The BJP is not having the best of its times—even as the country’s principal opposition party. So it isn’t a particularly comfortable for its top leader to answer questions regarding the party’s recent spell of poll reverses, apparent difference in the top ranks and preparations for the coming elections in some states where the party used to be relatively strong. BJP president Nitin Gadkari, known for his clean image and impressive performance as minister for PWD in Maharashtra (1995-99) and as one of the architects of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana scheme the NDA undertook during its rule between 1999 and 2004, talks to a string of tough questions by Sachchi Baat. Excerpts:
Our guest for today on Sachchi Baat is president of Bharatiya Janta Party, Nitin Gadkari. Welcome to our show.
Thank You, Prabhuji!
PC: “Sachchi Baat’ Karni hain aaj aap se
NG: Main jab bhee bolta hoon, sachchi baat karta hoon, danke ki chot par. I don’t like, but there is one thing: if it is difficult to tell the truth, then I keep quiet. But will not lie.
PC: It is very difficult for a politician to say the truth. If I ask you why it took you so many years to take back Uma Bharti, you might not tell the truth
NG: I will tell the truth.
PC: Who was annoyed with her?
NG: I will not tell who was annoyed with her.
PC: That means you will not tell the truth.
NG: See, what I promised you. I will not lie, but say the truth. But where saying the truth is not possible, there I will keep quiet.
PC: So you will not tell who was annoyed.
NG: See, the thing is that when the decision regarding Uma Bharti was taken, it was a a unanimous one taken after talking to everybody. And the decision was welcomed by everybody.
PC: Some people were annoyed, that it why the decision came so late.
NG: It takes time to take some decisions.
PC: What is the aim and intention behind taking back Uma Bharti? It is not about the individual, there might be some philosophy, principle because an individual is not important in your party, but that also happened in the party in the past 15-20 years.
NG: See, you have asked a good question. From the day I am party president, I have made up my mind like Arjun. When Dronacharyaji asked Arjun what he saw, he said he could see only the eye of the fish. Likewise, I can see the 2014 elections, and my mission is to see a BJP government under the leadership of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). For this mission, I want to increase the vote-bank of the party, and enjoin all people whose thoughts and line of thinking are like ours. I want to take back old people who left because of some reasons. And also make efforts to clear misconception in the mind of Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes, minorities, workers in unorganised sector, and intellectuals like doctors, professors, lawyers and opinion-makers. Welcome them into the party fold and increase the support of the party by ten per cent.
PC: There was a time when the BJP was known as a party with a difference, as told by Advaniji. Later it became a party with differences. Now, eight years out of power, the condition still remains the same: personalities are pitted against each other. The ideology, beliefs of the party cannot be seen any more. Do they exist?
NG: In fact, you are not able to see it clearly.
PC: I think I have put on spectacles/glasses.
NG: There is a need for you to change the spectacles/glasses. See the past six months; the differences in the party are negligible.
PC: Shushma Swaraj has given a whole speech.
NG: See Prabhuji, the party is united and people are working together. Many decisions taken recently were very important. There might be differences of opinion on an issue, but not in the minds of people. And please understand one thing in the history of India: we are a principal opposition party and a democratic party. Our party is not a proprietary concern. Humari maa beton ki party nahin hain.
PC: You say there are no differences. But one leader openly spoke out in the open that the person was not involved in the decision-making. I am not taking names, but differences are evident.
NG: See, this is the issue pertaining to the year 2008. The issue is over now.
PC: I am talking about 2011, May.
NG: See, I have spoken to Sushmaji and other leaders after the incident. The issue is now over. The whole interview of Outlook was good, but only because of two three sentences you people got a chance. My intention was not that as was put forth. But all said and done, the issue is over.
PC: After coming to power, your leaders became arrogant. Same like leaders like the Congress party are called now. But now eight years out of power, the leaders are still arrogant.
NG: If being arrogant meant having a lot of self-confidence, then I would have been very happy. There is no arrogance, the whole environment it positive, there is collective leadership and everybody takes decisions together. There is no supremacy of the president. I have undoubted authority. But still, before taking a decision, I speak to people, take their opinion, bring them all on one table and agenda, following which a unanimous decision is taken with everybody’s agreement. See, this is the strength of a democracy, and a speciality of the BJP. Even in the history of India, let me ask you, which political party has fifteen to eighteen people sitting together, discussing, debating, thinking, developing an idea and working together to take a decision? Does it happen in the Congress party?
PC: When are decisions taken in your party? Five assembly elections happened recently; the party fared badly everywhere. You said before the elections, the president has the onus of motivating party workers. You fought elections in 826 seats, won only six seats.
NG: See, Prabhuji, our vote share increase by 0.5 per cent in Assam.
PC: But the number of elected representatives came down.
NG: In Tamil Nadu, our vote share increased by 1.5 per cent. Out vote share increased by 2.5 per cent in Kerala, and 1.75 per cent in West Bengal.
PC: Vote share is bound to increase, as this time you contested elections in over 800 seats, whereas last time you contested elections in only 400.
NG: Earlier also we had six seats out of 826, now also we have retained six.
PC: You had eleven, ten in Assam.
NG: But we had removed some people from the party.
PC: But they had won on a BJP ticket.
NG: In Barak valley in Assam, we have lost five per cent of the vote; in the remaining part, we have gained five per cent. Only Barak valley is the place where we did not get the expected results. Secondly, I agree with you: we had no major stake in these five states; even then we did not get the anticipated success. Hence, I accept this fact. But to say that it is a crushing defeat of ours is not true. We are trying to make a place for us in these states, and I am confident that in times to come we will make our presence felt will full force.
PC: I don’t want to discuss state elections. What I am asking is why no new people are joining the party. Not even small parties are aligning (with BJP).
NG: In Karnataka, we won three seats earlier held by the Congress and the Janata Dal.
PC: But you are talking of BJP-ruled states. I don’t want to get into small things, like you have lost municipal elections in Gujarat.
NG: Where have we lost elections, our success rate has been 85 per cent.
PC: Am not talking about small successes, but major forays where the party needs to grow…in states like Uttar Pradesh, in Assam, where you were very confidently saying that you will form a government. Even after the votes were polled, your leaders said they would form the government there. Do you agree that your party’s acceptability, credibility, reliability are lessening by the day?
NG: See; let me tell you, our party’s growth graph is increasing continuously. In Uttar Pradesh, we will build our strength and emerge as a strong party. The way rallies are happening, peoples participation is increasing, new people are joining the party, Uma Bharti has come into the party is a positive sign. In the recently times, there have been no elections on our home ground, which will actually test the strength of our party. Our home ground is Uttar Pradesh; our home ground is Uttarakhand, our home ground is Punjab. Now let the elections happen in these states, then you decide. In the case of Rajasthan...
PC: You had four seats in Tamil Nadu, six in Andhra Pradesh, there was a Member of Parliament and minister from West Bengal in your government, there were ministers in your government from Assam. Hence, it cannot be said that you had no presence in these states. Now that you have lost elections, you are saying that your presence is not that good in those states.
NG: Let me tell you, we did not get the expected success in Assam. In 3 seats in Kerala, we polled more than 45,000 votes and lost by a margin of less than 5,000 votes. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bengal were one-sided elections; there is polarisation between two parties and alliances in these states. Hence the possibility of us succeeding there was less, and hence we also did not have expectations. In Assam, we were expecting to win anywhere between 15 and 20 seats. We have won five seats there; hence we didn’t get the expected in Assam.
PC: Let’s not talk about Karnataka, where you have (Chief Minister B S) Yedyurappa and a strong leadership. But keeping in mind your Arjun-like goal for 2014, you need to have a presence in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam. But, in the recent assembly elections, there was no presence of any local leadership; one could see national leaders campaigning in those states. May I ask you who your local leader in Assam was; I don’t remember anyone. Recently, you sent Uma Bharati in UP. It means there are some problems and difficulties you have in projecting a local leader.
NG: In Assam, our party has many capable leaders. In Dibrugarh and surrounding district Sonwaljia, our voting percentage has increased drastically. If the Bharatiya Janta Party has lost in Assam, we are worried and thinking also. We are studying the whole phenomenon.
PC: I am talking about local leaders. You have leaders like Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Narendra Modi, Raman Singh and Uma Bharti in other states. But in UP you don’t have any local leader, West Bengal you don’t have any local leader. One can see central leaders making statements about making claims about whether they will win or lose in Assam.
NG: We have leaders; there has been a lot of work done under the leadership of Rahul Sinha in West Bengal and in a confrontational manner. But he will take more time to work in that process, though he has worked wonderfully. In Tamil Nadu, Pon Radhakrishnan, who has been an MP, has a strong support in the backward community has worked well. He is an honest and hardworking party worker.
PC: You are ready to agree, even though you say you have local leaders but you didn’t project them.
NG: Sir, one thing I agree: in Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Kerala, there is need for us to do more work. In those states, there has been a polarisation between two parties; it is difficult for a third party to acquire space. It will take some time. And I can tell you confidently, Prabhuji, the kind of efforts that we have taken in these states this time around has led to a formation of a skeleton, a structure, and in the coming times, this structure will help us a lot.
PC: Leaders like Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Narendrabhai Modi, Raman Singhji and some other leaders came up. Leaders like Advaniji and Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji came up. Then how come there is a bankruptcy now that there is no leader in Punjab, Haryana, no leader in Delhi who is capable of leading party to electoral victory—same in Assam, West Bengal. In the whole of India, six leaders, including Yedurappa and others, who came up, there is no leader. The formation and growth of party worker and leader has stopped.
NG: There is a slight difference. We have leaders, but have not grown in stature and support up to a point where they and lead the state and become chief ministers. This is a process where we are weak. I don’t claim we are strong here: Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
PC: No, but I am talking about Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, please tell, who are there?
NG: There is no shortage of leaders in Delhi.
PC: If you count 11, Ashoka Road, when many leaders sit, then you have many leaders.
NG: Please don’t talk about Delhi, we have five six good leaders here.
PC: In Haryana you have no worthwhile leader, whom the people know.
NG: Why not, Captain Abhimanyu (Singh) lost the parliamentary seat by a thin margin of votes.
PC: Leaving these things, there was one area where the BJP used to be distinct for others, the ideology of Bharatiya Janta Party, Hindutva and Swadeshi, you have almost on the way to forgetting both. This is true, you own party workers talk about it.
NG: Media’s work is a good one, if we talk about Hindutva, then we are criticised for being communal.
PC: Does that make a difference to you?
NG: If we don’t talk of Hindutva, then you ask what happened to Hindutva. Let me tell you, what is hindutva? The 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekanand is on the anvil, and let me tell you, Vivekanandhi has told great things about Hindutva. The Supreme Court has given a good definition of Hindutva. Hindutva means good governance.
PC: You mean to say Ram Rajya?
NG: What is Ram Rajya if not Hindutva? It is also ideal government, and that is Hindutva. Hindutva is nationalism, Hindutva is good governance, Hindutva is tolerance.
PC: What when you leaders, while talking to Americans say that Hindutva is vote-bank politics for us, we talk about it as a matter of convenience and votes. Then you deny it, if that is not true, then the other things are also not true on the basis of which you have been attacking others.
NG: Prabhuji, there are some things which will interest you.
PC: It is about India’s interest.
NG: The thing which you are talking and about whom you are talking.
PC: It has been revealed through Wikileaks, I have not written it.
NG: He had not spoken like that in Wikileaks, it has been misinterpreted.
PC: Then what has been said about Manmohan Singh is also untrue.
NG: See I am telling you what I know about what our leaders said about him.
PC: So you are saying what was said about Manmohan Singh is true, the other thing is false?
NG: There is some misinterpretation when an Indian talks in English.
PC: Do you still believe in Hindutva or not?
NG: See, Hindutva is not a political agenda. Hindutva is our belief and inspiration. It should not be that our win is Hindutva’s win and our loss it Hindutva’s loss. That is why I am telling that on this issue one should be above politics, it should not be associated with politics.
PC: But Uma Bharti’s coming back into the party sends a message, she also wears saffron, represents your ideology, she was forefront of the Ram Mandir movement.
NG: I have spoken in Lucknow the issue for which we struggled and worked, regarding the birthplace of Prabhu Ram Chandra, after the High Court’s decision regarding the issue, it has became clear that that is the birthplace of Prabhu Ram Chandra. Certainly, we are contended and happy about it. We feel that a grand temple should be built there with the co operation of people from all religions. But constructing a Ram Mandir is not our political agenda. Hence, it is not true to say that we will fight elections on issue of Ram. If we win, then Ram wins; we lose, Ram loses. We don’t want to make this a political subject. Prabhu Ram Chandra Desh ke asmita ke prateek hain, sanskruti aur virasat ke prateek hain. It is our feeling that a temple of Prabhu Ram Chandra be constructed, with everybody’s cooperation.
PC: You don’t find Hindutva to be your political agenda, because Hindutva is your way of life, ideology, conviction. That is why you don’t want to link it to politics.
NG: Hundred per cent.
PC: But even in Lucknow you said, ‘Mandir wahi banayenge’
NG: One time in the country, there should be debate in the English media about what is Hindutva. The right meaning of Hindutva must be understood. Under the guise of secularism, terrorism is given legitimacy, Osama bin Laden addressed as Osamaji, nobody speaks on this issue. Geelani comes to Delhi, Arundhati Roy and Geelani both speak against India, the government takes no action against them. And beat up ‘sadhu sanyasi’ wearing saffron clothes, harass women and insult the Hindu sadhus and priests present. Is it secularism, will terrorism be justified? Afzal Guru is not hanged. Why? Please tell me when we are talking about these issues again and again, these are issues concerning nationalism.
PC: If you go back to 1991-92, a lot of people, middle class supported the Ram Mandir movement. Then the whole nation was secular. There might be a communication gap arising out of your current strategy, dealing, thinking that is why the same people are against you now.
NG: Prabhuji, you have asked a good question. What is the dictionary meaning of the word secular? Dictionary meaning is ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhava ya panth nirpekshatata’. Secularism means ‘panth nirpekshatata’. The king should be secular. The meaning is that the military, media should be secular. An individual cannot ever be ‘dharm nirpeksha’, instead is ‘panth nirpekshata’. The former term is causing confusion.
PC: The king of language that is used in politics today does not seem to be appropriate. Digvijay Singh said your party has become one of dancing people’s. Though there can be a discussion whether or not there was a need for dancing there, but even people like me think that there was no need for dancing there. If you are fighting corruption, then it should not happen, but this can be one way of thinking. The other issue is the kind of language that is being used. What do you think about the language in politics today?
NG: See, Digvijay Singhji is the general secretary of the Congress party, his health is not right. If he says something, then keeping this fact in mind, he should be forgiven, should not be taken seriously. Even his party does not take him seriously. He talks many times, and then the party says that it does not agree with his view. He has lost his balance, and so says such things. He should be forgiven with a large heart, I don’t want to take cognisance of his comments. A leader whose cognisance is not taken even by his party, and many times the Congress has done a U-turn on his comments.
PC: Ramdev was attacked, people beaten up, there is a talk about difference between government and party, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. But Manmohan Singhji showed his power, and displayed what can be done when they use it.
NG: They have shown power in a very good manner. Unarmed people were beaten; women were beaten, their clothes were torn, broke hands and legs of old people, sadhus and saints were beaten up, even then they did not give the slogan of Manmohan Singh murdabaad. In a bad manner, the modesty of women were outraged, Manmohan Singhji did a valiant job. A proposal to congratulate him should be passed. See, let me tell you. Is it a crime in this country to speak against corruption? Is it a crime to demand to bring back black money, will the people talking about his be beaten up in such a brutal manner with lathis? If this government is serious about bringing back black money, it is in the same way how Pakistan is serious in curbing terrorism. That is their behaviour. Nobody believes them. 117 out of 140 nations have ratified the law including USA, Germany, Peru, Phillipines, they brought back black money. But the incumbent government is not even ready to announce names.
PC: They say what did your government do in its six year rule.
NG: The UN resolution happened recently. Before that, Switzerland was not willing. Their government agreed during the time of their rule. First Germany did, followed by USA, then even small countries like Peru and Phillipines. 117 nations did it. I want to ask the Congress party why are you hesitant to announce the names of people who have black money. The reason is that if the names are announced, the faces of Congress party leaders will be blackened. That is why they are not announcing the names.
PC: But you never fought for this issue like you did when you demanding JPC for 2G scam. You never organised dharnas, andolans or protests on this issue.
NG: See, one month parliament was stalled when we demanded JPC.
PC: But what you did was for 2G issue, what about the issue of black money.
NG: We have raised the issue of black money. Advaniji was the first one who raised the issue of black money before elections. The issue was 2G spectrum was raised by Arun Jaitleyji for the first time in the Rajya Sabha. I held a press conference and raised questions about corruption in the Commonwealth Games, took out many issues.
PC: One day a statement was given in the Rajya Sabha. Did it become your issue, and what did you do after that? The Supreme Court did whatever it did.
NG: The Supreme Court did whatever it did after we raised the issue. Who did andolans, morchas, burnt effigies symbolising corruption all over the country.
PC: If you raised these issues, then why public meeting of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev on these issues are throught to be more credible, not yours. This indicates people have more belief in them than you.
NG: Because of repeated protests by us, non political members and thinkers from society felt joining the fight against these problems. This means the Baharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has exposed corruption, Advaniji raised the issue of black money; we raised the issue of 2G spectrum. Then Anna Hazareji and Baba Ramdevji took the issue ahead.
PC: Hence, will you come on one stage and assume that they are part of your leadership, and support Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev openly.
NG: We don’t think politically on these issues, bringing back black money is in the interest of the country, cleansing the country of corruption is in interest of the country. Whoever, raises a voice, does andolan on these issues, we will openly support them. We are not bothered about what will happen to our political career or elections. We are worried what will happen to this country and hence we will fully support them.
PC: What is the ideology of Bharatiya Janta Party?
NG: This is a good question, nationalism is our stand, good governance and development is our mission. We follow the thought of integral humanism given by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, which says all those who are socially, economically, education-wise, people who are dalits, oppressed and exploited should be considered as god. And we should work continuously to uplift them.
PC: You have also written poems on this issue in your soon-to-be released book.
NG: I came into politics....I think politics is an instrument of socioeconomic reform. Socioeconomic transformation is our mission. I have come into politics for this cause, I don’t want to fight any elections nor want a Rajya Sabha berth. If you say that I have no guts, then I will definitely stand for Lok Sabha elections. But my ambitions are not to become a minister, chief minister or the prime minister.
PC: Please tell me about the verses, songs you have composed.
NG: Ekta, samanata swatantrata rahe, desh mein charitra ki mahanta rahe. We come from different castes, but are one blood, many languages but are one, many villages but are one, many religions but we are one nation. On this feeling we have written a beautiful song, which party workers like and one can see then humming those songs. Secondly, there is a song which I always tell party workers about, Manasa satatam swarniam, vachasa satatam vadaniam, lok hitam mama karniam. Politics means social service, development and nationalism. I myself work among farmers on many issues, and for Antodaya we have two fulltime workers. We don’t have to change administration but society in this country. Politics is a tool for social transformation through good governance and we will change this country for the better.
PC: What is the biggest threat to the country today?
NG: The biggest threat to the country is corruption. Our country has an annual budget of around Rs 10 lakh-crore. What will be our fate if scandals to the tune of Rs 5–6 lakh-crores happen?
PC: Who would you blame for this? Institution, individual or the system?
NG: Wrong economic policies and bad and corrupt governance of the Congress party are responsible for this. After 1947 till today, except for five to seven years, the Congress party has been ruling the country.
PC: Would you blame an individual then?
NG: Hundred per cent. The Congress party is the birthplace of corruption. It is responsible for corruption. If Manmohan Singhji wanted and would have stopped people, 2G spectrum scam wouldn’t have happened. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had written a letter pleading that Suresh Kalmadi should not be made the chief of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games, then why Soniaji and Manmohan Singhji made him president? Isro–Devas, a scandal of crores of rupees, happened under the watch of the prime minister. How come files pertaining to the Adarsh Society went missing from Jairam Ramesh’s department? The Adash society files went missing from the departments of Maharashtra government, CDs went missing. Hence, it means the Congress is covering up corruption.
PC: You spoke of having a mindset like Arjun’s. What is your aim now?
NG: I want to remove the Congres-led UPA government, bring NDA government to power, and free this nation from the ills of fear, hunger, terror and corruption. Make India contented, rich and accomplished nation, free of oppression.
PC: Do you have credible leadership for achieving this goal?
NG: Yes, we will do it, we have the strength and we can change the future of this country.
PC: How can this happen when you are scared of people like Varun Gandhi?
NG: Varun Gandhi is a good, potential leader. We have fixed his role, he was working in Assam. He will definitely get support and encouragement in Uttar Pradesh.
PC: So you will project the third generation in 2014?
NG: Hundred per cent. This is the need. Young people will be encouraged, young leaders will be given chances. We will use our full capability and change the future of this country.
PC: What will be their qualification, will they be good English speakers or good karyakartas?
NG: Political qualities comprise many skills. It is my work to see that individuals who have capability and quality are given a chance.
PC: We will see what you will do. Still have two years to go.
NG: I have already taken back Uma Bharti. She has been given a chance.
Thank you from coming to our studio
NG: Thank You Prabhuji!