Known for the longest time as an RSS ideologue, and one of the few faces of the organisation with recall value on TV, Ram Madhav is today among the most prominent voices of the ruling BJP. Varun Bidhuri caught up with him to gauge the mood in the party’s leadership post the Bihar drubbing and in anticipation of forthcoming Assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The BJP National General Secretary and director of the think-tank India Foundation also speaks his mind on the intolerance debate.
What has been the fallout of the Bihar results on the BJP’s central leadership? Are any key changes underway or being envisaged?
The Bihar election was a state Assembly election. In the BJP there is a process by which we undertake our elections right from the state level to the national level. That process is on. Whenever the process is completed, we bring it out.
Do you think the Bihar results will affect the chances of Amit Shah getting a second term?
There is no connection between these two things. Party organisational elections have nothing to with Assembly elections.
You have said that instead of blaming any individual, we need to introspect on the Bihar defeat. What do you think is the reason behind the drubbing in Bihar?
We have had enough discussions at various levels to understand the reasons behind our performance in Bihar. We are now more or less clear about the factors that led to the kind of mandate we got there. We must remember that there are two parts of the mandate. In terms of the number of seats, we have done extremely badly. We have got very few seats in Bihar. In terms of the number of votes, however, we have done pretty well. We secured the highest number of votes. So, there are a number of things to understand in what led to this kind of mandate. There has been enough analysis and we have learnt our lessons well. The party doesn’t discuss these issues with the media.
Why did the BJP fight the Bihar election by projecting Narendra Modi at the forefront? Did that also backfire on the party?
Modi ji was not the only one who campaigned in Bihar. There were many others, too. Our National President Amit Shah had also campaigned extensively. The Bihar election was very important for us. Not only Bihar, every state election is important for the party. We always put our best foot forward when we fight and we did that in Bihar as well. All our leaders, whether state leaders or central leaders, who went there for campaigning focused on the development and the future of Bihar. We took the election seriously and we fought with seriousness. The election was not based on one person nor was one person projected. Everybody contributed to the campaign. We put our best foot forward and so did the others. As far as ‘backfiring’ is concerned, no, as I said earlier, elections are not fought on a single issue or on the basis of one face. If one loses, it cannot be because of just one issue. It will be due to several issues. My counterquestion would be, how did we win 55 seats with 25 percent of the vote share in Bihar? We are the highest vote-getters in Bihar. So, various factors have helped, including the Prime Minister’s popularity that remains intact even to this day. But our loss in the Bihar election could be due to a number of reasons, not just one particular reason or one face.
What is your view on the critique of the party’s Bihar performance by veterans such as LK Advani, Yashwant Sinha, Murli Manohar Joshi and Shantha Kumar?
That part is over. Now Advani ji has said on record that “there is new energy in the party now”. Both in victory and in defeat, there will always be people who vent their feelings and opinions. We are in the BJP and we are an open and democratic party. We take all these views and opinions seriously into account, and use them in our reviews and analysis.