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Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani in conduct call

Indore, April 5: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today said conduct in public life was more important than ideology because people judged politicians by the first yardstick rather than the second, reports our special correspondent.

Regarded as the BJP’s most articulate and credible purveyor of the Hindutva ideology, Advani’s apparent turnaround in his political position came as he delivered his concluding remarks at the BJP national executive here.

The BJP leader said “idealism” was his party’s distinctive tradition. “It was the conviction that we were striving for a goal higher than our individual selves,” he said.

“A goal for which it was proper and necessary to shun everything that had to do with oneself — home, comforts, security of a job or profession — and do everything that had to do with the nation.”

Advani cited the example of Jan Sangh founder Deen Dayal Upadhyaya — who, it was noted, always practised what he preached — to drive home the point that the BJP’s “culture of selflessness” was its greatest strength.

“Ideology is important, and we are distinctive in that respect, too. But ordinary people do not judge a political worker by his ideology, by what he preaches. They judge us by our conduct in public life,” he emphasised.

The deputy Prime Minister underscored the importance of conduct by maintaining that it mattered more than even governance. “Government performance is important, but even more important is the behaviour and conduct of the BJP’s ministers, MPs, MLAs, office-bearers, etc,” he said.

BJP sources said Advani’s remarks should be seen in the context of the party’s defeat in the recent Himachal Pradesh elections.

Although for official consumption the leadership had put it to central minister Shanta Kumar’s “covert rebellion”, in private sources admitted that many former ministers, including the chief minister, had cut themselves off from the cadre.

The party-government disconnect has also been seen in Uttar Pradesh, where legislators and workers have periodically complained to the Delhi brass about lack of access to ministers.

Advani placed the BJP’s slogan of being a “party with a difference” in the context of the “ideal” he talked about today. “The question I ask myself — and I would like all of us to ask ourselves — is: why should something that has been our strength, our sustaining force get diluted now when we are in power'

“Does this mean that idealism and power politics cannot go together' There are many who think so. We have to prove them wrong…. Without this unique aspect of ‘a party with a difference’, the BJP will be seen as a party like any other,” the printed copy of his speech given to the press quoted him as saying.

“Therefore, we must remind ourselves that we are not in power for the sake of power — and all that it entails,” he added, expanding on the ideal that would go down as the most significant message emanating from a perfunctory meeting.

“Rather, we are in power, and we want to be in power for a long time to come, because we want to be instruments for the realisation of a higher national ideal. An ideal in whose light our individual ‘self’ counts for nothing, but our collective ‘self’ as the party counts for a lot.”

If good behaviour was the leitmotif of Advani’s address, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee focused almost exclusively on the four Assembly elections due in November in his speech. The Hindi text said: “Barely had the sweet taste of the Gujarat victory left our mouths than we had to swallow the bitterness of the Himachal defeat. These two events have prepared us for the future challenges.”

The Prime Minister said “election manifesto and speeches have their own place but it is people’s experience with a government that is the clincher”.

He said the outcome of the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi elections would be “decisive and prescient”, and underlined the need to reach out to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, minorities and women.

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