New Delhi: Days after E. Sreedharan announced that he is quitting active politics but staying with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ‘Metro Man’ gave a piece of advice to the party’s Kerala unit: shun Hindutva politics and keep the interest of all sections of people in mind.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sreedharan, who contested unsuccessfully on a BJP ticket in the assembly elections this year, asserted that ‘love jihad’ is not a “very serious” issue in Kerala. The state unit had made it a primary poll plank. The BJP had also named Sreedharan as the party’s CM candidate.
“They have to slightly change their attitude. For example, BJP should not highlight too much Hinduism and Hindutva. They should definitely give a message that they stand for all the people of Kerala and not for Hindus alone. And the interest of all sections of people should be in their mind. That’s the basic change required,” he said.
Even as he criticised the Kerala BJP, he was full of praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Just like our own PM is doing… Our PM never speaks about Hindutva, he never speaks about that he is standing for a particular section of people. He is for the people of India. The same attitude we should take,” Sreedharan said.
However, he reiterated that he is only quitting active politics due to advanced age and not leaving the BJP.
“I will be available for the party but I won’t be able to take an active part in the sense I won’t contest any election or take part in hartals (strikes) and things like that. But I am available for the BJP. My intellect and my experience in matters… that’s available,” he said.
He added that the BJP is the only alternative in Kerala today. “People are fed up with the present LDF government. The UDF, Congress and the Muslim League, particularly their popularity, is also waning very badly. This is a good occasion for the BJP to gain strength and be a decisive force in Kerala. It is possible. That’s why I said that the BJP has excellent prospects in Kerala,” he said.
On BJP’s failings in the election
Asked about the BJP’s failure to win even a single seat despite a high-profile campaign in the state elections, Sreedharan pointed to the party management and strategies.
“What had affected the BJP were the strategies adopted. The main mistake committed was changing the Kerala BJP president so frequently. I think during the last two-three years there were three-four changes and the present incumbent had very little time to consolidate himself to have association with the people. That was the main thing,” he said.
“We could not project a very, very united party. Most importantly, the power at the Centre was doing so many wonderful things for the whole country but we were not able to project it in the correct manner to the people of Kerala,” he said.
“Whatever is being done by the Centre, the credit is being hijacked by other parties. And we are not able to stop it. So the strategy has to change. And there is sufficient time for that. Till the next election BJP can reorganise, win the confidence and trust of the people. That is most important,” he added.
He said the present leadership will be able to reach the hearts of the people if given “sufficient time”.
“But you should give them time. Don’t bring in a leader just four months before the elections. That’s not enough. Unless he is a leader of all-India standing and such people are unfortunately not readily available in Kerala BJP. The present leadership is quite serious, they are quite competent and they should be able to walk into the minds and hearts of the people,” he said.
BJP has interests of all Indians in mind
Asked what led to him quit active politics, Sreedharan said it was his deteriorating health condition and advancing age. He also argued that the BJP is a party for all.
“I don’t think BJP’s politics is around Hindutva, certainly not. The BJP today is the only party where people have confidence. And that party definitely has the interests of all Indians in mind. And it is evident from the last seven years how PM Modi has brought in so many changes, improvement. It is not only for Hindus alone but the entire country. That is the attitude and image that the BJP in Kerala should also exhibit,” he said.
Asked if ‘love jihad’ is an issue in Kerala, with the Church also taking it up, Sreedharan said it’s not a “very serious threat”.
“It is in a way, we can’t say… but that is not a very serious threat according to me. That can be easily put down, by bringing in change in the minds of the people, by telling them the dangers involved in this (love jihad). People have understood this and I don’t think there are many cases happening now,” he said.
Sreedharan said specific targeting of minorities are isolated cases and those who indulge in these should be “thrown out of the party”.
“These are all very isolated cases. One or two fellows saying… that doesn’t make the party in any trouble at all. These are individuals. Only thing is we are a little more tolerant. People who behave in such a fashion should be really thrown out of the party according to me. So that people have the confidence this is not what we are planning,” he said.
“If people are wanting to work against the nation, against the interest of the nation naturally we have to call it out and expose them. That is also necessary. These are all isolated cases and we should not generalise,” he said.