the RSS, which is a big sociocultural organisation. On sociocultural issues, party leaders hold discussions with the Sangh as and when required.

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AUTHORS: Panini Anand
SECTION: National
SUBSECTION: Cover StoriesInterviews
OUTLOOK: 04 February, 2013
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