On a whirlwind tour of Gujarat soon after a hectic campaign in Himachal, the BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda exudes confidence that the saffron party will be making a comeback in both states, following a campaign that focussed on the slogans of ‘double engine sarkar’ and ‘change of tradition’, coupled with development on the ground. In a free-wheeling interview with Dr. Shashi Kant Sharma, Nadda mentioned that the saffron party has become synonymous with development under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Q. How do you look at the BJP’s prospects in Gujarat and the recently held assembly polls in Himachal?
A. We are confident of our victory. People are going to vote for the double-engine governments of the centre and the state. In Gujarat, the BJP has been in power since 2001. In over two decades of BJP rule, the state became a development model under the leadership of Narendra Modi, who was the longest-serving chief minister of the state before he became Prime Minister and gave a much-needed fillip to the nation through his vision.
The BJP has become a name of development in Gujarat. Under the leadership and guidance of Mr. Modi, first as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and now as the Prime Minister, the fortunes of the state have turned around over the past 20 years. Today Gujarat is the leading state in various parameters of governance like Ease of Doing Business, logistics, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, connectivity, and exports. Similarly in Himachal Pradesh, the momentum of development needs to be retained and the people in Himachal know it too well. Be it the education or the health sector, like the coming of AIIMS, the result is visible on the ground.
Himachal government provided vaccination during Covid to the entire state despite difficult geographical terrains in far-flung places like Dodra Kawar, Bangana, and Malana. And chief minister Jai Ram Thakur has done well to ensure that the development was carried out on the ground with the aid of the centre.
Q. But in Himachal, the Congress leaders are confident and claim that the BJP has no chance and they are also counting on over a dozen BJP rebels who are going to play a decisive role after contesting as independent candidates.
A. I don’t agree with that. Assembly constituencies in Himachal are comparatively smaller and the margin of victory and defeat is generally small. Some people may have felt ignored at some point in time and could have decided to contest against the party but people by and large like to go with the party symbol and this time it would be no different. Despite rebels, the BJP candidates would win and form the government.
Q. But it is a fact that after 1985 no government has been repeated in Himachal. What is so different t his time that makes you confident that people would elect the BJP again?
A. The political situation and the scenario have changed considerably at the national and state level. Now we have the dynamic and most popular leader Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs. He is known for changing traditions and political culture. After he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the BJP won successive elections in the state and now it has been in the government for the last 21 years. At the Centre too, the government was repeated in 2019.
BJP formed a government in Assam and no one could believe that it could be repeated there. In UP too after 1985, no party had won elections in succession. But the BJP was returned and Yogi Adityanath is the only chief minister who became the chief minister in succession in the largest state of the country since independence. In Uttarakhand too the BJP repeated its government. In Goa, we made the hat trick. In Manipur too the BJP has been in the government. We are trendsetters under the dynamic leadership of Modiji.
Q. Are stakes much higher in these elections for you as a party president, as the states where the party’s fate is to be decided also include your home state Himachal?
A. Being a party President I have been taking elections in every state as a major challenge and Himachal’s elections are no exception. Yes, there is an emotional bonding with the state. People too feel emotionally attached and I am sure they have reciprocated and again voted in favour of the BJP.
Q . How is the party viewing Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra?
A. It’s a good thing that he has come out in the field, I really congratulate him for this. But there are several questions that Rahul Gandhi and his party need to answer. His elders opposed the abrogation of Article 370. They divided the entire country on the basis of language and geography.
This is the same Rahul Gandhi who had supported those who had raised anti-India slogans, who doubted the bravery of our soldiers and had opposed the scrapping of Article 370 which led to the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India in a real sense.
His party has been sympathetic towards Afzal Guru who was the mastermind of the Parliament attack. People have not forgotten the slogans that echoed from the JNU inciting divisions in the country, where Rahul Gandhi also visited. Now on what basis are Rahul Gandhi and his party leaders calling his campaign a ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra?
Q. Is the party considering AAP in Gujarat as a threat?
A. AAP is a banner-based party; we are a cadre-based party. As a responsible party, we respond and clarify to explain the issue. The credibility of a leader is important and Kejriwal and his party have lost credibility. Look at the series of lies Kejriwal has been telling people.
During Anna’s agitation against corruption, he had said that he would not contest polls. After a U-turn, he claimed that his party would not give tickets to those with a criminal background. He promised to end the water mafia but now you see it thriving. But on every promise, he has taken a U-turn. This has severely damaged his image and he has lost credibility. This party does only propaganda and no work.
Almost all its candidates had lost their deposits in the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Goa. And now in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections also, all the Aam Aadmi Party candidates will lose their deposits.
Q. Several Congress leaders have joined the BJP. Does this not make the loyal aspirants in the party insecure?
A. Those who are joining or are willing to join BJP have realized that this is an organized party where everyone is treated with respect. The Bharatiya Janata Party works on the ideology and principle of ” Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, and Sabka Prayas”.
Whereas the Congress party believes in and practices the politics of dynasty and family, appeasement, nepotism, and corruption. Those who are joining the party are not being promised anything, so there is no question of deserving party leaders feeling insecure. BJP has grown on its own.
If good people want to join the party they are welcome. BJP is the largest party and now after taking the country to the path of development, it has made its presence felt globally thanks to the vision and the growing stature of our Prime Minister. He has already set the nation on the path of making it Vishva Guru.
Q. What are going to be the key focus areas for the 2024 Lok Sabha election?
A. Besides development and ensuring effective implementation of people-friendly schemes, it’s for the first time the country is being seen as a united nation. Whether it was the ‘Ghar Ghar Tiranga’ campaign or the government’s stress on vocal for local, our country’s stature has been raised several notches at the global level. Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas has paid off well for everyone and people realize now that with BJP in power it’s a win-win situation for everyone.