NATIONAL

BJP has lost credibility: Gowda

CHENNAI Sept. 6. The former Prime Minister, Deve Gowda, said today that the BJP's rout in recent elections across the country indicated that the people wanted a change at the Centre. "In my opinion, it is a forgone conclusion that the BJP will lose this time. It is a bad Government even though (the Prime Minister) Vajpayee has done some good things like express highways and has taken some good steps," he said. Unemployment was rising, the working class was under an unprecedented assault, and agriculture sector faced serious issues. But the Government was not doing enough to tackle any of these problems.

Mr. Gowda faulted the "so-called former socialists and secular parties" for the present state of affairs. "Their only programme is to oppose the Congress. They got together under the NDA banner. Now there is no longer an NDA agenda at all. No one is talking about NDA agenda. Everybody thinks that Vajpayee can be a vote-catcher," he said and added that there was difference of opinion even between the BJP and the other Sangh Parivar outfits. "The BJP has lost its credibility. That's why they are losing one after the other. They have even lost the JNU elections," he said.

Mr. Gowda predicted regional adjustments and understandings among the secular political parties before the coming elections. "But some people are not willing to go with the Congress or the BJP. So there is the likelihood of the secular parties entering into adjustments. This is the first step. After the elections, there will be a final stage of anti-BJP forces coming together. No party, including the Congress, can get a majority," he said.

Asked if he was prepared to accept the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, as Prime Minister to keep the BJP out, he said: " I have no reservations. In 1998, I gave the letter to (the President) Narayanan. I am only concerned with the policies that have landed the country in such a bad situation." Anyone who was prepared to tackle the fascist forces and remedy the economic situation needed to be supported.

About the Congress, he said the party lacked clarity on issues ranging from disinvestment to economic crisis and communalism. There was enough wealth in the country to finance projects. The voluntary disclosure scheme and voluntary investment for infrastructure projects were two schemes that his Government had thought of to tackle the issues of availability of finances and accelerate infrastructure development.

"There is no need to go to the World Bank everyday and ask for loans. There are tonnes of money in the country. There is no point harassing two or three people in the country to put an end to black money. Putting an end to black money needs a surgical operation," he said.

Earlier addressing presspersons, Mr. Gowda called for evolving a comprehensive peace process with Pakistan. Mr. Gowda, who was on his way to Kanyakumari to attend a State-level convention of the party, appealed to the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments to arrive at a negotiated settlement by sharing the Cauvery waters.

"The problem in Karnataka is that the State is facing a very severe drought. In the last one month, more than 85 farmers have committed suicide. It is the question of sharing among us and not the question of lower riparian or upper riparian States," he added.

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