Lalji Tandon, senior leader and member of the outgoing Lok Sabha from the city who has made way for party president Rajnath Singh to contest from the UP capital, does not betray any signs of either a disappointed or angry man. He was the campaign manager of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and he is now the campaign manager of Rajnath Singh. In an exclusive chat on Wednesday at his official residence in central Lucknow, Tandon parries questions about the polarising effect of party in-charge of UP Lok Sabha election campaign and Narendra Modi confidante Amit Shah. Excerpts from the interview:
Have Narendra Modi and Amit Shah effected a communal polarisation in the state?
Amit Shah is an able organiser. He confined himself to organisational matters in UP, and in strategising booth management. He had no role in the politics of the state. There is polarisation in the state and also in Bihar. But it has been engendered by the communal elements among the Muslims. They portrayed Modi as a monster who is the enemy of Muslims, and who will harm Muslims. But the educated and intellectual sections among the Muslims, especially in Lucknow do not buy this argument.
There is the hard fact of numbers. Minorities do not have the numbers. If the strength of the minorities is 20 per cent (this is an indirect reference to the Muslim population in Lucknow city), there is the 80% on the other side. If there is a polarisation and the 20% votes one way, it will have an impact on the majority. Perhaps, the 80 per cent vote will not remain united, but it will solidify at least 50%. Polarisation does not help the minority and it works in favour of the majority.
An American journalist met me a few days ago and showed me the figures of an election survey his media agency had carried out. It showed that seven per cent of Muslims will vote for Modi and BJP, and so will 30% of Yadavs. There is a Modi wave, and when there is a wave caste and communal divisions get submerged.
How many seats will the BJP win in UP this time round?
Our previous record high was 58 out of 85. This time we will beat that record.
Is the Ram temple in Ayodhya an election issue?
Ram temple is one of the issues. It is not the only issue. There are also other issues like development and governance. The BJP has always been consistent about it. It has always said it wanted a temple to be built there, either through negotiation or through legislation. There is no change in the party stand. The temple will be built with the consent and cooperation of all the communities.
In 1991, I was the party prabhari of Ayodhya. I offered a solution which was acceptable to all. I said that let the temple be constructed in the adjacent land acquired by the state government, and we had also decided on a separate entrance to the new temple and a boundary wall separating it from the existing mosque. This was to be the solution until the pending case was decided in the court. I met Narasimha Rao about it. A joint parliamentary and National Integration Council (NIC) committee came to Ayodhya and they were convinced with my solution. But at the last moment, a section of the Muslims went to the court and opposed the proposal. It was after this that there was disappointment and anger among the Hindus.
There is a perceptible tussle and tension in the BJP over older leaders being ignored in favour of the next generation. Your comments on it?
It is a natural phenomenon. The older generation has to give way. And this has happened from the early days of the RSS, of the Jana Sangh, then the Janata Party, and now the BJP. Murli Manohar Joshi has shifted to Kanpur. I have stepped aside for Rajnath Singh in Lucknow. He asked me to be the campaign manager, and I agreed. I have no ambition for power or position. I have held all the important positions in the party, from the lowest to the highest (he was the city councillor as well as its member of legislative assembly and member of parliament).