Speaking to Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express Shekhar Gupta for NDTVs Walk The Talkto be broadcast on SaturdayMishra said the BJP committed a mistake by not censuring Varun Gandhis 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 come to the fore and we will again be faced with a very unstable situation, he said, adding that not just the BJP but the RSS, too, needed to 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, the impression went out through the voices of Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi that the party stood for a very strident and exclusivist Hindutva.
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, organisations 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, he said, adding that the inclusive nature of Hindutva affected other Indian religions as well.
Clearly, your (BJPs) 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 Manmohan Singh, saying the strategy only helped in consolidating support for Congress and the PM. By calling the PM 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 PM candidate. This benefited the Congress and gave strength to Manmohan Singh, he said.