The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal praise at Advanis’ parade

New Delhi, Oct. 13: Lal Krishna Advani committed himself to fighting the next parliamentary election under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. And he brought his entire family out to do it.

Amid raging speculation that the exercise of going to the media on the third anniversary of the NDA government when the Prime Minister is out of the country is an attempt at self-projection by the deputy Prime Minister, Advani went out of his way to swear by Vajpayee’s leadership.

“Today, as we renew our pledge to implement all the promises made in the common manifesto of the NDA, we once again thank the people of India for the faith they have reposed in us and appeal for their continued support in the remaining two years of our tenure. Therefore, it is our aim to seek and win, under the leadership of A.B. Vajpayee, their renewed and bigger mandate on the strength of this government’s performance,” Advani said.

He compared Vajpayee with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. “No non-Congress Prime Minister has been in office for half as long as Shri Vajpayeeji. Indeed, he will soon be the longest serving Prime Minister of India after Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi. This shows the direction in which the winds of politics in India are blowing.”

He added that the NDA government’s stability was largely because of the “experienced and enlightened leadership of Shri Vajpayeeji, who commands unparalleled credibility and popularity beyond the supporters of the BJP and our allies in the NDA”.

The high praise for Vajpayee was, however, unable to draw a curtain over why no other minister — not even NDA convener George Fernandes — was present on an occasion like this. Sushma Swaraj and her deputy Ramesh Bais were around, but that was because the event was organised by her information and broadcasting ministry.

Nor did it go unnoticed that Advani was accompanied by his wife, son and daughter — very much in the style of American politicians who routinely do this to underline their commitment to family values.

Indian politicians, including the current Prime Minister who has an adopted family, are not known to favour this practice.

Given the tough questions Advani faced, for the family it was hardly a routine outing, though. Asked why the BJP did badly in Jammu, Advani spoke about the Goa win.

Why had the government failed to get on top of terrorism' “I have studied the course of terrorism in India for the last 15 years and it was one-sided. Only for the last four or five years, there has been bilateral action. Indeed, the year 2001 saw the highest number of terrorists killed,” Advani, who is also the home minister, said.

On divestment and whether persons of “foreign” origin should contest elections, Advani sounded as moderate as Vajpayee.

He spelt out his perspective on the ideology-versus-governance dilemma.

“BJP’s essential ideology is cultural nationalism in which nation first is the key word. But a large area of governance has nothing much to do with ideology and more so in the case of a coalition government.”

This viewpoint was reflected in his answer to why contradictory voices were being heard on divestment.

Advani said: “I have been watching debates and discussions on liberalisation the world over. There is nothing basically wrong about that. But I would like all ministers to have their debates at home.”

Advani distanced himself from Jayalalithaa’s statement that a “foreigner” like Sonia Gandhi should not become the Prime Minister, which she said after a meeting with the deputy Prime Minister. The sequence of events prompted people to ask whether she was put up to it by the BJP.

Today, Advani’s reply was: “I don’t have to respond to the opinion given by another senior leader. The Constitution review commission did not make that recommendation. Therefore, there is no obligation on the part of this government to go in that direction.”

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