Interviews (Text)

‘Collective leadership is the mainstay of BJP functioning … PM has always said that Constitution is supreme for him’

March 04, 2019

BJP was known for its collective leadership. After 2014, hasn’t the nature of power structure in BJP changed with just two leaders dominating?

Collective leadership is the mainstay of BJP functioning. We office bearers meet regularly, review the organisational and political situation, and discuss before we decide. How can a cadre based party with such a mass following be run by just two leaders? That can happen only in a dynasty-driven party where leadership is reserved by birth.

In 2014, BJP received broad-based support for a development agenda. Have issues like cow vigilantism hurt your prospects?

It is wrong to link cow vigilantism with our party or our larger school of thought. On several occasions our leaders have condemned those taking law into their hands. People are wise enough to make a distinction between a responsible political party and some fringe elements. Cow protection is not the agenda of BJP alone. It is mentioned in Article 48 of the Constitution of India. But again, the issue was ignored for decades for crass vote bank politics.

It’s claimed the Ram Mandir agenda has brought BJP electoral benefits. Do your supporters feel let down?

Please don’t look at Ram Mandir as an election issue. BJP passed a resolution on the issue at Palanpur in Himachal Pradesh some 30 years ago and many elections have taken place since then. Some lawyers in tandem with the opposition have been creating roadblocks in the rapid completion of Ram Mandir. I hope the judiciary will be adequately sensitive towards the urgency in this regard and I hope all political parties will reject the lure of vote bank politics.

Why has your government been afraid of releasing some economic data?

It is a false and baseless notion. Why would we do that when international thinktanks and bodies like IMF and World Bank acknowledged the success of this government on the economic front?

There appears to be a mismatch between the government’s advertisements and ground reality. How would explain the absence of benefits even now?

One has to go to the interiors of our country to find out the truth. Public relations strategies don’t get you success in states like Uttar Pradesh or Assam. Substantial achievements do. We tagged technology with welfare schemes to do away with pilferage. Even an illiterate tribal sister from a remote hilly region today knows that her benefits are now directly deposited to her bank account and no middleman can do any mischief. Even forest officials today admit that with the expanding reach of the Ujjwala LPG scheme, illegal felling of trees has remarkably reduced.

Supreme Court had declared triple talaq illegal. Where was the need to criminalise triple talaq with another bill?

The government introduced various amendments in the revised Bill and later an ordinance was issued. And frankly, there is a long history of Supreme Court rulings and opinions calling for a Common Civil Code that would automatically take care of triple talaq related issues. Despite that, injustice to Muslim women continued. Do you expect society to continue to ignore the criminality in instant talaq? So a substantive Act was essential.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was bound to stoke anxiety in the north-east. Why did the government persist on this path?

Our concern for the north-east and other border areas requires no proof. Attempts to create misperceptions about Citizenship Bill notwithstanding, let me say that our intentions behind the Bill are in tune with our commitment to the well-being and development of all our border areas, including the north-east. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had established the DONER ministry (development of north eastern region), which was neglected by UPA. We have revitalised its functioning with huge impetus given to infrastructural development in the north-east. The developmental projects that have been commenced or completed in the north-east in the past five years speak for themselves.

Isn’t BJP’s adherence to the spirit of the Constitution a bit suspect?

The prime minister has always said that Constitution is supreme for him. Those who played with the fundamental character of the Constitution during the dark night of the Emergency, are whitewashing their sins by creating suspicion about others.