BHUPENDER YADAV: There has been a big improvement in governance under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In politics, the government has set a standard where only talking about patriotism is not enough. Taking brave decisions for the benefit of the poor, and then executing the decisions with full sincerity and honesty, bringing about a transformation in the political and administrative landscape, in political debates, this is what our government has been doing and, I feel, the people of the country have also accepted that.
The BJP has 11 crore members. Today, if the party has a government in 17 out of the 29 states, then, in the future, what will the organising structure of the party be like? What will the work culture be like? How will new people be integrated into the party? What will be the method of ensuring transparency in our party’s decision-making process? To ensure that the right answers to these questions seep to the bottom, a three-day tour of each state in 95 days has been planned.
Secondly, since it is the centenary year of our party’s ideologue, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, so every party worker has been told to dedicate 15 days of the year to the party’s expansion. The 15 day tour across five states began from West Bengal’s Naxalbari, then moved to Telangana’s Nalgonda district, which is the most Naxal-affected area in the state. The third tour took place in the tribal areas in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur, the fourth happened in Odisha, and the fifth one in Lakshadweep. This was the first time that a national head of any political party visited the Union territory. The BJP did not have a single booth there.
Thirdly, the work of the BJP has been divided into 19 departments, and a core committee has been constituted to take decisions from a collective perspective, to take the opinions of the BJP to the people, to ensure economic transparency, to engage with the people who speak vernacular languages and the local media, to engage with the intellectual people of the society, to interact with NGOs and cooperatives, to interact with and guide BJP workers at the district and block level, etc.
In the three-day tours, for over 18 hours everyday, back-to-back meetings have been held by the party president and feedback has been taken. This ensures that not only from the perspective of strength, but also from the perspective of quality and work, the party comes out as assertive; a party that is working with people and integrating ideas. This shows that the party has a scientific attitude in its work, is transparent and has high-quality people.
LIZ MATHEW: What is the kind of conversation that takes place during these tours? What do party workers speak about?
The most important thing is that it happens on an open stage. First, an open discussion happens in the party’s core committee. Then, there are discussions with the district presidents, state office bearers, intellectuals of the state, the local media. Also, if there is a booth in the region, we interact with them.
LIZ MATHEW: What about controversial issues, are these discussed with party workers?
More than controversial issues, wherever there are issues of ideological clarity, or if the party is misrepresented or if there are rumours being circulated, we respond to all of it in clear terms. When we were in Kerala, he (Amit Shah) responded to all the questions of the people for two hours. When he was in Nalgonda with members of the OBC community, he did the same. In Baroda, there was a meeting held with eminent intellectuals, and he (Shah) put forth details about why the BJP was established, what was the party’s work culture etc. It was all put before the people with a lot of clarity because we want to be both, a transparent as well as an accountable party.
LIZ MATHEW: You are in-charge of Gujarat which goes to polls later this year. The latest development in the state is that veteran leader Shankersinh Vaghela has left the Congress. Is he going to join the BJP?
Vaghelaji is a big name in Gujarat politics. If he has left the Congress with certain reasons then it shows the party’s condition. There has been no talk on it (Vaghela joining the BJP).
RAVISH TIWARI: The new President, Ram Nath Kovind, mentioned Deendayal Upadhyaya in his inaugural address, but did not name Jawaharlal Nehru. Everyone has the right to choose people they want to talk about. In his speech, the President was talking about how a nation should be shaped and it is in that context that he referred to the people. He has a right to do so. He (Kovind) did not name any prime minister. This cannot be
RAVISH TIWARI: Also, Mayawati said that the President should have visited Ambedkar’s statue, instead of just going to the Raj Ghat, before his swearing-in.
Mayawati’s concerns show her disappointment after the verdict (in the Uttar Pradesh elections)… There is no need to take this seriously.
ANAND MISHRA: Is the BJP’s acceptability growing among Dalits?
We have Dalit MPs and MLAs in our party. Our slogan ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ stands for acceptability. To reach out to everyone in society is the BJP’s priority. We don’t want members of different communities to fight. We want them to stand as equals and get equal opportunity. That is our mantra and we are moving ahead to fulfill it.
ASHUTOSH BHARDWAJ: The Prime Minister and other Sangh leaders have been trying to project that whatever happened in the country in the past 70 years was not good, that the country had been robbed, and that 2014 was a new beginning.
We have the right to criticise the Congress’s schemes. It is only after seeing their failures that the public has given us a mandate to govern.
Even today, 18,000 villages are forced to live without electricity. For years, there was no bank facility in several parts of the country. In 70 years we could not provide drinking water to all… So, the responsibility for these failures has to be placed on someone, isn’t it?
I want to say it loud and clear, that it is the BJP that has brought parivartan (change) in this country.
SHYAMLAL YADAV: Former prime minister VP Singh implemented the Mandal Commission and former Congress minister Arjun Singh implemented OBC reservation in higher education institutions. What has an OBC PM done in the last three years that these people didn’t?
For the poorer sections of society the government has provided basic facilities such as toilets. Then, there is the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana for LPG connections. It is our government that urged banks to ensure that loan facilities reach every section of society, and it is being done. In our fight against black money, the government implemented demonetisation. There are several other schemes which will not only lead to the growth of the formal economy but will also result in the flow of funds for the country’s development.
LIZ MATHEW: You have said your government’s mission is to create social harmony. So when social harmony gets upset, do you consider it a failure of your political mission?
We are making all efforts to ensure social harmony and equal rights for all.
RAVISH TIWARI: But what about the attacks on minorities and Dalits in BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh?
Cases have been reported from various places across the country. A mob attacked one of our workers in Kerala, a policeman was attacked in Jammu and Kashmir… Even during the tenure of the Samajwadi Party government there were some mob attacks. Recently, there was a mob attack in West Bengal. Such incidents are related to law and order. Since our government has come to power there has been a decrease in such incidents, it has been published in some renowned newspapers. We condemn such incidents. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also condemned such incidents and said that nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands.
LIZ MATHEW: The chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, has said that until the BJP reins in the RSS, violence will continue.
I have visited his (the CM’s) village, Pinarayi, in Kannur district. There is no chief minister in the country whose constituency has witnessed such violence, where people have been attacked and bombed because they did not vote for the CPM. In Kannur, more than hundred of our workers have been killed. The hands and fingers of those driving autorickshaws and working in the fields have been cut. Women’s hands were broken. Just go and see how these people have been brutalised by Communist violence. We have a list of the people killed. If you don’t vote for the CPM, your hands are cut.
KRISHN KAUSHIK: You said that during BJP rule, there has been a decrease in incidents of violence. But, recently, Kiren Rijiju told Parliament that community-related offences had increased by 41% between 2014 and 2016.
I also have data which shows that during the Congress government in 2013, 823 incidents of communal violence took place and 133 people lost their lives. If you compare it with the recent incidents, then the violence has declined. Also, it is a state matter. Our government is making all efforts to prevent such incidents.
ANAND MISHRA: The Opposition has accused your government of political witch-hunt. Whether it is West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh or Bihar, why is action only being taken against Opposition leaders?
All agencies are operating freely under our government. There is no political pressure. If a person is facing a corruption charge, he must clarify. The law must take its course and we are allowing that to happen.
RAVISH TIWARI: As a Rajya Sabha member, how do you see attempts by the government to circumvent the Upper House by introducing money Bills?
There is a specific provision in our Constitution for money Bills. Nobody can interfere with it.
LIZ MATHEW: In his farewell speech, former president Pranab Mukherjee said that discussions in select committees cannot be a replacement for debates in the House. Do you agree with this?
It is true. That is why after a report by a select committee, the House has the authority to conduct a debate. Whatever laws we are making, the ultimate aim is to provide relief to the last person. A debate in the House is very important.
ASHUTOSH BHARDWAJ: The wife of Chhattisgarh minister and BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal acquired 4.12 hectares of forest land owned by the government and is now, along with her son, building a resort on it. Our Chhattisgarh unit is looking into the case.
LIZ MATHEW: There have been reports of internal feud in BJP state units such as Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. How do you plan to tackle that?
We are working towards a political mission and ideology. Our people are dedicated and focused. I have not noticed it (internal feud) yet.
SHYAMLAL YADAV: Your government promised to do a lot for Dalits. In his speeches before the 2014 elections, Narendra Modi said that his government would give Dalits and OBCs what they haven’t received in the past 70 years. But in the past three years there hasn’t been much work towards that. What is your plan for the next two years?
There was no electricity in 18,000 villages of this country, by the end of five years all of them will have it. There were 26 crore people below the poverty line who didn’t know the way to a bank, so we opened bank accounts for them. We made Mudra loans available to seven crore people. Our government started the Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana, Sukanya Samriddhi and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao schemes. Also, in the last three years, there has been a change in the country’s environment.
ASHUTOSH BHARDWAJ: What about the failures? Have there been any in the past three years?
I believe that under the leadership of our PM, the government is working very hard and will continue to do so.
RAVISH TIWARI: What is your opinion on the reservation demand by the Jats, Patidars and Marathas?
We are not against anyone and we are not in favour of anyone. Based on the systems and indicators that have been set and created within the parameters of the Constitution, all sections of society should get the opportunity to move forward. We are in favour of continuing reservation
for sections already mentioned in the Constitution.
ANAND MISHRA: Your vice-presidential candidate, M Venkaiah Naidu, will also become the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. What are your expectations from him?
He is a senior leader and will hold a constitutional position. He will take forward various subjects of Constitutional nature.
LIZ MATHEW: What would be the party’s position in the Rajya Sabha by February 2018?
The way the party exists in states is how it will exist in the Rajya Sabha as well. By April 2018, it should be in a good position with good numbers.
ASHUTOSH BHARDWAJ: Many in the Sangh Parivar are now heard asserting that the top three posts in the country are occupied by members of the organisation. They are all good citizens. The Sangh is made of good citizens.
RAVISH TIWARI: Is the BJP scared about Gujarat polls? Both Amit Shah and the PM have been making frequent visits to the state.
Wherever there is an election, we have a programme in place. Conversations are held with citizens. This happens all over the country. We conduct tours and meet party workers. The BJP wants to be active and involved with the workers. Wherever the PM goes, he invigorates people.