New Delhi: Union minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar has a record nobody would want — presiding over the BJP’s defeat in every state election he has been in charge of. From Karnataka state polls in 2018 to the just-held Delhi election, Javadekar has a slew of losses to his name in the past two years.
The track record hasn’t gone unnoticed, with several BJP leaders beginning to question why the party leadership has been giving the charge of elections to someone who has never won an election himself.
Javadekar was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council from 1990 to 2002 and has been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 2008.
“Inept poll management, inexplicable ticket distribution and lack of coordination with state leaders” are what some BJP members say are Javadekar’s failings.
When Rajasthan went to polls in December 2018, the BJP, which was in power under Vasundhara Raje, secured only 73 of the 200 seats in the assembly. Javadekar was made in-charge of the election in October 2018.
Javadekar’s supporters argue that he was the Rajasthan in-charge during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls also when the BJP swept all 25 seats. However, his critics say the BJP secured the same number of seats in the 2014 general elections, and hence Javadekar could not be credited for what was a result of the ‘Modi wave’ across in the country.
In August 2017, Javadekar was made in-charge of the Karnataka assembly election that was due in nine months. The election seemed like a sure-shot victory for the BJP, given the strong anti-incumbency against the Siddaramaiah government and massive infighting in the state Congress unit. The BJP, however, scored 104 seats, falling short of the majority mark by six seats in the 224-member assembly.
After the election, Javadekar failed to act in time to put together an alliance, resulting in the Janata Dal (Secular) forming the government with the Congress. The BJP’s state unit chief, B.S. Yediyurappa, finally managed to topple the coalition government, which lost a trust vote, and form a BJP government in July 2019.
Tamil Nadu, 2016
In 2016, Javadekar was given charge of the Tamil Nadu state elections. The BJP secured no seat in the Dravidian state. However, the BJP hardly has a support base in Tamil Nadu, which has traditionally voted for regional parties.
The Delhi election
Talking about the Delhi election, a state BJP functionary told ThePrint, “Since he (Javadekar) has no political standing as a mass leader, he doesn’t understand the way elections are managed. He does not pass on honest feedback a karyakarta gives to Modiji or Amit Shahji.”
Other BJP leaders say Javadekar was unable to take a call on policy decisions.
“At one point, it was felt that BJP should counter the freebies of AAP by announcing something better in the manifesto. When this was conveyed to Javadekar ji, he flatly refused. He was not able to understand the pulse of the karyakarta as well as the people,” said a party functionary.
However, what stumped party members were Javadekar’s remarks that BJP had evidence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal being a “terrorist”.
“Soon after he made this comment, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) shifted its entire campaign to Kejriwal being called a terrorist, asking people to choose whether they thought of him as their ‘beta’ or a terrorist. Such a comment coming out of Javadekar was puzzling, to say the least,” said a central BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.
“It was purely a personal comment and had no backing from the top leadership. The state unit had clarified that it didn’t back his statement. But the damage was already done,” said the leader.
When reached by ThePrint, Javadekar’s office did not comment.
However, a close aide of the leader said he played a crucial role in BJP sweeping 25 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan. “Even in Karnataka, we emerged as the single largest party and were just a few seats short of a majority. He has always worked for the party tirelessly. And for Delhi too he worked as hard.”
Javadekar is known as a moderate voice in the party, with friends in both Congress and AAP, and has a largely clean image.
“There have been many controversies in the past, especially in university campuses. As the HRD minister, he (Javadekar) made sure that he didn’t say or do anything that could lead to negative press. Everyone was hence taken aback by his ‘terrorist’ remark,” said another party functionary.
According to yet another party leader ThePrint spoke to, what worked against the BJP was Javadekar’s decision to distribute tickets without consulting local leaders, something he had done in Rajasthan too.
“He was the in-charge of Delhi elections and one hoped that he would be able to bring the warring factions together. However, senior leaders like Manoj Tiwari and Meenakshi Lekhi were livid that their recommendations did not find any place in the final list. It naturally affected the morale of the cadre too,” said a BJP official.
“Candidates like (Tajinder Pal Singh) Bagga and Kapil Mishra were fielded, ignoring workers who had been working in the area for years. The issue was brought to his notice but nothing was done. It is not surprising that both lost by huge margins,” they said.
The party also noted his Twitter activity and the engagement on his posts. In one particular thread, Javadekar said, “AAP cannot fool all the people, all the time.”
To this, AAP retorted: “Yes, that is BJP’s speciality.” The exchange was widely shared.