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‘Varun’s repugnant words did BJP greatest damage’

Brajesh Mishra,one of the closest aides of Vajpayee,has come out with the first categorical denunciation of Varun Gandhi’s hate speech in Pilibhit.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
June 12, 2009 11:06:18 pm

As the BJP grapples with the growing internal chorus questioning its failed strategy in the general elections,Brajesh Mishra,former National Security Advisor and one of the closest aides of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,has come out with the first categorical denunciation of Varun Gandhi’s hate speech in Pilibhit saying it caused the “greatest amount of damage” to the party’s electoral fortunes.

Speaking to Editor-in-Chief of ‘The Indian Express’ Shekhar Gupta for NDTV’s Walk The Talk — to be broadcast on Saturday — Mishra said the BJP committed a mistake by not censuring Varun Gandhi’s “repugnant” statements. The right course for the BJP would have been to “completely dissociate itself from him and not give him a ticket,” he said. Asked how Vajpayee would have handled the situation,he said,“He may have called him and advised him. But I am sure he would not have liked it.”

Although not formally associated with the BJP,Mishra was considered extremely influential in the NDA government,mainly because of his proximity to Vajpayee which he continues to enjoy to this day. Underlining that the continuance of BJP as a major political party was good for the nation,Mishra put his critique in context.

“I want the BJP to survive and thrive,” he said. “This country needs the BJP. It needs two national parties. Otherwise if BJP were to,God forbid,disappear,then within four to five years,regional forces will once come to the fore and we will again be faced with very very unstable situation,” he said,adding that not just the BJP but its ideological parent,the RSS,too,needed to reassess its strategies and bring moderation in the ranks.

Mishra said the BJP had come to power,with the help of allies,only by moderating its agenda and people had accepted that. He said the top leadership of the party had not moved away from that moderate agenda but in these elections,however,the impression went out — “through the voices of Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi” — that the party stood for a very strident form of Hindutva which was exclusivist in nature.

“I am absolutely clear that the Varun episode did the greatest amount of damage to the BJP…his speech and his behaviour…The BJP should have totally moved away from him,” he said,adding that such statements did not go down well with the masses. “The kind of statements Varun Gandhi made…people were completely taken aback. They also thought that as soon as a BJP government came to power in Karnataka,organizations like the Ram Sene came out in the open.”

“The Hindu ethos does not allow people to go beyond a limit,” said Mishra. “The impression going out was that this was not Hindutva. This was something else,” he said,adding that the inclusive nature of Hindutva had affected other Indian religions as well. “That is why today you cannot say that more than,say,0.0001 per cent of Muslim population would be jehadis.”

“Clearly,your (BJP’s) message of Hindutva,howsoever you may define it,did not get across to the voters who voted for the Congress,and for stability,” he said.

Mishra also faulted the BJP for unnecessarily attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,saying the strategy only helped in consolidating support for Congress and the Prime Minister. “By calling the Prime Minister weak,more publicity was given to him than he himself could arrange. It also resulted,for the first time,in the Congress announcing that so and so would be its Prime Ministerial candidate. This benefited the Congress and gave strength to Manmohan Singh,” he said.

Mishra said instead of running a highly negative campaign,the BJP should have concentrated in telling people how it could have performed better than the UPA government. “The negativeness was not liked. The BJP could have run a positive campaign and concentrated on telling people that it could have done much better on bijli,sadak,paani issues,” he said.

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