P Muralidhar Rao, who has been general secretary of the BJP since 2013, was at one time in the fray for the post of party president. The 54-year-old BJP leader has been actively associated with various BJP front organisations like ABVP and Swadeshi Jagran Manch after having spent his earlier years in the RSS and working in different parts of the country. He has been in the forefront of organising programmes for training BJP cadres. The son of a farmer in Telangana, he was involved in politics from a young age. In an interview to The Statesman, P Muralidhar Rao spoke on various aspects of the BJP; how it is countering the “misinformation” campaign on the Rafale deal and mobilising party cadres for the 2019 elections. He exuded confidence that the party under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would sail through in the upcoming election. Excerpts:
Q: After the setback in the recent Assembly elections, BJP is now gearing up for the Lok Sabha polls.You have a leadership training programme for the last four years under the ‘Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Parshikshan Mahabhiyan’. How far would it help the party in the coming election?
A: The BJP is a national party and a cadre-driven one. We have always taken training very seriously. It is not one-sided but a multi-dimensional comprehensive project grooming the leader and the cadre. The ideological core of the BJP is nationalism and social transformation. It is about commitment to democracy and democratic polity and the importance of good governance. It has been particularly so after 2014 when millions of new people entered the party. We thought it important to make training available at the grassroots level and at the national level for people who come into the BJP stream from different parties or without any political experience. Now we have been able to demonstrate that the party is capable of consolidating its gains. We have been able to make the party strong, vibrant and viable not only in traditional BJP areas but also in new areas, be it the east or the south or in different tribal and marginalised areas of the country. BJP is seen as the number one party all over the world. In India it has emerged as the party of governance in different states and even in local bodies. BJP will remain the number one party.
Q: There is a general perception that there has been corruption in the Rafale deal. So how is the party going to tackle this issue?
A: Rafale deal has never been accepted by the people as an issue. People have tremendous faith in the BJP and particularly in Prime Minister Modi. Our commitment to deliver a non-corrupt government is seen by the people as a reality. People have no doubts. Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi felt that the people view them as corrupt. So to create a balance, he launched this massive propaganda of misinformation. But people did not believe him and after the Supreme Court judgement things have become very clear. People have faith in the Supreme Court. BJP has made everything clear in Parliament and outside, on every aspect of the deal in terms of cost and process and Indian offset partners or in terms of government-to-government contract and the persons and institutions involved.
Q: How far would this legislation giving 10 per cent reservation to economically weaker sections help the BJP in the coming polls? It has been seen as a move to reap poll benefit for the party.
A: You know the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi has been able to create consensus on many issues. Even on GST it was able to create a consensus. Now on this issue, it has been able to evolve a consensus. So BJP is a party which takes up the issues of the people and is capable of creating a consensus. It is a long pending issue and every political party has accepted it. People have understood that BJP under the leadership of Modi is capable of resolving issues which have been kept pending for a long time. The agitations and confrontations that have taken place in many parts of the country against reservation were mainly because the economically weak felt deprived. Backward caste leaders, scheduled caste leaders and people from reserved castes have all supported this legislation. A good atmosphere has been created. So it is going to smoothen the process of social equality all over the country and the economically weaker sections of society would also feel that at least the political system is making an effort to resolve the issue. This will definitely be seen as a great victory of the Indian political system.
Q: You are in charge of the southern states. The BJP needs to build its base in these states. So what steps are you taking for this?
A: You know South has been a weak area for the BJP. It has remained a challenge and we have been able to do better in Karnataka. Once we ruled there and we have now also emerged as the single largest party. In Karnataka there is acceptability of BJP and in other states in the South, the party is growing. We are able to reach out to the villages but the challenge is not completely addressed. BJP’s ideology and political communication has to be presented in the idiom of the South and in an acceptable way to the people there. In a way the leadership of the BJP in each area in the South is also equally important. People will through them see what the BJP stands for. These are the two important challenges in the coming years.
Q: How are you planning to counter the Opposition parties coming together to form the Mahagathbandhan ?
A: People know why the Opposition is coming together to form a Mahagathbandhan. The theme of the Mahagatbandhan is based on a negative agenda of removing Narendra Modi from power. They don’t have a viable alternative nor do they offer a sustainable option. People know such a government will not last five years, perhaps not even two years. The Modi government is the only one that can function without being subject to blackmail and one that will be corruption-free. The stability of the government is important and in the context of the economy too people don’t want an incoherent government.
Q: Many of your allies feel the BJP is not serious about the Ram Temple in Ayodhya which has been one of your foremost issues.
A: In the entire country, if there is one political party at the national level which is committed to the construction of the Ram temple it is the BJP. Definitely there are complexities but people will understand that BJP’s commitment is unwavering.