Ram Madhav is the national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a nationalist to the hilt. He is the former member of the national executive of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the fundamentalist outfit that is the parent organisation of the ruling BJP.
The spin-doctor of the Sangh, Madhav is known for his controversial diatribes. His troubleshooting skills made him a go-getter to handle key states in the North East and in Jammu and Kashmir.
Madhav asserts no opposition alliance can stop the emergence of a BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre in Lok Sabha polls.
He spoke to Gulf News in an exclusive interview:
GULF NEWS: What are BJP’s prospects of forming the government at the Centre again?
RAM MADHAV: Our campaign thrust this time will be five years of performance under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the work done by him for the masses – with more than 130 schemes that have benefitted the downtrodden, women, youth, minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Also, the greatly expanded party network and PM’s personal popularity will be the core issues.
But the entire opposition is questioning your party on the French Rafale aircraft deal, jobs data, and tampering with the Constitutional bodies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The Opposition is trying to divert the attention of people from the good governance of our party. Instead, they are talking about non-existent corruption issues. Ours has been a government with complete transparency with no corruption charges. So, the charges are being invented. It’s not us, but the Congress that does not respect the constitutional bodies because, despite the Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor General saying there was no hanky-panky in the Rafale deal, the opposition, mainly the Congress party, is trying to hoodwink the people. The focus is not to prove that their party is great, but the concerted effort is to create corruption equilibrium. They want to say, ‘we are corrupt, but the BJP is also corrupt.’
As for the CBI, it had some internal issues. Guided by the Supreme Court, whatever action was required was immediately taken by the government. And since the last few months, the CBI has been functioning normally. Yes, certain things should not have happened, but it’s over now.
So, do you expect the BJP to win more than 300 Lok Sabha seats, or are we heading towards a hung parliament with the possibility of a third front forming the government?
There is no question of a third front. NDA is a strong coalition of 30 parties, whereas there’s no coherence in opposition coalition. We expect more than 300 seats in the Parliament.
You’re now focused on the North East states to give the party a major foothold there. Why such a paradigm shift?
The BJP has grown phenomenally in the North East in the last five years. From almost a non-existent party, now in all 7 states in the North East, either BJP or its alliance partners are in power. Congress has been wiped off. We have 25 members, including 8 from the BJP from the North East in the Parliament. We hope to double that figure.
Don’t you think the government’s move to press ahead with the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 has caused a major ruckus among the locals in these states?
The Bill is not region-specific but is for the entire country. Because of persecution or fear of it, as legacy of Partition, minorities from Muslim countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, come to India. Earlier the rule was they should domicile in India for 12 years before claiming citizenship. We have reduced it to 7 years. But some political parties tried to spread misinformation, as if we are encouraging migration from these countries. We are assuring the people that our government will protect the identity, culture, language and heritage of each north-eastern states.
But your allies and partners have threatened dire consequences if the government fails to roll back the Bill.
We are in talks with all our alliance partners and they are convinced that the Bill will not harm the interests of the region. It’s only because of lack of knowledge or deliberate misinformation that some people were confused.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP was blamed for pulling down the alliance government with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It’s chief Mehbooba Mufti is now questioning the air strikes across the border and demanding proof.
For all those who want proof of the air strikes, we have to tie them up to MIGs or Sukhoi aircraft and let them have an eyewitness account! There’s no other way to show the proof. When PDF was in alliance with us, its language was different. Once out of alliance, they speak the language of separatists. It shows the party’s character.
As a former RSS member, you’ve been vocal in attacking the Nehru-Gandhi family for their laxity in J&K as well as countering China on Arunachal Pradesh.
I maintain, that the J&K problem was created during the tenure of the first Prime Minister [Jawaharlal Nehru] of India. The roots of this problem lie in certain constitutional special provisions extended to the state. Right there, a sense of separatism was allowed to grow. That has, subsequently, led to so much violence, terrorism and unfortunate incidents. So, certainly the blame lies with the first government for the mess we are in today. Every successive government has tried to address the issue. We are also trying.
The BJP has always been accused of ‘polarisation’ to win votes. Isn’t it time caste and religion-based politics was put to rest?
It’s a completely baseless allegation against us. Eight months ago, we were in power in J&K, India’s only most Muslim-majority state and earlier in Punjab, which is dominated by the Sikhs and in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, dominated by the Christian community. So, where’s the question of polarising? Our schemes are benefitting all, irrespective of religion or caste.
There is a notion among liberals and some sections of the media that anyone who questions the government policies is labeled as ‘anti-national’.
India being a democratic country, everyone is free to criticise, suggest and question the government and its policies. But if someone picks up a gun and says he will not respect the Indian Constitution, it means going against the national interest. Such people have to be dealt with differently.
Why has your party not taken a clear stand on the Supreme Court’s decision to form a three-member mediation panel to solve the Ayodhya dispute?
The entire country has to respect the Supreme Court’s decision. It will be implemented and monitored by the SC and the government is not in the picture. But it’s not the first time that such an effort is happening and we have never opposed it. So, we have our fingers crossed.
(The Interview was originally published in Gulf News India on March 12, 2019)