The man expected to be BJP’s in-charge for Rajasthan polls says there’s no question of replacing CM Vasundhara Raje before elections.
New Delhi: BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav is a trusted aide of party chief Amit Shah. In the last five years, he was put in charge of various states, and helped deliver Rajasthan and Jharkhand to the party’s kitty (in 2013 and 2014 respectively), as well as helping it retain Gujarat in 2017. The only blemish on his record is the failure to do much in the face of the mahagathbandhan in Bihar in 2015.
He has just been re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan, and is likely to be given charge of the state again, ahead of the assembly polls later this year.
In this exclusive interview with ThePrint, Yadav spoke about the party’s losses in the by- elections, next year’s Lok Sabha polls, its prospects in the upcoming polls in Karnataka and the BJP-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, as well as its preparedness.
On Lok Sabha polls
There has been speculation that the Lok Sabha polls will be held ahead of schedule, but Yadav said this wouldn’t be the case.
He also backed the call for ‘one nation, one election’, saying the long-standing demand “will bring stability, reduce expenditure, and help governance”.
An important ally like the TDP has left the National Democratic Alliance, and even brought in a no-confidence motion against the Modi government. The party’s oldest ally, Shiv Sena, has decided to go it alone in the next Lok Sabha polls, while trusted allies like the Akali Dal are also unhappy.
But Yadav is confident the government has the numbers to win the motion, if it is taken up. He is also confident that the NDA will only expand in the future.
“Our politics is that we take everyone along. Even when we have the majority, we give representation to our allies in the cabinet. Our party will think of these issues,” he said.
On bypoll defeats
Asked for his take on the BJP’s bypoll defeats in Uttar Pradesh, and what it meant for the party’s poster boy and UP CM Yogi Adityanath, Yadav was cautious and said Yogi had already spoken to the press.
Pressed for an answer on whether the setback was because of the wrong choice of candidates, underestimating the coming together of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the BJP’s own overconfidence, or the party’s arrogance, he refused to go into details. He said the party would introspect at the state level.
“Low voter turnout was one of the reasons, we understand. The UP BJP will introspect and come back to us about the reasons for the defeat,” he said.
Asked whether the defeat was due to local reasons or if the ‘Modi magic’ was on the wane, pat came the reply: “The reasons are purely local. There is a relationship between the party, the government and the people. Politics is based on experience and the BJP will discuss the reasons for the defeat and take it forward based on this experience.”
He asserted that the UP bypoll losses would not impact the 17 assembly segments in Madhya Pradesh bordering UP, as some party men apprehend.
“It’s even wrong to say the Rajasthan Lok Sabha bypoll losses last month had an effect on the results in two assembly bypolls in Madhya Pradesh. They are not related,” he said.
Of the 23 by-elections since 2014, the BJP won only four. Asked if this was because the party did not pay proper attention to these polls, Yadav noted that the BJP was looking into all these and moving forward on the mandate given by the people by reaching the common man.
He pointed out that: “After the Modi government came to power, the BJP formed governments in Jammu and Kashmir, UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Tripura, Maharashtra, Haryana, and we are ruling on our own or with allies in 22 states. In most of the state elections since 2014, we have been successful so far, which shows the confidence of the people in our party. Even if there are some setbacks sometimes, the party is moving forward in a democratic manner.”
He reiterated that there would be no cascading effect of the UP bypoll results in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. “Our governments and the party have worked hard, and delivered on the promises we had made. We will win all the three states.” he asserted.
In Rajasthan, power usually alternates between the Congress and the BJP. But Yadav has faith that the BJP will break this pattern, saying that despite defeats in two Lok Sabha and one assembly bypoll, the BJP had done well in the panchayat and nagar palika elections.
“We can’t take the bypolls as examples and extend it to the whole of Rajasthan,” he said.
The party, he said, had a good network among the voters, and the government’s welfare measures for women and other sections of society would prove popular.
“People will vote in favour of our party for development and stability. The party is united, and we will come back with a majority,” he said.
On Vasundhara Raje’s popularity
Chief minister Vasundhara Raje is perceived as an unpopular leader – her inaccessibility to even her ministers and the disconnect of her government with people being charges levelled at her.
However, Yadav said no one had made any complaints in public about these issues.
Asked if the party would consider replacing Raje before the polls, Yadav retorted: “Your question is imaginary.”
Yadav has also denied that the BJP cut a deal with rebel leader Kirodi Lal Meena, who has returned to the party fold and is set to become a Rajya Sabha MP. He also refused to comment on whether any other leaders would join the party.
On battling anti-incumbency
Yadav said the BJP had broken the “myth” of anti-incumbency in recent times, and was confident it would do so again.
“The Congress lost in Kerala in 2017 due to anti-incumbency, it also lost Himachal and Uttarakhand due to anti-incumbency; in UP, the Samajwadi government lost due to anti-incumbency. But on the other hand, we came back to power in Goa, and in Gujarat, even after 22 years in power, we formed the government again,” he said.
“We have broken the myth of anti-incumbency. The same thing is applicable to the other poll- bound states also. We are asking for votes on the basis of performance of the goverments; when we fulfil our promises, people vote for us.”
He is also confident that the BJP will win the polls in Karnataka, and B.S. Yeddyurappa will become chief minister again.