He observed fast, went on `Jan Swabhiman Yatra` to woo people of Uttar Pradesh ahead of polls. In an exclusive interview with Swati Chaturvedi of Zeenews.com on her chat show Kahiye Janab, former BJP president Rajnath Singh discusses upcoming UP polls, the party’s prime ministerial face and much more.
Here are the excerpts:
Swati: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was performing so well as an Opposition. It seems your fast and yatra washed it away all. You look fit enough and needed not to observe fast. But what is this politics of yatra? Why these differences within party?
Rajnath: I don’t think that yatra and fast washed it away all. There are no differences within the party. And why there should be?
Swati: The differences are because of people’s aspirations. There is a man who has led you twice at the national level. Now he is again on a yatra to uphold his claim. There is no breathing space for other leaders.
Rajnath: As far as (LK) Advani ji is concerned, he has never asked to project him as the prime ministerial candidate. I truly feel surprised when I read such things in newspapers that Advani ji has said this or that.
Swati: He has never denied it either.
Rajnath: Why should he deny and why is he expected to deny?
Swati: In fact, I have seen you refusing the Uttar Pradesh’s chief ministerial candidature a number of times.
Rajnath: I refused because of a different reason. I have been the chief minister of UP. I have been a part of national politics for ages. Our party (BJP) has not been as active in UP politics as it should be. That is why I refused. But he (Advani) is still playing an active role in national politics.
Swati: How can he (Advani) claim to be a prime ministerial candidate of a party which has faced defeat under his leadership twice. The BJP has proved to be a weak Opposition despite Congress’ involvement in a number of corruption scams. The BJP is busy overcoming its internal conflicts.
Rajnath: Not twice, but just once. In 2009 elections, Advani ji was projected as prime ministerial candidate by our parliamentary board. It is not right to call someone incapable if expected success is not achieved under his leadership. As far as Advani ji is concerned, his contribution to the party as well as country is unforgettable.
Swati: Is there a concept of retirement in politics?
Rajnath: There is no question of retirement. Experience is also required in this field. There are a number of countries in the world which benefit from the social and political experiences of aged politicians.
Swati: I will give you example of two democracies. Tony Blair served as UK’s PM thrice and retired at the age of 58. Bill Clinton served as US president twice and retired at the age of 56. But leaders of your party are undertaking yatra to Red Fort at the age of 84.
Rajnath: He (Advani) is not on a yatra to Red Fort. His yatra is for the country. Corruption is a major challenge the country is facing today. The Congress-led UPA has failed to come up with a solution to issues such as black money. There are many more challenges faced by the country today. Advani ji’s yatra aims at creating awareness among the masses.
There are different roles played by different people within the party. And each role has its own significance. Advani ji took the decision of undertaking a yatra after discussing it with others in the party. He never said that he is on a yatra to become the PM. Media reports regarding this are baseless.
Swati: Do you think Advani will be a good PM candidate?
Rajnath: He can be. No one can reject this possibility. But the decision of whom to project as PM or CM candidate is to be decided by our parliamentary board. There is no point in discussing it now.
Swati: You have been BJP’s national president. I can say that you were very disciplined while playing this role. However, it is said that BJP’s current president Nitin Gadkari is Maharashtravadi not rashtravadi. He is also seen to be someone who enjoys close ties with the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). He said that he wants to contest polls from Nagpur. He has also said that the BJP has no face to project as PM. How do you see this?
Rajnath: Gadkari is a better performer than me. There are a number of people within the BJP who are swayamsevaks. RSS has never been a remote control of the party. The policy and style of functioning of the RSS are such that it can never be remote-controlled.
As far as contesting elections is concerned, Gadkari began his political career from Nagpur. It is a place from where he was elected as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council. What is wrong in contesting polls from there? Is it a crime?
Moreover, he has never said that there is no PM candidate in the party.
Swati: A million dollar question – who is the prime ministerial face of BJP?
Rajnath: Yatra is a medium to connect with maximum people. As far as prime ministerial candidate is concerned, it is taught to BJP activists that a man’s stature is not measured by his designation, but by his deeds.
Swati: It is time that (Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra) Modi should be part of the Centre?
Rajnath: I won’t give my opinion on this to a journalist, but on a proper forum to the party. BJP is neither an individual’s nor a family-run party. It is not a private limited party. It is workers’ party, based on an ideology. It is not important to project an individual. Sometimes the party’s central parliamentary board projects a face and sometimes it doesn’t. It is part of our strategy.
Swati:Are you a PM candidate?
Rajnath: See, I have said that no one from the BJP has ever claimed to be a prime ministerial candidate. Even Atal ji was projected but he never claimed to be the candidate.
Swati: The party cannot achieve the magic number of 272 unless it appeases minorities. Keeping this in mind, do you think Nitish Kumar can be PM candidate?
Rajnath: BJP is not an anti-minority party. BJP’s clear policy is favour to none and justice to all. A human being is always at the centre of an ideology or political thought with which BJP started its journey. BJP never sought to create hatred among people. We are a party of humanity. The minorities are aware enough. The riots in Gujarat in 2002 were not the first one in the state. A number of riots have rattled the country since Independence. People have forgotten that.
All the CMs of BJP and NDA are performing well. I am not projecting any leader. Our party is our leader.
Swati: You have been a CM of UP. Today, the party is at number five. How did this happen?
Rajnath: Who told you that the party is at number five. A survey should be done to gauge the BJP’s popularity in UP. Even the crowd at yatra substantiates it. As far as BJP’s face is concerned, I have already mentioned that it is the party’s strategy. Sometimes we unveil and sometimes we don’t. But I just want to assure the people of UP that whoever gets the CM’s seat, he/she will have a clean image. He will be free of corruption allegations, CBI probe and chargesheets.
Swati: Anna Hazare galvanised the country. What is BJP doing as Opposition?
Rajnath: You earlier acknowledged that the BJP is performing effectively as Opposition. As far as black money, price rise, corruption are concerned, BJP has played an important role in raising these issues in Parliament. BJP, as an organisation, has campaigned against these issues in the country. I think this is the best way to register a complaint and build pressure on the ruling party in a democracy.
Swati: Anna campaigned against the Congress in Hisar. What will happen in UP?
Rajnath: I think the Congress is politically insignificant party in UP politics. Congress is facing so many accusations… a number of its leaders are in jail.
Swati: Will the BJP be able to gain from this when it is suffering from internal divisions?
Rajnath: Where are internal divisions? BJP is the only party in the country which has not suffered vertical divisions. Look at the Congress, the Communists…they have all suffered divisions two to four to six times.
Swati: What are the issues in UP polls?
Rajnath: Law and order situation is worse, corruption is at its peak. BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) has done nothing in the name of development in the last four and a half years. Actually, people were so angry with the Samajwadi Party (SP) that they wanted to replace it even with the BSP. But both the BSP and the SP have disappointed the people of UP.
Swati: What about Rahul Gandhi’s campaigning in UP?
Rajnath: Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Bihar also. (Laughs) And you can see how well Congress did there. Rahul is welcome in Lucknow also.
Adaptation: Kamna Arora