`Communists are in for a shock in West Bengal'

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`In Assam, no government can be formed without our support ,

The former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Venkaiah Naidu, feels that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre is moving in the wrong direction and needs a course correction. In an interview to Roy Mathew in Thiruvananthapuram, he says that the people are unhappy with the UPA's performance and will vote against the Congress in the Assembly elections. Excerpts from the interview:

Does the BJP have a common plank for the Assembly elections?The five Assembly elections can be used to give a warning to the UPA, which is going in the wrong direction. It has gone back on its promises to the people. The defeat of the Congress in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry will be an indication to the UPA that the people are not happy with their performance.

Unfortunately, the BJP is not a major force [in these States] though we have good strength in Assam, where we are hoping to emerge as the single largest party. No Government can be formed without our support. In West Bengal, we are hoping for a major breakthrough the BJP and the Trinamool Congress together. There is some advantage for the Communists in a triangular contest. But I think the Communists also are in for a big shock.

In Tamil Nadu, the situation was earlier thought to be in favour of the DMK-led front. Now the situation is changing fast. The contest has become very keen and close. There is no wave as such because the people are tired of the negative politics of both the DMK and the AIADMK. Negativism and vengeance seem to be their agenda. By contesting independently, the BJP will get an opportunity to expand its base, improve its vote share and also test its strength. The party will definitely improve its strength.

How do you explain your isolation in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even in Assam?There is no issue of isolation. It is our choice. We did not ask for any alliance with anybody. The Communist parties and the Congress in Kerala, the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Congress and the AGP in Assam are competing in vote bank politics. And appeasement has become their major election plank. The AGP, for example, is not that much vocal on the infiltration issue. They are also banking on the Muslim vote.

In Tamil Nadu, it is very pertinent to note that Jayalalithaa has not taken a stand against conversion after having brought in legislation. Now both the DMK and the AIADMK are promising that they will provide reservation on communal basis. How can you think of joining with any of these parties? That is why, basically, we have taken a principled stand we cannot have anything to do with these parties and fronts.

Our cadres feel that by constantly joining this front or that, we are confining ourselves to a few constituencies. We must contest and expand our base. Accordingly, we have not made any attempts to court any front. Of course, we tried to have understanding with other smaller groups. So, in Tamil Nadu, some 14 smaller groups and new parties have made common cause with the BJP. We have left 15 seats to them. Similarly, we have some understanding with the Janata Dal (United) in Kerala. We know that parties that are really opposed to Congress or the Communists will have to work with the BJP in the long term.

How will you break through the bipolar politics of these States?Through effective, sustained campaigning. There is no shortcut. I told you that there is no wave in Tamil Nadu. People are in a dilemma. We have to intensively and extensively campaign to tell the people that there is no difference between these parties. In Kerala, the LDF and the UDF are one and the same. In Assam, because of our stand on the infiltration issue, the support for the BJP is growing day by day. Our political opponents will be in for a surprise as far as Assam is concerned. Because of the recent happenings within the Communist parties in Kerala and within the Congress and K. Karunakaran's party, both have lost credibility. We are highlighting that and naturally trying to cash in.

But your party here is in disarray. Vice-president L. Ganesan has been going around trying to settle the problem but it persists. How do you look at that?I don't agree with the description "disarray." There were a few problems in some places. I think they have been sorted out. In the elections, all my party workers will be working together.



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