BJP is the answer. Congress graph is sinking because of its dubious record. We feel sorry that the Congress ruined the big gains the NDA made during its tenure.
Erudite, dynamic and youthful BJP president Shri Nitin Gadkari has an uphill task, to reform, reinvent, restate and revive the classic BJP moorings that transformed the party from a bit player to the main party of India in the last two decades. The present national scene where the people have revolted against the super class culture of the Indian political class, Gadkari, emphasising the core values of his organisation, insists that politics cannot be a means to make money. Corrupt people who have taken to politics to make money should look for their activity elsewhere, not in BJP. The uplift of the last person, in the social strata, Antyodaya, is the BJP’s goal and the party unlike the Congress is pro-poor in its approach.
Presenting the correct image of the BJP is the leader’s immediate priority. In this context, he argues, it is for the Congress to run the government. “It is not our job to help it run government. The Congress because of the huge scandals and governance paralysis is a sinking ship. The BJP is the only, and certainly a better alternative”, he says. Excerpts from an exclusive interview by the Organiser Editor Dr R Balasankar.
Traditionally, the BJP had an image of being pro-poor, and a party of the commoner. Of late however this image has been dented and an elitist image has come to stick. Is the party doing something to retrieve its original image or planning to carry on with the new impression?
The BJP is a pro-poor party. Our main constituents consist of people from weaker sections and common man. We can never become a party of the rich and elite. We stand for social change, we want the emancipation of the people in the lowest strata of the society. Our candidates belonging to the SC, ST and OBC get elected in large numbers. So naturally we reflect the concerns of these sections.
It is also necessary to consider the difference between the image and reality. Unfortunately, there is a deliberate attempt to paint the BJP pro-rich, pro-US, etc. We stand for a strong, prosperous, self-reliant India. Today the condition of our poor people is so bad that there is an urgent need to ameliorate and improve it. The farmers, villages and poor feel neglected because of the elitist Congress approach. We are fighting and exposing it. We will not allow the exploitation of our farmers to benefit the multinational companies.
What is your idea of politics in the context of globalisation?
For us politics is a mission for societal renewal.A large number of people in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, have benefitted through the party’s good governance projects such as Antyodaya Mela and Poverty Eradication campaigns at the district level. Our country has to attain a growth level of 12 per cent and our agriculture sector has to grow double digit to attain all round prosperity and employment generation. The UPA in the last seven years has failed us in all this respect.
The economic targets achieved by the Vajpayee government were excellent. The high growth rate in the initial stages of the UPA government were the result of the good work done by the NDA.
Why is it that the economy is declining at every sector under Manmohan Singh and you have not so far made a comparative study of this aspect?
The most striking aspect is that the UPA under Dr Manmohan Singh has totally mismanaged the economy. Inflation is in double digit, Food prices are skyrocketing, interest rates are high which makes investment costlier, production is low, infrastructure is in poor shape and now the rupee is falling steadily and growth is derailed. The agriculture sector is in a crisis leading to suicides by farmers. In all this the government is looking helpless. There is practically a holiday in governance in the last seven years. The government initially reaped the benefit of the investment and infrastructure initiatives of the Vajpayee government.Now people have realised the difference, how inflation, interest rates, prices of essential items were low and investment, production and governance were high under the Vajpayee government. Now there is scarcity in the energy sector, capital is flying away, FDI is the lowest ever, stock market has crashed. Under our government every sector of the economy was booming.
Is it the outcome of a policy mismatch or lack of initiative?
It is both. Take our service sector. A growing sector under NDA. A big foreign exchange earner. Now it is in crisis. BPOs are relocating from India. Tourism is a major area of growth. It can generate huge employment potential. But that is also in doldrums. Today, because of the lack of storage facility, foodgrains worth Rs 58,000 crore is getting wasted.Why is not the government making sufficient number of storage facilities at the district and village level. The irrigation projects are not getting completed for lack of funds at the State level. The Centre should bear fifty per cent of the burden of irrigation projects with the states.
The UPA claims that it is for better storage, transportation and investment in the farm sector that the retail FDI is being allowed?
That is a façade. These are things we have to do. With our money. No foreign retailer is going to build our farm infrastructure. We are totally opposed to FDI in retail sector. It will destroy our agriculture. We cannot allow it.
Your campaign against corruption has exposed the UPA. But there are problems within your party. How will you tackle them?
Was there any serious allegation against Shri Yeddyurappa? Now the Lokayukta has indicted S M Krishna and Kumaraswamy . Has the Congress removed Krishna?There are no allegations against Shivraj Singh Chauhan , Narendra Modi or Arjun Munda. Our governments are rated better than all Congress governments by all parameters.
Whenever there is a complaint against any of our government, we have immediately taken action. There is no place for corrupt people in our organisation. In Karnataka, for instance, we have our own views regarding the Lokayukta report. But we have acted on it and the Chief Minister was replaced. Compare this against the Congress response. The Congress at every stage has tried to protect its corrupt people. P Chidambaram is equally guilty as Raja. The Congress took action against Raja because of the court intervention and pressure from us. Sheila Dikshit and her ministers are indicted by various inquiry committees and the Lokayukta. Similar charges are there against the Congress governments in Goa and Rajasthan. But no action is taken. We have an uncompromising stand on corruption. We will fight it at all levels. Legislative or parliamentary seat or chief ministership or ministership cannot be a means to make money. Those who want to do politics through corrupt means are not welcome here.
How will you ensure that the BJP keeps itself off corrupt people when politics itself has come to be regarded as business by another name?
Politics cannot be a means to make money. If anybody in the party thinks like that they should leave the party. I want to make it very clear that we will not allow such contamination. Those who want to make money should choose some other profession like, industry, trade, agriculture and do it properly and honestly.The regeneration and rebuilding of our country is our goal. Governments will come and go. That cannot be the sole priority of a political party.
Are you taking any step to implement such screening to cleanse the system?
This is a continuous process. We educate our cadre to take up constructive work at the village level. NGO activities are encouraged. On Atalji’s birthday i.e. December 25, we are observing countrywide ‘Good Governance Day’. Our NDA government at the Centre was one of the best in history. There was all round progress, there was no suicides due to poverty, lots of jobs were generated. Atali is the icon of good governance. There was no corruption charge levelled against our government.There was big progress. We want to take the country towards progress. Our workers at all levels will take a pledge to this effect. We can only provide a direction but the vision has also to develop.We conduct training camps, leadership promotion camps, etc to motivate our cadre.
So what is the vision of your party?
Our slogan is good governance and development. Antyodaya, the economic philosophy of Deendayalji is our economic agenda. Nationalism is our inspiration. The country comes first, then the party and the individual only in the end. Our greatest strength is our worker who is totally dedicated to the nation. What is important for us is not to come to power but to change the condition of our poor people, the future of the country. This is our dream and we will always work for this.
You are entering the third year of your presidency. In the last two years how have you shaped the BJP as a main Opposition, and a cadre based mass party and what direction have you given?
BJP is in a better position today. Ours is a democratic party. We have developed a system of working as a team. I have largely succeeded in this. Our acivities have increased. Both within and outside we have played an active role. Today the Centre is in big trouble because of our continuous agitation. In Bihar we have swept the polls. In Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, in all bypolls we registered good success. On the whole the party has projected a strong, united picture. Today there is greater trust, in the cadre and people have great faith about us. The Congress is on the backfoot because of black money, corruption in 2G Scam, CWG and price rise. We have highlighted all this in the public. There is tremendous enthusiasm in the cadre because of all this. We have during this period, trained 30,000 workers for party work. We have computerised the entire working of the party offices and we are preparing now a vision document. We are sure that party will make big inroads in the coming months and in the coming Lok Sabha poll in 2014, form the next government at the Centre.
What is your prospect in the coming State Assembly elections next year, particularly in Uttar Pradesh?
I think we are in a position to make big gains in UP. The party is more united there now than ever. We are not a party of dynasty where one individual owns the party and others are all employees. We all are equal workers of the party. We are doing well and our campaign has begun.
Some newspapers reported that the BJP will have some adjustments with the SP or BSP after the polls to form government in UP?
Certainly not. The question does not arise. We will not compromise with Mayawati or Mulayam Singh and repeat the mistakes of the past. This is a big canard deliberately being spread to discredit us. We are the real alternative there. People have seen the misrule, lawlessness and corruption under the two parties. Congress is trying to create this confusion to make itself relevant in the State. This is a ploy of Rahul Gandhi’s media managers to spread this rumour. It is difficult for Congress to even cross double digit. People won’t allow the return of Mulayam’s ‘goonda raj’. People supported Mayawati last time impressed by her promise to put Mulayam Singh behind bars. But she could not do that and it has exposed her. Mayawati has crossed all limits of corruption. We are the only alternative. Congress is not in a position even to show its face after the humongous scandals it has perpetrated in the country.
Is there some confusion in UP poll scene because the BJP has not declared its chief minister candidate?
The chief minister will be decided by the elected legislators of the party.
What is the confusion about the status of Uma Bharati in UP. There was report that she will be contesting election from UP. Is it true that some UP leaders are not happy with the development?
There is nothing of the sort. Umaji is a senior BJP leader and not a provincial leader. She has a respectable image in the whole country. She hails from a place adjacent to UP and because of that she is equally popular in the State also. Her entry has enthused the cadre. She is not contesting to become chief minister. Reality is that the party is fighting under the collective leadership of Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharati and Suryapratap Sahi.
Has the induction of Sanjay Joshi into the party and his active role in UP helped the party in UP?
Yes. His return has helped tremendously. Sanjayji and Umaji together have made a big difference for the party and improved our position. Because of this we will get a big boost in the State and the results wll be very positive.
Do you expect a midterm poll because of the contradictions in the UPA?
People have elected the Congress for five years. So it is for them to run the goverment. It is not our job to help them run the government. Because of its own mistakes Congress is steadily sinking. So people are talking of midterm poll. But we will not force an election . We have not made any such effort. But we are prepared to fight the poll anytime it comes.
What is BJP’s prospect in the next election?
As of now the BJP and its allies are ruling 36 per cent of the population. The UPA states are limited to only 32 per cent of the population. Wherever our governments are in power, they are working better and are more popular. We think we are a better alternative and the people have accepted the fact.