ALMOST a tenth of India's population will go to the polls on November 25 to elect new State Governments in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram. As India's largest national party, we seek a positive mandate in these polls to not only continue to serve the people of Delhi and Rajasthan, but also to replace the decrepit, dishonest and debilitating Congress regime in Madhya Pradesh with a strong, clean and efficient BJP Government.
The voters in Madhya Pradesh have the twin privilege of electing two Governments with a single vote-one for Madhya Pradesh, the other for Chhattisgarh. Let Chhattisgarh have as good a Government as the one we promise for Madhya Pradesh. In Mizoram, in the ten seats where we are contesting, the beleaguered people of this North-Eastern State have at last got a chance to vote for peace, prosperity and probity. The well-being of the people of Mizoram is integral to our concept of the well-being of all Indians.
In Delhi and Rajasthan, despite hostile Congress and Congress-backed UF Central Governments during their entire tenure, barring these last eight months when a BJP-led Government has been in power, the BJP Governments have exerted to provide purposive and able governance aimed at rapid people-oriented development. In sharp contrast, the Congress Government in Madhya Pradesh has failed in every sphere of governance and has come to be identified with unbridled corruption, widespread maladministration and deplorable anti-people policies.
Earlier this year, India voted comprehensively against the malgovernance of a morally bankrupt and politically decrepit Congress and the misgovernance of a disunited and inept alliance called the United Front. The nation reposed its faith in the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies. The once mighty Congress was humbled in the second consecutive general election, having conceded to the BJP its status as the largest party in Parliament in the 1996 general election. On the other hand, the BJP reaffirmed its position as India's principal political party, significantly increasing both its vote share and seat tally in 1998. Despite the best attempts of the Congress and the Marxist-led United Front to politically isolate us, we emerged with more allies than anybody. In this tectonic shift in Indian politics, the discredited UF all but disappeared while the Congress was further marginalised.
We were charged with the responsibility of preparing the nation for the challenges and opportunities of the next century and the new millennium. We were given the task of not only ending the malgovernance and misrule of the past, but also of setting an agenda for the future.
We formed a Government, led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, along with our allies and set ourselves to this noble task in right earnest. The National Agenda for Governance, which seeks to chart a new course for India and open a new chapter of purposive governance, has been the guiding spirit in all our actions.
Between March and November, the BJP-led Government, marking a departure from the dithering and indecisiveness of the previous regimes, has taken several crucial decisions and acted in a decisive and transparent manner, bearing in mind not partisan but national interests.
In these eight months, the nation's political and economic sovereignty, so gravely threatened by the disastrous economic polices of first the Congress and then the Congress-backed UF regimes and the continuous devaluation of nationalism by our opponents, has not only been asserted in unambiguous terms, but India has emerged as a world power, breaking free of its First World-imposed status as a Third World country.
If we were to enumerate the broad directions in which the BJP-led Government has taken firm steps, they would be: Ensuring India's external and internal security;Seeking consensus to secure national objectives; Boosting India's agricultural economy; Protecting Indian industry from multi-national predators; Making social progress truly meaningful; Mandating probity in public life; and, Upholding the best traditions of secularism.
One of the first tasks taken up by the BJP-led Union Government was to accord top-most priority to the security of India and all Indians.
Starting with Rajiv Gandhi's regime, India's security concerns, both external and internal, were ignored with disastrous consequences. So much so, India and Indians came to be seen as soft targets by those inimical to our nation's unity and integrity.
It was during Congress and Congress-backed UF rule that India became the new frontier of the international terrorist conspiracy. It was during those years that the lives of innocent Indian citizens were made dispensable on the blood-soaked altar of terrorism-be it in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-East, Tamil Nadu, Punjab or Maharashtra.
The five nuclear tests in May signalled our commitment to addressing India's external security concerns. The tests conclusively proved India's scientific talent is second to none. They also marked India's emergence as a nuclear deterrent state, at par with the other nuclear powers.
The BJP-led Government could have chosen the easy option, exercised by the Congress and Congress-backed UF regimes, of succumbing to pressure from certain Western Governments.
But our Government chose to place India's security concerns above all other considerations, thus giving the much-needed boost to the morale of our jawans and our people, unleashing an unprecedented outpouring of national pride among Indians, both at home and abroad.
The Congress and Leftists, on the other hand, being more mindful of the sentiments of those opposed to India's emergence as a world power and unmindful of popular sentiments, have criticised the tests. The Congress and the Left would rather have an insecure, weak and vulnerable India than a secure, strong and resurgent India.
Following the nuclear tests, severe economic sanctions were imposed on India. But this neither deterred the BJP-led Government nor dampened the nationalist spirit of Indians, both at home and abroad. To ward off the anticipated blockage of external aid of around $ 1.5 billion, our Government opted for an alternative means. Resurgent India Bonds were floated and NRIs responded with full patriotic fervour. Instead of the targeted $ 2 billion, the RIBs have fetched more than $ 4 billion.
Unlike our opponents, we have faith in our people-we believe in India. On the internal security front, the BJP-led Government has wasted no time in joining terror's insidious war against India's unity. We have mapped the ISI network and started dismantling it. Unlike the predecessor regimes, we have attached a high premium to Indian lives.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which suffered so grievously due to Congress drift, dithering and defeatism, has improved dramatically due to the BJP-led Government's pro-active initiative to root out terrorism from the State.
In the face of stepped up trans-border insurgency by Pakistan, the BJP-led Government has launched major counter-insurgency operations and stepped up vigil along the line of control. Since the BJP-led Government came to power, more than 800 Pakistan-backed and armed terrorists, most of them mercenaries, have been liquidated by security forces. The "Deputy Commander-in-Chief" of the Hizbul Mujahideen has been killed and major terrorist bases smashed.
Unlike during Congress and Congress-backed UF years, the Amarnath Yatra was totally peaceful this year with 1.2 lakh people undertaking the pilgrimage. As many as 80,000 tourists visited traditional tourist spots like Srinagar and Pahalgam this year. That the situation is fast returning to normal is also borne out by the fact that films are once again being shot in idyllic Kashmir.
Yet the task is unfinished. It is our endeavour to create the necessary environment so that the more than two lakh Kashmiri Pandits who were forced out of their homes by terrorists, are able to return to their ancestral land and live with dignity.
For the Congress and the Congress-backed UF Governments, the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits did not exist; since the victims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the Valley were all Hindus, their 'secular' Governments had to be indifferent.
The BJP has shown that political will and determination can be effective weapons against terrorism. We will demonstrate that these weapons can be used to smash the ISI's terror network-be it in the South, the North, the East or the West.
In the decades it was in power, the Congress caused enormous damage to the nation's polity by chosing the path of confrontation in order to achieve narrow party objectives. The aspirations of the States were trampled upon by the Congress to accumulate ever-increasing powers for the Centre. Issues of national importance were allowed to fester since it suited Congress interest.
The BJP-led Government has put the age of confrontation behind us and started a new chapter in nation-first politics based on consensus and better Centre-State relations.
We believe in upholding the dignity of States and making them stronger through devolution of administrative and financial powers to panchayats and beyond. The BJP-led Government has initiated steps so that States receive a higher share of resources from the centre.
Regardless of which party is in power in which State, we have pursued a positive, constructive policy of constant cooperation between the Centre and the States.
An example of the BJP-led Centre playing a constructive role for a national objective is the resolution of the more than three decades old Cauvery dispute.
The creation of the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal and Vananchal, and also granting of full statehood to Delhi, brooks no further delay. The aspirations of the people of these regions will be fulfilled and their full development ensured by creating these separate States. The BJP-led Government has already initiated the process and the birth of these States is only one step away.
The BJP-led Government inherited an economic mess whose true dimenstion can be gauged from the all-round decline in growth and production in 1997-98. The stark realities are reflected in the decline of Gross Domestic Production; fall in agricultural production; negligible growth in industrial production; nearly 50% fall in exports; and, a whopping fiscal deficit.
This mess is the legacy of 50 years of mismanagement of the economy, pursuit of wrong priorities and adoption of unbalanced development models, primarily by the Congress.
Our Government has taken several initiatives to provide long-term and lasting
correctives to the various maladies afflicting the Indian economy and holding
up rapid development. The common man, long ignored by the Congress-both during
the licence-quota-permit raj and the years when IMF and World Bank were allowed
to manage India's economic affairs, abridging the nation's economic and political
sovereignty-has been made the focal point of a new national development programme.
Swadeshi-self reliance and self-pride-has been made the cornerstone of our Government's
development model: India will be made by Indians.
The 'Speech' continues...