As his party girds its loins for the battle to lead India, BJP president Rajnath Singh appears to have the maths worked out in his mind on every possible electoral scenario. But about one thing he is certain: in no circumstances will the BJP stake claim to form the next government if it doesn’t have a clear mandate.
You have been the Bharatiya Janata Party president for more than a year now…
(smiles) And it seems like it was yesterday…
This has been a challenging year. You took over when a president had to be replaced, you had to face a crisis over the candidature of your prime ministerial candidate…
Other people have to judge my presidentship. I can’t be the one to judge.
What did you see as biggest challenge when you took over?
My priority was to keep a coherent and united face of the party and make the organisation active and effective.
So the party was inactive?
It was not inactive as such, but it needed to become more active. I have always believed strongly that Indian democracy operates on the basis of a leadership cult often referred to as a personality cult. I took over on January 13, 2013 but in September, even before taking over as president, I gave an interview in which I said Narendra Modi was the most popular leader in India. If the projection is of the most popular leader, then that leader does become the most popular. I followed this by activating the party’s (voting) booth committees. For a long time, I have believed that the booth committee is the heart of any political organisation. This is the body which organises the canvassing, the polling, gets people to leave their homes and come to the voting booths, makes sure their names are on the voters’ list, and in an organised way, gets them to vote for the party. This is what the Aam Aadmi Party is doing…
In between, you had to persuade one of the most senior leaders of your party to make way for Modi. He even wrote you a letter saying he was disappointed in you.
People only write letters to those they love. After all, if a father loses his temper with his son and tells him, ‘You are naalayak (no good)’, it doesn’t mean he has begun hating his son!
But some of the things Advaniji said were quite valid: that this is a party that has never been run on vyaktivaad (personality cult).
Atalji was named prime minister much before the elections by Advaniji himself. If you look at every election right since Independence, one leader has always been at the centre of it. Even within the BJP, we declare chief ministerial candidates to cash in on the popularity of a particular leader. And there is nothing wrong in it.
You are expecting to come to power on your own strength. You have just two allies. So, what will your agenda be if you come to power?
There are some things on which there is no debate. Take conversion. If there is mass conversion, it can only take place when temptation is offered. This is not right. Take Article 370 (related to the status of Jammu & Kashmir). Our position is that benefits of decisions taken by the Indian Parliament should flow to Jammu & Kashmir as well. Right now, the gains of reservations, the gains of the 73rd amendment do not apply to them. Why should this be the case? Even some so-called secularists agree with this.
So, will you offer a common minimum programme (CMP) if you cannot reach 272 on your own? And, will the CMP have Article 370 in it?
Let us see what happens. The way the wind is blowing, the unexpected can happen. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in its present form might reach 275, even 300. But let me tell you that even on our core issues, we would strive for a consensus and would not force them down as the Congress does. I am sure we will get a majority on our own.
But if you don’t, there is a feeling you might have to replace your prime ministerial candidate.
There is no question. Narendra Modi will be the Prime Minister in all circumstances. We would rather sit in the opposition but we will not replace our prime ministerial candidate.
What if the Third Front says you should support them from the outside but agrees to implement a part of your agenda?
That is a hypothetical question. Administration cannot run only on the basis of rules and regulations. There is something called moral authority. If we project one person as the Prime Minister all along and make somebody else the PM, how will he have the moral authority to rule? And if moral authority is gone, what is left?
There are a lot of allegations against Narendra Modi – of snooping on conversations, for instance. Don’t you think these dilute his moral authority?
There were allegations even against Lord Ram.
Let us assume for a moment that Narendra Modi has some way to go before he can attain the stature of Lord Ram…
Ram matlab maryada purushottam (Ram means the most exalted among men).
Allegations are levelled against human beings, not gods. And Snoopgate involves an allegation.
There is no evidence of any snooping. The man who has levelled the allegations is himself under investigation for so many offences.
There is pressure on you to project Narendra Modi as a caste leader…
We are not in favour of projecting caste. If somebody says with pride that he is an OBC (Other Backward Class) and belongs to the same caste as Modi, what can we say?
He is also going to state after state and is citing the example of the way things are done in Gujarat. He is attacking local leaders who were part of the NDA once.
He is only trying to link states.
So if you come to power on your own, nothing can stop you from doing all the things that you could not do in the past – Ram Janmabhumi temple, Article 370, a uniform civil code…
As I told you earlier, we will strive for a consensus on any contentious issues. Unlike the Congress,we will not divide states simply because it suits us politically. Though we support smaller states, the manner in which Telangana is being created has stoked passions. This should be avoided. Politics khub khelo lekin adhyatmic bhav ke saath (play as much politics as you want but with a sense of spiritualism).
So, in the first 10 days of government? In the first 100 days?
Inflation has to be controlled and unemployment has to be brought down.
You have some ideas about how inflation can be brought down. The RBI has other ideas. You want lower interest rates, the RBI feels there should be no change. If you come to power, you are at liberty to replace the RBI governor.
Why should an official who is doing his job be replaced? We have no such plans. Let me tell you that there would be no victimisation or witch-hunting of good people and officers.
Our objective is to develop India not only economically but spiritually as well.
I was at a function in Delhi University. Boys and girls there said they wanted India to become an economic superpower. I asked them: by becoming an economic superpower, will the country be overcome by bliss and prosperity? They had no answer.
What we need is for India to become a spiritual superpower. When I was education minister in UP, I broke the back of those who used to copy in examinations. I also introduced sanskrit, and changed references in textbooks related to India’s original settlers. We need to have a special emphasis on culture.