The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani gives vent to hit-wicket fears

New Delhi, Nov. 13: L.K. Advani has denied any differences within the NDA government on disinvestment and said all parties will be consulted to evolve a consensus to facilitate passage of crucial economic Bills in Parliament’s winter session.

In a wide-ranging interview to PTI, the deputy Prime Minister said: “Just because there are two views on the disinvestment of two oil companies (HPCL and BPCL), it cannot be said there are differences.”

Advani argued that even those who were committed to liberalisation and disinvestment had two views on the mode of privatisation of oil companies and to project this as “differences” within the government was not proper.

However, Advani’s most significant statement was that he was not worried so much by the Congress’ resurgence as by “problems” within the BJP. “I don’t feel uneasy about the resurgence of the Congress in the state elections. I would have felt that way if the Congress had been able to score well in the Uttar Pradesh elections,” he said. “If there is concern in our circles, it is about the problems within the party. In several of my speeches to my partymen, I have said we are batting at the moment and no bowler can get us out. If we lose it, it will be by a hit-wicket.”

Advani admitted that the rebellion by BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh had affected the party’s image, though he maintained that the crisis would end. He blamed the revolt on “personal ambition” of some BJP members and described them as “social climbers in a party that viewed politics with a sense of mission”.

“These political climbers, like some MPs and MLAs, want to become ministers saying they will serve the nation. But this will not fulfil the BJP’s dreams. Politics in this country is not a profession like many others,” Advani stressed. And, as politics has “much greater clout in India than (in) any other country,” he said politicians should “behave better”.

Advani was, however, confident the BJP would perform well in the next Lok Sabha election. “We would be able to get a renewed mandate…. Atal Bihari Vajpayee has set before the party a target of a clear majority…,” he said and added that even if the goal is achieved, the BJP would ensure that its current allies continue to be part of the government. “This is because of our realisation that the country is diverse and heterogeneous and that the multi-party coalition of the kind that we run at present can tackle more effectively in a more representative manner, not only geographically but even socially.”

Advani believes the BJP is perceived as a “natural” ally of regional parties like the Akali Dal in Punjab and the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh which were founded to oppose the Congress.

Advani said the recommendations on tax reforms made by the Kelkar Committee were only a “consultative paper” to elicit public opinion and the government had not yet taken a decision. The recommendations were criticised by a section of the BJP and the party president appointed a seven-member committee to study the report and make suggestions. Advani said finance minister Jaswant Singh has not agreed with all the points made by the committee.

To ensure the passage of the 23 economic Bills in the pipeline, including important ones on fiscal responsibility, banking sector and labour reforms, Advani said all parties would be consulted. “I believe that the finance minister has already taken some initiative and was holding discussions with the Opposition,” he said.

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