HT interview: We are trying to unite people, Opposition trying to divide, says JP Nadda | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

HT interview: We are trying to unite people, Opposition trying to divide, says JP Nadda

May 19, 2024 12:25 PM IST

In an interview to HT, the BJP president rejected the Opposition’s accusation that the government was relying on polarisation to meet its electoral target

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not foresee anti-incumbency derailing its bid to return to power with a resounding majority as people have faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda, party president JP Nadda said in an interview with Smriti Kak Ramachandran on Friday, rejecting the Opposition’s charge that the government was relying on polarisation to meet its electoral target. Edited excerpts:

BJP president JP Nadda (HT)
BJP president JP Nadda (HT)

The BJP is chasing what seems to be a difficult target. How confident are you of bagging 400-plus seats?

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We will cross 370 seats on our own and 400 with our allies. We will retain the seats that we currently have, and in addition to that, we will win the majority of the seats in West Bengal, there will be a landslide win in Odisha, and in Andhra Pradesh (where, like Odisha, assembly polls are also being held) we will form the government with our alliance partner. In Telangana, we will double the seats we have. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, we will open our account.

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What about states such as Maharashtra, Bihar and Karnataka where reports indicate a loss in tally?

Even in these states, we will win. There are some seats where there is a tight fight, but we do not foresee any losses.

The BJP has been in power for 10 years. Why are you certain that there will be no anti-incumbency against the party?

This government has been proactive, responsive and accountable. Because of this, the people of the country have accepted the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. Look at G-20 Summit, even an ordinary rickshaw puller now knows what it is because Modiji linked it to the people of this country. Look at the war in Ukraine, a vegetable seller also knows how Modi put India’s stand up front. A common man agrees that Modiji saved the lives of 140 crore people during Covid (pandemic). And they also know what the role of the Opposition in all these three events was. There is pro-incumbency and people want national security. Earlier, our MiG21 pilots crashed during test flights, today we have the Rafale. We didn’t have bullet-proof jackets. We couldn’t make our own fighter aircraft. We couldn’t make our helicopters we do all of that.

People can see how the surgical strikes and [the Balakot] air strikes were conducted and what has been the trajectory of our relations with Pakistan. They have realised that Modi is the best choice.

Your rivals say that the evacuation of Indians from Ukraine has been politicised by the BJP.

It [the evacuation] was never done before. When did PM Indira Gandhi intervene? She was such a powerful woman.

...So you’re saying it was more than just evacuation, there was also intervention?

I double checked with the external affairs minister before going on record...he (the PM) first spoke to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and then (Ukraine’s Volodymyr) Zelensky and saw to it that it (evacuation) happened accordingly. Our cabinet ministers were sent as envoys to bring people back. When was this done before?... We carried out evacuation from Afghanistan and Yemen…All of this was done during our government and the common man agrees, Modi hai to mumkin hai (it’s possible if there is Modi).

The Congress and other opposition parties allege the BJP needs 400-plus seats to be able to carry out changes to the Constitution and scrap caste-based reservation.

Rahul Gandhi’s knowledge is limited. It was his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru) who first tinkered with the Constitution and an attempt was made to infringe on freedom of speech. Then his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) tried to do it... when the Allahabad high court judgment came against her, and she tried to save her seat.

Then it was done by his father (Rajiv Gandhi) in the Shah Bano case for the sake of vote bank politics. Then he himself publicly tore the ordinance (passed by the Manmohan Singh government that gave convicted lawmakers a three-month reprieve to retain their seats). A government is a constitutionally elected body, it can be any government or any Prime Minister, but he tore the ordinance passed by his own government.

PM Modi has unequivocally said that till he is there, no changes will be made to the Constitution or to reservation. We have been in power for the last 10 years, barring Jammu and Kashmir, have you ever heard of President’s Rule being imposed anywhere? Congress has a record of dismissing more than 100 state governments.

You (Rahul) carry a copy of the Constitution around, but have you ever read it? Baba Sahab Ambedkar had clearly said there will be no reservation on religious basis. What did your government in Karnataka do? They impinged on the reservation for SC, ST and OBC. (The state announced a 6% reservation in Muslims, Buddhists, and Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity under category More Backward).

Your government was dismissed in 2019, and we removed that reservation, but (CM) Siddaramaiah again got it back. Rahul Gandhi should go to Karnataka to make changes and then speak on the Constitution. They (opposition) are misleading the country and its people. Because they are bewildered, they are trying to create fear psychosis.

The regional parties have been able to stall the BJP’s electoral juggernaut. Now, some of them, together with the Congress, have forged an alliance. What is your take on the INDIA bloc?

There is no clarity in the alliance. There is no common minimum programme, there is an ideological void, and such an alliance cannot go far. The BJP-led NDA on the other hand is moving ahead with ideological conviction and our numbers will be far more…

There is a broad consensus between them on issues like opposing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) or the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Do you think these issues are not good enough?

Not at all. These are not good enough because the country is standing with NRC and UCC, the country supports CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). These people don’t know what the country wants...while opposing PM Modi, they have begun to oppose the nation.

Do you perceive regional parties as a bigger challenge than the Congress?

The regional parties came up because the Congress that was ruling the country, made no effort to understand and acknowledge regional aspirations In Kerala they (Congress) are reduced in strength and in Tamil Nadu, they became a fringe party. And who took their place in all these states... it was the regional parties. The Congress has now become a regional party too; it is now a family-run party. Its existence is limited to three people, Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi.

... And the Congress has been behaving like a regional party. Why did they oppose the abrogation of Article 370? If they had any understanding of how this country works, they would have never opposed it. They were only interested in their alliance with the regional party in Jammu and Kashmir.

In West Bengal, the BJP did quite well in the last election and you are hoping to do better. But CM Mamata Banerjee is a formidable opponent and has accused the BJP of fomenting lies about Sandeshkhali.

Mamata Banerjee does not know anything except lying. To stay in power, she ends up compromising on issues of national interest. She refuses to speak about the changes in demography. She makes compromises for the sake of appeasing her vote bank. And with impunity and shamelessness, she has been making a concerted effort to hide her sins. It is painful that a woman is making efforts to hide the crimes against women in her state.

The BJP has been able to accomplish two major ideological promises -- the revocation of Article 370 and the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. How do you see these impacting the elections?

They are not electoral but national issues for us. The day we got the mandate from the people, we abrogated Article 370. This has nothing to do with elections. In 1989, (at the national executive meeting) in Palampur, we passed a resolution for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. For us, these issues are associated with the sentiments of the people of this country, and the BJP gets support and blessings of the people based on these issues, and we will continue to get that.

How does the BJP respond to allegations of breaking up political parties, and engineering dissent that was seen during the Rajya Sabha polls in Himachal Pradesh?

People need to recognise their strengths and weaknesses. In Himachal Pradesh, 9 MLAs voted against you and the chief minister did not even get wind of it. You are on a weak footing, you’ve not been able to keep your house in order, but you’re blaming others.

There is a perception that the government misuses the Enforcement Directorate.

ED has acted against those who have done wrong. Has any of these leaders got relief from a court? Has any court said these cases are wrong? Even in the case of (Delhi CM) Arvind Kejriwal who is out on bail...has the court said the charges are wrong?

The truth is that during the Congress rule, ED was not doing its work and now it is.

The Congress says the BJP is a “super-deluxe washing machine”. They say had the government acted fairly, then action would have been taken against former Congress leaders who are now in the BJP.

There is no such thing. We have not stopped any cases against anyone. We do not disturb the legal and constitutional process.

There’s been an influx of leaders from other parties to the BJP. Does this not create problems between the old guard and the new joinees?

Since ours is a cadre-based, ideological party, we must increase our footprint. But we ensure that our ideological commitment doesn’t get diluted. It’s not like everyone can join our party. We assess what benefit we get from a certain person joining us. We also see if somebody is joining the party with a precondition, and the third is can we take care of the aspirations of our existing cadre. So far, we have been able to strike a balance.

Take the case of Uttarakhand, we have the Bahuguna family and the ND Tewary family with us. These are two big families, but has the balance been disturbed? The internal strength of a party is such that whoever comes here will become ours, and those who cannot adjust will automatically be out.

There was a time when the BJP was seen dependent on the RSS cadre for increasing its footprint on the ground. It [RSS] was also accused of wielding power.

The RSS is a cultural and social organisation that works for the country and stands with those who put the nation first. We draw our ideological stance from the RSS. We have learnt the concept of nation first and unity of its people from them.

As for taking political decisions is concerned, the BJP has a constitutional framework for running the party and taking its own decisions. We are a political party committed to ideology.

Assembly polls are expected in J&K by September. Do you think the BJP cadre is demoralised and you have ceded space by not contesting the LS polls in the Valley?

Where we think we have a chance of winning, we strengthen the organisation. Kashmir for us is not a party issue but a national issue. Today, we are very happy that Kashmir is in the mainstream and is participating in elections. We will fight the state election and we are capable enough to mobilise the cadre.

Your party says justice for all, appeasement for none. But of late, even the PM’s speeches have come under criticism for stoking polarisation.

The PM has exposed what the Congress had tried to stealthily do... disturb the demography and social fabric of the country by honey-coating poison. In the (52nd) National Development Council meeting, the then PM Manmohan Singh clearly said minorities mean Muslim and they have the first right on the resources. In December (2006) at a press conference in Mumbai, he reiterated that for you (Congress) minorities means Muslims. You oppose CAA, which grants citizenship to Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis and only bars Muslims... for them Islamic issues are so important that they oppose a national issue. So, PM Modi exposed this honey-coated poison and for that, you have to use certain words such as Muslim or minority, but the intention was different. We are trying to unify the polity and join the country and they are trying to divide everyone.

Do you think Kejriwal getting bail was special treatment and what do you make of his statements about Modi seeking votes to make home minister Amit Shah the PM. Also, what is your comment on Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal’s allegations.

The Supreme Court gave him relief and we respect the court. But people’s perception of this is in the public domain. Nothing remains hidden and what is to happen will happen.

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The BJP is very clear that we will move ahead under the leadership of PM Modi. Everything that Kejriwal says is khayali pulao (day dreaming). There is no constitutional provision for it (an age limit on contesting polls), we take decisions as per our needs.

As for the allegations by Maliwal, this is manifestation of his [Kejriwal’s] hypocrisy. A man who protested on the streets during the Nirbhaya incident, has been silent on what happened in his own drawing room.

Other than being the largest party, the BJP is also one of the richest, and this has become a key election issue, particularly because of electoral bonds.

We should understand how elections were conducted for 75 years and what kind of dhanda (business) was going on with these people (Congress) being the leaders of the pack. PM Modi introduced electoral bonds to ensure transparency. You should look at the proceedings in Parliament, people praised. Now. the Supreme Court has given an order which we respect, but how were you able to trace the donations, because there was transparency. You should look at the collections of parties that are not even half the size of the BJP. There are some companies that gave money and are under the scanner of some agency. It was a leap forward and a few steps backwards, but we will make efforts to improve.

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