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We want friendly relations with China and Pakistan: Rajnath Singh

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 - 6:00am IST | Agency: dna

BJP president Rajnath Singh has addressed about 75 election meetings and rallies so far. By the time the polls are over, he expects the figure to touch 150. In an exclusive interview to dna's Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr during his ride from the airport to his home, Rajnath Singh spoke about the party's electoral prospects, the role of senior leaders and what foreign ambassadors who have been meeting him over the years have been telling him. Excerpts:

What is the sense you get as you travel across the country and address meetings?
People are very unhappy with the UPA government. They want change.

Will the verdict be in BJP's favour?
BJP will touch the magic figure of 272 on its own, and with the NDA, it will reach 300.

Narendra Modi and you are two people who are addressing meetings across the country. There is talk of the Rajnath Singh-Narenda Modi duo like that of Vajpayee-Advani. Other senior leaders except Advani seem to be confined to their constituencies.
The other senior leaders will address meetings after the two phases on April 24 and April 30. Yes, Mr Modi and I have been addressing meetings. But the party leadership is not confined to individuals. There are others like Mr Advani, Dr (Murli Manohar) Joshi, Mr (Arun) Jaitley, Mrs (Sushma) Swaraj.

Does the BJP follow the principle of collective leadership?
Yes. There is collective leadership in the party.

There is a generational change in leadership in the party. But the criticism is that you have not handled the issue of seniors satisfactorily. For example, in Jaswant Singh's case, things went wrong
The change is natural. But the seniors will continue to play a role - in the party and in Parliament. They will remain important. No one forced Mr Jaswant Singh to go out of the party.

Is the economy the biggest challenge for the new government?
Yes, it is. The UPA has ruined the economy. The UPA benefited from the good economy that the Vajpayee government built during 1998-2004, and the momentum lasted till 2009 when the Congress won the election.

The economic recession is ending now. Do you think the BJP will benefit from the upturn in the economy?
The Vajpayee government too faced the world economic recession in 2001, but it invested in infrastructure and that is why India remained unaffected in those years.

If the BJP forms the government, will you join it? Would you want external affairs or agriculture?
I have been chosen party president for three years, starting January 2013. I will complete my term... there are enough serious people around in the party.

Ambassadors of many countries have been meeting you. What are they looking for in India?
All of them want to improve relations with India. They want better trade ties.

Last year, you addressed a lobby meeting in Washington about the situation in Afghanistan. Is the situation in Afghanistan important for India?
It is. India must give all possible aid to Afghanistan.

Do you think India and Pakistan should cooperate in maintaining stability in Afghanistan?
It will be in the interest of Pakistan that it has friendly relations with Afghanistan.

What will be your government's priority in foreign policy?
We would like friendly relations will all our neighbours.

In South Asia?
Yes, all our neighbours in South Asia. Right now, under the Congress government, we do not have good relations with any of the neighbouring countries.

Would you want to strengthen the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to maintain good relations with the neighbours?
Yes. We will use all instruments.

Will there be a change in India-US relations under your government?
We want friendly relations with the US and all countries of the world.

Is the party's rhetoric about China and Pakistan mere rhetoric... In reality, do you want friendly relations with these two countries?
We want friendly relations with these two countries.

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