THE BJP has recently accepted Ram Vilas Paswan as its ally in Bihar. It has also approached Raj Thackeray in Maharashtra. Is it because the BJP is now not so confident of achieving its Mission 272+ to get a majority in the Lok Sabha that it has begun to woo all kinds of allies?
There is no harm in taking along like-minded people whose political thought and ideologies are not much different from ours. But the BJP is completely confident it will get a clear majority on its own. We will achieve the magic figure of 272 plus. Even when we get a clear majority we will ensure complete participation of our allies in the NDA government.
But the BJP did look opportunistic when it took back BS Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, who had to resign as chief minister after corruption charges were levelled against him and also left the party.
Yeddyurappa had to resign from the chief-ministership after charges were levelled against him. He did not resign from the party. Later he left the party on his own, we did not expel him. Now he has decided to come back.
What about taking back Paswan?
Paswan has a certain following. After Narendra Modi got a clean chit from the court he [Paswan] decided to work with us. Now we have a Dalit stalwart like him in Bihar, in Maharashtra there is Ramdas Athawale, in UP we have Udit Raj. Their presence has increased the confidence level of Dalits toward the BJP.
In UP, your home state, are you planning any alliances or will you go it alone?
We will go it alone. We may consider an alliance with some small party on one odd seat. We are confident of winning not less than 50 seats there.
You don’t think there will be a three-way split in votes with Mayawati and Mulayam Singh?
Not in many places. Modi’s popularity is cutting across community, caste, creed and religious lines. This time people will not vote for making a government of a political party but for the country. The Congress has ruled for a long time but has not been able to meet the challenges. People now have an alternative. BJP governments in different states have shown good governance.
In this election there seems to be a change in your agenda. You have not emphasised your traditional poll planks like Ram Mandir. Have you dropped this issue?
Development is our main agenda for these elections. As far as Ram Mandir is concerned, the high court has given a unanimous judgment in our favour but some people have appealed against it. We should wait for the verdict.
What about the BJP pushing for the removal of Article 370 and having a uniform civil code?
These issues should be resolved on the basis of consensus to ensure sentiments of different communities are not hurt.
But when Narendra Modi says he wants a “strong India”, the perception among the minorities is that it means a “strong Hindu India”.
India is a secular country. The BJP has never differentiated among people on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians may have different ways of worship, but their commitment towards the country is one.
What is your agenda for the minorities?
When development is the main issue then we should be worried about unemployment and the general uplift of all people, irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
If the BJP comes to power will it consider making changes in the reservation policy to exclude the second or third generation of those who have already availed the benefit?
Reservation is a sensitive issue. Decisions on such issues should be made on the basis of discussion and consensus.
There is a perception that the SAD, your ally in Punjab, is soft towards Sikh militant related issues.
The SAD is our old ally. It is a nationalist party and we firmly believe that.
And J. Jayalalithaa has ordered the release of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi. What is the BJP’s approach on that?
We always stand by the court’s judgment.
So are you for or against it?
The question does not arise because as I said the BJP will always stand by the court’s judgment.
Jayalalithaa has decided not to go with the Left. Are you planning any kind of arrangement with her?
No, we have not had any discussions with her either on pre-poll or post-poll alliance. She is very clear she wants to go it alone in these elections. Our Tamil Nadu colleagues are talking with other political parties like the PMK and the DMDK. Nothing has been decided yet.
What about Mamata Bannejee and the TMC?
She too has said she wants to go it alone.
Why did you take former Army chief VK Singh into the BJP? Hasn’t he discredited himself by his conduct both in defying the government on the issue of his date of birth and on the allegations of pushing for a ‘Mandalisation type’ of agenda in the Army by pushing his own Rajput Regiment?
He does not have any charges against him. In the Indian armed forces it is not possible [to Mandalise it]. Let alone VK Singh, there is no way anyone can make any such charges against a general. There is no way you can challenge the integrity of the Indian armed forces.
The Congress has always been accused of projecting dynasties and personalities. Today the BJP is doing the same by projecting a single person — Narendra Modi. He is almost becoming a cult figure.
We are only following the party’s old traditions. We earlier projected Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani, and now we are projecting the country’s most popular leader, Narendra Modi. The way he has worked for the progress of Gujarat is appreciated and is there for all to see. If there is an individualistic party it is the Congress.
But there is a big difference between Vajpayee and Modi. Vajpayee was a very tall national leader and was even regarded as a statesman.
Every leader has his or her achievements and qualities. He [Modi] too has individual qualities. When Atalji and Advaniji were our prime-ministerial candidates, they were projected in a similar way on hoardings and posters. In the states we project our chief ministers in the same way.
But the BJP has a whole string of good leaders in states. There is Shivraj Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh….
It was decided by the Parliamentary Board to nominate Modi.
There are reports about interference of the RSS in BJP matters. What is its role in the elections?
They are also from this country… citizens of India. It is a democracy, and they have an equal right to cast a vote and participate in the democratic process. If they believe the BJP can provide good governance, and are giving their support on the BJP basis of that, what is wrong?
Is the RSS driving the BJP agenda?
No, the RSS has never dictated the BJP in any way. All political decisions are taken by the BJP.
What are the issues the BJP will take up on priority if it comes to power?
All current issues like inflation, poverty, unemployment, external and internal security will be our priority areas. We would like to improve our tax structure so that funds are better utilised and the paying people are also not discomforted. Agriculture also needs attention, as India is an agrarian country. One-third of the national GDP comes from the agriculture sector, and one-third each from the manufacturing and service sectors. The services sector alone cannot solve the problem of unemployment.
What will the BJP do to create jobs?
The government cannot provide jobs to everyone. There is a need to create a sense of entrepreneurship and we need to develop skills for that. We will run programmes for skill development. We will also try to provide loans at minimum possible rates to generate self-employment.
Narendra Modi, when in Delhi recently, spoke indirectly of allowing FDI in retail.
We will not allow FDI in retail in any way.
What is your assessment of AAP?
I do not even think of them.
But Kejriwal accuses Modi of using the police against him when he went to Gujarat.
You saw what they (AAP) did in Delhi to the BJP office. Have you ever seen any political party attacking the office of a rival party in this way? I appealed to our supporters to maintain peace.
You do not think AAP will affect the BJP in certain constituencies, particularly in urban areas?
I don’t think so. They do not pose any challenge to us. Even their political significance is not substantial. That is why we don’t think about them at all. We think only about our party…. Our thinking is completely positive.
What do you have to say about the Congress campaign?
We would not like to comment about any other political party. Our approach is completely positive.
What is your assessment of Rahul Gandhi?
I have not felt the need to think about that.
Is he so weak that you don’t even have to think about him?
No, I am not calling him weak. We are only worried only about ourselves, our shortcomings and drawbacks and the ways to rectify them. We prefer to stay away from others’ negativities.
If you look at the Congress strategy, essentially what Rahul Gandhi is trying to say is that the Congress is inclusive and the BJP exclusive.
People understand the Congress well. These are its ways of misleading people and getting votes, but these will not work anymore. Does our performance in Gujarat, MP and Chhattisgarh show that our approach has been exclusive?
What Rahul seems to be referring to is the BJP’s approach towards minorities.
Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, we want to take along all citizens of the country. We do not believe in creating hatred among people. We have never done that. We believe in a culture that says all people in the world, irrespective of the country, belong to one family… our family.
In 2004 and 2009 the BJP was equally upbeat about its chances but lost. What were the mistakes you made then that you have rectified now?
This time we are upbeat because the Congress has been completely rejected by the people. They are disappointed with the performance of the UPA government. There is an increase in the confidence level of the masses in the BJP. Naturally, if anyone can benefit in these circumstances it is the BJP.
Finally, why should someone vote for the BJP?
If there is any party that is capable of giving good governance it is the BJP. This has been proved by our past performance at the Centre and in the states ruled by the party. Even those who believe the BJP cannot give good governance will be forced to acknowledge the fact by comparing the track record of states ruled by the BJP with those ruled by other parties. Good governance is the reason people will vote for us.