Tarun Chugh, the National General Secretary of BJP, has his task cut out: To make his party a force to reckon with in the Valley. In an exclusive interview to Organiser Senior Correspondent Nishant Kr Azad, he exposes the hypocrisy of the Gupkar Alliance which has gone back on its pledge of boycotting elections. He spoke at length on other issues ranging from saffron surge in Telangana to farmers’ agitation. Excerpts:
After being appointed the National General Secretary of the BJP, you were given the additional charge of Jammu & Kashmir. How do you see this?
Jammu & Kashmir has been very close to the ideological narrative of the BJP ever since its inception. A large number of party cadres have sacrificed their lives for J&K. Right from the party’s founding father SyamaprasadMookerjee to Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, many have given their blood to keep the flame of nationalism burning. We feel immensely proud of the slogan, “Jahan Balidan huye Mookerjee, woh Kashmir hamara hai” (Where Mookerjeelaid down his life, that Kashmir is ours). The fact that soon after the Independence, the president of a national party sacrificed his life for a nationalist cause is itself significant.
In the DDC elections, the main battle is between BJP and the Gupkar Alliance. What are issues that BJP is raising in the elections?
For us, what is important for J&K is equally important for the entire nation. J&K is located on the frontier of India — bordering both Pakistan and China — which makes it important from a national security perspective. For seven decades, Article 370 was a hurdle in integrating J&K completely into the Union of India. It had alienated a major section of the State’s population from the rest of the country.
On August 5, 2019, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, we abrogated Article 370 and Article 35(A). Both Articles were doing extreme injustice to the people. For instance, before the abrogation, women would lose their property rights after they marry someone outside the state. However, if a man marries a non-resident, his rights would be sustained. However, now after the abrogation, both men and women are equal. The Gujjar and Bakarwal communities who enjoyed reservation in rest of the country were denied reservation. Now, they are entitled to reservation.
The tragic Partition saw over two crore people being uprooted. They sought refuge in India as they wanted to preserve their civilisationalvalues, temples and gurdwaras. Millions abandoned their properties in Pakistan worth crores of rupees. They migrated to India, struggled and prospered. However, in J&K, refugeeswere denied domicile rights.
More than the Abdullahs, it is the Congress that betrayed the people of J&K. After the princely state joined the Union of India, the Constituent Assembly in the state was formed with 70 seats, on which both the Muslim Conference of Sheikh Abdullah and the PrajaParishadParty of Jammu contested the elections. However, voting on 62 seats were suspended and allowed only in eight seats. All of which were won by the Muslim Conference, whose leader Sheikh Abdullah (who was later imprisoned for 10 years for sedition) was backed by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. So the matter should be viewed from the perspective of how the Kashmir-based political parties including the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, who set up the Gupkar Alliance, behaved.
How do you view the politics of Gupkar Alliance?
The Gupkar Alliance announced that it will not take part in the elections unless Article 370 is restored in J&K.However, they later changed their stance. This was their first defeat. It wasfollowed by their second defeat when the voter turnout was more than 50%. People have shared videos from across the Valley to show that they have voted for the first time in last 70 years. It’s the failure of the ISI-backed politics of breaking India by bullets of which the Gupkar gang is the urban front. It’s the ballot of Narendra Modiji which defeated the bullet of the Gupkar Alliance.
The aim of abrogating Article 370 from J&K was to integrate the State entirely with India. It’s more than one year since it has been revoked. What have you achieved by this in terms of development of the region?
The task of converting a State into a Union Territory is humongous and requires a lot of efforts and time. In the last one-and-a-half year, we have been successful in creating a blueprint for the future development of J&K, and are now witnessing positive changes like transparency in jobs and giving power to the common man. Earlier, there existed ‘kangaroo’panchayats, but now we have introduced a three-tier system of local governments.
It has been alleged by the Gupkar Alliance that there is a wide gap between the Modi Government and the people of the Valley.
The allegation is baseless. The people of the Valley have full faith in the Indian democracy, its Constitution and its institutions. It is Pakistan and the Gupkar Alliance which want to utilise Kashmir as a battlefield. Our government believes in a zero-tolerance policy, which the people too accept. Now, hardly 200-300 insurgents are left in the Valley with no popular support.
Although the intensity of stone-pelting has declined in the Valley, data indicate that the number of youths joining insurgency has swelled. What’s your take?
I disagree. Earlier, the entire village used to treat an insurgent a hero. But now the situation has changed. When a young person joins a terrorist organisation, his parents immediately report to the police. There are instances where the police have counselled misguided youth and returned them to their families. We have decided not to negotiate with those who have picked up arms. It’s the duty of the Indian Government to bring such gullible children back to the mainstream.
People are now aware of the damage done by the NC and the PDP. When Mehbooba Mufti publicly shouts that no one will lift the Tricolour, no one listens. Similarly, no one cares for Farooq Abdullah when he says that Pakistan with the aid of China will capture Kashmir. I want to ask, has his son ever gone to Lal Chowk to pelt stones? They send their children to foreign destinations for good education and security but ask ordinary people to take up arms.
Terrorist encounters are taking place across J&K even now. In such a scenario, do you think entrepreneurs from outside will come to invest in the Valley?
For that, we need to create a harmonious atmosphere. I have full faith in the vision of Modiji, which led to the historic step of revoking Article 370. Under PM Modi’s leadership, Srinagar and Jammu will develop at the same pace as Mumbai and Bengaluru. Now, Kashmiris have understood that it’s only under Modiji’s leadership that they can prosper in the real sense.
Along with J&K, you have also been made in-charge of BJP in Telangana. In the recent Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls, BJP increased its tally from four seats in the last elections to 48 now. Does that mean that you are aggressively spreading your base in South India?
Yes certainly. One needs to know that in any election, a new kind of political mechanism is taking shape. In that sense, the person at the grassroots is at the centre of our concern. The economically weaker section of the society now views the Prime Minister as their messiah.
Veteran actor Rajnikanth has announced that he will form a political party in Tamil Nadu in January and probably contest elections. Is BJP planning to form an alliance with his party?
BJP has evolved as a political party after a long struggle. The political party which ruled the Centre for almost 70 years failed to give an effective leadership to the country due to its incompetence and unholy alliances with foreign powers. There’s only one national political party in the real sense from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and that is the BJP. At the state level, parties and leaders will come and go, but for pan-Indian politics, it’s only the BJP.
The farmers’ agitation is a burning issue. Negotiations between the government and the farmers have failed. How do you see these protests?
The greatest agricultural revolution in the last 100 years has been undertaken by PM Modi. It is a historic step to liberate the agriculture sector. Our government is committed to the welfare of the tillers of this land. An arid nation like Israel is known for its successful agricultural model. However, in spite of vast tracts of fertile cultivable land, we face shortage of water to irrigate our farms. If we manage to have a good harvest, we face shortage of proper storage mechanism. For the first time in the history of India, under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat programme, large-scale provisions are made to store surplus food by allocating almost Rs 1,000 crore. We aim to connect the farming activities with the broader agricultural sector of manufacturing and storage and empower farmers like never before.
Capt. Amarinder Singh and the Congress are opposing farm laws. However, in the 2019 General Election manifesto of the Congress, it promised the same legislations. Similarly, while Congress opposed CAA last year, many of its party leaders in the past were in favour of this Acts. How do you view this?
Former PM Manmohan Singh had urged the government to introduce special laws to give citizenship to the persecuted minorities of Pakistan. The fact is that Congress never believed that laws like CAA and Farm Bills can ever be passed and implemented.
BJP is considered to be a party rooted in values and ideology. However, the party is nowadays welcoming politicians from other parties to join it. Do you think BJP will remain a party of ideology?
Even today, BJP is a party committed to its core values and ideology. It is working exactly like it used to work under the leadership of SP Mookerjee, Pt DeendayalUpadhyaya, LK Advani and AB Vajpayee. Every year, BJP gives ideological training to its cadres. There was a time when people used to compare BJP’s presence in the politics of India with veteran actor AK Hangal’s role in Hindi films. Both were present with no significant role to play. However, the BJP has grown after decades of struggle, hardship and sacrifice.