BJP general secretary says there is not even a name in the Opposition which can be projected as a prime ministerial candidate
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav says Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys overwhelming support, and there is no alternative before the country and the Opposition. Edited Excerpts:
The dates for the Lok Sabha election was announced on Sunday. What is the BJP’s outlook on the polls and the party’s prospects.
There is a very strong sentiment in favour of Prime Minister Modi, across the country and various cross sections of society too. The main focus of our campaign will therefore be the five years of government, and Modiji as leader. “If not Modi, who?” is going to be the central question, and we will do as well as we did last time or even better.
Isn’t the BJP’s strong focus on Prime Minister Modi, a kind of ‘Modi vs All’ battle, ignoring the fact that you have 30 allies in the NDA, and it’s probably NDA vs others?
Actually the contest is not ‘Modi vs all’ at all; it is actually ‘Modi vs who?’
As far as we are concerned, the NDA is stronger than it used to be and we have more allies than we had in the past. A strong NDA with Modiji as a leader ranged against who? We don’t know. There is no one single formation that is against us.
In Delhi, we don’t know whether Congress and AAP will go together; one day they say they will, another day they say they won’t. In Uttar Pradesh, there is one alliance but there is also another alliance because the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance did not include the Congress.
So there is no one single alliance or a leader of that alliance to challenge Modiji.
So we say, if not Modi, then who?
This leadership question was also there in 2004, when the BJP focussed strongly on then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee against a diffused opposition, but the UPA won regardless. Do you think that this alone can affect the outcome of an election?
Much has changed in the country between 2004 and 2014. The Congress was in a much better position, and if you recall, the Congress alliance tried to make Sonia Gandhi the Prime Minister, which for various reasons did not happen and Dr Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister.
The leadership of the Congress was not disputed by others. Today, even if some party proposes someone in the Congress as Prime Minister, some other parties will oppose it. Today there is not even a name before the Opposition who can be projected as Prime Minister. Having said that, we cannot take any challenge lightly. But the central point remains, that if it is not Modi, it will be instability; if it is not Modi, it will be a rag-tag alliance; if it not Modi, it’s going to be a corruption and nepotism-led government.
Analysts say the BJP will gain if it focusses on national issues, and national security issues while the Opposition will gain by keeping the contest local and focussed on bread and butter issues. Do you agree?
We are ready for any debate on development with the Opposition. In fact, it is the Opposition which is running away from those issues, raising atrocious questions on what happened in Balakot. We are going to the people with Modiji as our leader and a five-year report card we are proud of.
The Election Commission (EC) has said there will no simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir. All political parties had, however, said they favoured simultaneous polls. What do you say now that the EC has decided otherwise?
Our party [members] also — when they met EC officials — said they preferred simultaneous polls. If you think about elections in the State, what immediately dominates the thought is the situation in the Valley, but there are large parts of the State, like Jammu, which are peaceful. But in the larger picture they get affected and cannot enjoy their rights fully.
Our party was in favour of simultaneous polls, but the Election Commission looked at various aspects and took a decision. We accept that decision and will prepare for Parliamentary polls.
(The interview was originally published in The Hindu on March 11, 2019)