'RSS did not vote en bloc for UDF'

KOCHI, MAY 20. The senior RSS leader and former BJP general secretary, Mr. K.N. Govindacharya, has denied that the RSS leadership had instructed its cadres in Kerala to vote en bloc for the UDF in the recent Assembly election.

However, he conceded that in `places like Kannur district' the cadres might have voted en bloc for the UDF in view of the `political atmosphere' prevailing there.

Asked if there had been a State-level RSS decision to shift its votes to the UDF, he told a news conference here on Sunday that, to his knowledge, there was no such decision. But, he hastened to add that individual workers might have opted for the UDF.

Asked if he would support the widely-believed decision of the RSS for cross-voting, Mr. Govindacharya evaded the question.

The hardline RSS ideologue, a known critic of the globalisation policies followed by the Vajpayee Government, evaded questions concerning the Government's policies saying that since he was on a `study leave', he was not equipped to comment on them. (Mr. Govindacharya belongs to a particular faction in the BJP and is said to have been sent on a two-year forced sabbatical in a move to keep him off party affairs.)

Mr. Govindacharya, a strong advocate of the RSS's swadeshi concept, was evasive when asked if he would call for a ban on palm oil imports which hurt the interests of the coconut farmers. When pointed out the Central Government's deal with Malaysia to import massive quantities of palm oil in lieu of a huge railway project in that country, he said India's friendship with Malaysia should be considered while asking for a ban on imports. Moreover, the interests of the consumers who benefited from cheap palm oil import also should be taken care of.

He said `indiscriminate globalisation' had harmed the Indian economy. The direction of the economy had shifted from `hollow socialism' to `ad hoc marketism' without addressing the basic issues of hunger and unemployment. `The present (BJP-led) Government is approximately continuing the economic policies of the predecessor (Congress) Government,' he remarked.

In his view, globalisation-liberalisation has led to: an increase in relative poverty, economic inequality, rural poverty and women's woes. It had not helped expand job opportunities, he contended. The small-scale sector was the worst-hit section of the economy. The lopsided priorities adopted in the wake of globalisation-liberalisation had increased tensions and conflicts in social life.

He suggested to the Central Government that on the basis of the experience with globalisation and the WTO regime, it take stock of the realities and make drastic corrective measures. As a first step, there should be better coordination among different Union Ministries that have any bearing on the WTO. Asked if he would recommend a separate `Ministry for WTO affairs' for better coordination, he said if needed that could be considered.

There should be no more new negotiations with the WTO. What was needed now was renegotiating the already negotiated items. Protection of the country's interests should be the focus of any dealings with the WTO. If necessary, India should quit the WTO. `There is nothing sacrosanct about the WTO,' he commented.

But before quitting, India should explore two other alternatives of `moulding the WTO' and `splitting the WTO'. Moulding the WTO could be done in partnership with the other developing countries in the WTO. India should take the initiative for the partnership and impose the will of the developing countries on the world body.

The second alternative was to create a strong lobby by taking advantage of the conflicts among the rich member-countries and then split the WTO.