Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley says his party is set to gain from the Congress’s credibility crisis and the grim economic situation

If the Congress-led UPA government is battling credibility issues on account of corruption charges, poor governance, inflation and an economic slowdown, the BJP, India’s leading Opposition party is facing its own internal crisis of dissent over Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi’s emergence as its potential Prime Ministerial candidate, questions over the BJP’s secular credentials, the absence of a coherent alliance strategy for the 2014 elections and its failure to mount a convincing opposition to the UPA’s scams. Speaking to The Hindu, BJP Leader in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitely, answers tough questions on the multiple crises’ facing the Party and whether the 2014 win will be more about alliances and inflation than scams and governance.

Why has the BJP been soft on the UPA’s scams? In 2G, the BJP only reacted after the CAG, media and Supreme Court took up the issue in November 2010.

The 2G scandal took place in 2008, the noises started during the general election of 2009. The BJP and the Left parties did flag the issue in the media in 2009 but were busy with the elections. Post elections, I raised the issue extensively in the very first session of Parliament in 2009 itself with active support from the AIADMK’s Dr. Maithreyan and the CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, which rocked Parliament for the days, forcing Mr. Raja to reply for hours together. Parliament came to know of 2G only through this discussion. We then organised protests, rallies and seminars on the issue from 2009 onwards.

The BJP has been relatively silent on the KG Basin gas pricing issue while the Left has accused the UPA of tailoring its policies to suit Reliance Industries.

The government’s explanation of the basis for the KG Basin gas price increase is unconvincing since it will stoke the inflationary pressures emanating from rising international oil prices. The Standing Committee on Finance headed by Yashwant Sinha has already recommended a reconsideration of gas prices.

Even on the Vadra-DLF land deal, the BJP has maintained radio silence till last week. Your protest in Parliament was a token one.

When the issue first started circulating in the media, there were two views within the party. One was we should not raise the issue just because Mr. Vadra is a member of the Gandhi family, while the alternate view, which has now gained ground, is that we must raise the issue since this is a clear case of undue favours to a person, whose relationship with an important political family gave him the ability to start and grow a business without any capital.

We tried to raise the issue in Parliament twice but were blocked by the ruling party.

The issue involves four stages: First, someone (Satyanand Yajee of Onkareshwar Property) gifts land to Mr. Vadra and styles it as a sale through mention of a fictitious consideration. Second, the State of Haryana helps Mr. Vadra by converting the land use and its value escalates. Third, the land, with its escalated value, is transferred and sold for a windfall gain and lastly, the windfall profits are used by Mr. Vadra to multiply his assets across the country. The net story is that a venture was started with nil investment and unusual transactions entered into which transformed into a bonanza within no time.

The BJP’s lacklustre protests have left the Congress unaffected. Is the Vadra-DLF deal overhyped?

Credibility is a political party’s most valuable asset, which for the Congress, is now under question. Their silence is particularly disturbing. When no answers are given, it is presumed that no answers could have been given. The absence of truth leaves indelible footprints and the democratic process will ensure that any such taint will return to haunt the Congress.

Mr. Vadra must publicly explain his dealings or the facts in the public domain will strengthen the presumption that these are outright favours to him. This also serves as a lesson for all those in positions of influence that the transactions of their family members must be above board.

But the 2014 win seems more about alliances and inflation than scams and governance.

I foresee a huge anti-incumbency wave against the UPA with a substantial reduction in their strength in 2014. UPA’s prospects have been eroded by a grim economic situation, absence of political leadership within the Congress, and widespread corruption charges.

The BJP, which occupies the largest non-Congress space in the country, will be the biggest beneficiary of this anti-incumbency wave, particularly in North, West and Central India. I believe we will be the front runners to form the government in 2014. The BJP’s edge will come from the fact that 2014 is increasingly becoming a partial presidential election where leadership will be important.

We will benefit in States where we are independently strong, where we have alliances and where our presence is marginal like the East and South. The increase in our vote percentage — a trend supported by opinion polls — boosts our alliance potential. In some States, our performance is admittedly dependent on our putting our own house in order and stitching up local alliances. A strong BJP will translate into a stronger NDA.

Why are you and Sushma Swaraj shying away from leading the electoral contest in the Delhi elections?

My larger interest is in central politics. For either Sushma Swaraj or I to contest elections in Delhi is not an option, but we will throw our weight behind the candidate selected for the Chief Minister’s role in Delhi.

The BJP’s disruption of Parliament smacks of indirect opposition to the Food Bill. Won’t the electorate see through this?

The BJP is in favour of the right to food. We have repeatedly said we will support the Food Bill as it is necessary for people below the poverty line as well as for the undernourished population above the poverty line. Our objection to the Food Bill is on four counts: unguided discretion in selection of beneficiaries; reduction of the quantity being given to the BPL segment; the danger of it becoming costlier; and the absence of wholesome nourishing food. Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have raised these concerns with the PM. We will propose suitable amendments and allow the Parliamentary process to take its course.

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