NEW DELHI—Union cabinet minister and Bharatiya Janata Party's election in-charge for Rajasthan, Prakash Javadekar, told HuffPost India he was confident his party would return to power in Rajasthan despite opinion polls to the contrary.
A day after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat demanded that parliament pass a law to pave the way for the construction of the temple for the Hindu deity Ram, Javadekar stuck to party line, saying the BJP supports early resolution of the issue through a court order or mutual understanding between the parties that have gone to court.
Edited excerpts from an interview:`
It has been a fortnight since you took over as the election in-charge of the BJP in Rajasthan. What is the sense you are getting about the prospects for the party in the polls?
I am absolutely happy that we will break the jinx which was there in Rajasthan for the last 20 years—once Congress, once BJP. We will repeat. Bhajapa Firse (BJP Again) — that is the tagline with which we are going ahead. The issue is—there are three things that have changed the whole Rajasthan scenario.
Every election is a new election and there are challenges and there are opportunities also. The challenge was, yes the government did wonderful job but there was little communication gap in communicating it to the people that this is a government which has done it. It's not the bureaucracy which has done it; it's the political leadership which has done it. So that was one aspect. But now we have bridged that gap and now people realise that this was the best government and this has done very good things. And there is basic change in the whole political scenario of interplay of congress and BJP.
In 2014 when Modiji became Prime Ministerial candidate, the BJP had only 6 states and Congress had 16. Now BJP has 19 and Congress has four. Why Congress lost the plot? that's important. Let's understand. It's not a typical calculation of elections which can give you indication of shape of things to come. People have been disenchanted with Congress completely—on its leadership, programs and promises. A mainstream party, Mahatma Gandhi's party, is now become a party of fringe elements.
You are talking about your party-led government's record in governance. But why do we see, now that the election campaign is picking up steam, Ram Mandir back as the point of discourse? RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said this in his Vijayadashmi speech and recently party president Amit Shah also said Ram Mandir should be constructed before 2019. Obviously it is timed towards state elections.
It's not we. See, because the Congress, Kapil Sibal went in the court and said, that court should hear the plea of dispute which is pending for long after July, 2019. If anybody says, with a political motive, that it should be post-2019 then we are saying only that there has to be justice in time.
It is not an election issue for us. Kapil Sibal made it a plea that it should be (heard), post-July, 2019, in the Supreme Court. We are saying it is a long pending issue which must be solved.
Why is that insistence on getting it resolved before 2019?
It is because it is pending in court for more than 20 years. Actually 40 years. It is a long time. We want a resolution essentially through a court verdict or settlement and understanding between both the communities. By accommodation both the communities should come to a conclusion and there should be no pending litigation. Because that is not coming through, somewhere you have to say —see BJP has always said two things. Either by aapsi samjhauta (mutual understanding) or through court verdict. It should happen and a magnificent temple should come up at the Ram Janmbhoomi at the earliest. So it's not a new stand. It's a consistent stand.
In the beginning of this interview you indicated that the mood of the Rajasthan voters has changed. Are you saying that there is no anti-incumbency anymore?
See there will always be part of anti-incumbency sometimes against the local MLA. But this time the work done is not only Bhamashah. There are so many schemes. Rajasthan is known for lack of enough water. Water scarcity. Now this time Mukhyamantri Jal Swavalamban Yojana has raised the water table from 5 feet to 30 feet in different districts. It's huge.
How do you then respond to the opinion polls which show the BJP is going to lose in Rajasthan?
See, the opinion polls are an evolving science. And no party (opinion poll organisations) ever showed that the BSP will ever win. And it won. Thrice. So this happens. And now many polls are going awry in each state election; many times. So, ok. It's an evolving science. We take cue from what has been (said in them). So if there is more challenge, we are working more.
When you took charge as poll in charge, it was seen as the central unit of the party taking direct reins of the election campaign. For instance, you have a greater role, as compared to the state unit, in ticket distribution for election candidates. Last time, the state unit had a greater say.
Let me tell you, this is our arrangement of appointing election prabharis. It is a continuous theme of the BJP. In every election we do it, from centre one (party member) goes. It is to help the state unit. To mobilise more effectively. And ticket distribution is always done by the central election committee.
I am asking this because it is being seen as two different campaigns of the BJP in Rajasthan. One by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and another by party president Amit Shah.
That is a wrong notion. Actually what happened was the CM was already in the tour of Gaurav Yatra. It was public programmes all over. Amitji therefore decided to concentrate on organizational rallies of workers, our various morchas and booth level workers. Because that is finally the strategy (of the) organization, because of which we are winning state after state. So he concentrated on that. Now, he will also come in public rallies, he will also have roadshows, he will also have many things. It begins sometime in November. Some rallies (will be held) even before ticket distribution.
What is your assessment about the impact on the Rajput community's voting inclination after the departure of senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh's son Manvendra Singh from the BJP?
Rajput community or for that matter, Meena, Gurjar, Sainis, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tributes—we don't do community vote bank politics. We respect all communities. We have a good dialogue with all communities. And therefore, if there is any misunderstanding also we will remove. But one person going; he was already a suspended MLA. And for last four and half years, he has not participated in BJP programmes. So his going doesn't make a difference.
You mentioned the government's track record about governance while being in power. But BJP's chief minister Vasundhara Raje herself is on record as having said that lynchings happen because of inadequate number of jobs being generated.
Who said this?
Ms. Raje. In July, 2018.
No, no, she must be misquoted. Let me tell you, lynching is the worst crime ever to happen anywhere in the world. And it has not started in 2014. Even in 1984, 3000 Sikhs were butchered, that was the worst kind of lynching. Then in Bhagalpur, hundreds of Muslims were burnt alive. That was also lynching. Then kar sevaks, 52, were burnt alive, that was also lynching. And so all lynching is bad. Every lynching is bad, condemnable and must be punished. Guilty must be brought to book. And this time, lynching has happened in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, everywhere. It is not only in Rajasthan that something is happening. But every lynching instance is bad, we condemn it, and we have asked states to take action and many states have taken prompt action. That is how even Rajasthan has booked all the culprits in all the cases.
Are you concerned about the question of jobs? That was the second part of my question. Your manifesto of 2013 said 15 lakh jobs will be generated.
I don't relate the issue of jobs to lynching. No.
We have been producing jobs, we are the fastest growing economy so there is natural growth in jobs at the macro level. Then there are other opportunities created with MUDRA loans made very easily available without any guarantee. So 14 crore youths have been given MUDRA loans and they have started their own enterprises; they are earning a decent livelihood. This Congress' criticism of Pakoda is also very bad because they are demeaning, actually insulting the poor who want to live with self-respect. We are helping every poor (person) to have that (self-respect).
All put together, there are tremendous job opportunities created (in) industrial, non-industrial, agriculture and service sectors. All kinds of jobs are growing.
As the poll campaign now picks up, with big rallies of the Prime Minister, what are the major issues for you as an incumbent party that you will raise?
We are raising only one issue. That is, development, development, development. Development of all. Even the poor person has the right to be prosperous. And all have the right to live with all human rights. And everybody will be respected. We are telling the taxpayers that you are paying tax, you are serving someone who is underprivileged. See, we believe, not like others; they are believing in distributing poverty, we believe in distributing prosperity.