In an exclusive interview with IANS, Ravi, who is the BJP in-charge for Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Goa, spoke at length about party’s poll prospects in Goa, political positioning in Tamil Nadu, political tempo in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
He termed the Uddhav Thackeray government “Maha Vinash Agadhi”.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Q. With Mamata also heading to Goa to widen Trinammol’s footprint, AAP contesting polls for the second time, do you think it will impact BJP’s prospects in the upcoming Assembly polls?
A. AAP and Trinamool do not have cadres, leaders and vote bank in the state. Like guests, these parties don’t stay, they come and go.
A. We have been doing positive politics and moving ahead with an agenda of development and are sure of forming the government for the third time in the state.
Q. How many seats BJP is aiming to win in the polls?
A. Currently, we have 28 legislators and will be aiming to add more.
Q. As BJP’s Maharashtra in-charge, how do you rate the Thackeray government?
A. People think that the Thackeray government is not Maharashtra Vikas Agadhi but “Maharashtra Vinash Agadhi”. This government is being run only on the basis of numbers as there is no coordination among the allies. The DNA of parties is also not the same. How long you think such government can survive?
Q. The BJP has been continuously striving to expand its base in South India, but has failed in Tamil Nadu. Where do you think the saffron party lags?
A. See, it is not easy to make inroads in a place which it is already full. For the past 50 years, AIADMK and DMK have been in power. Karunanidhi, MGR and Jayalalithaa have been the heavyweights, back then, our role was like of a side actor. However, now political environment is changing. We may not have numbers in the state but we are working as the main opposition party and will earn dividends one day.
Q. In the recently-held polls in Tamil Nadu, BJP was making tall claims but poll results showed the contrary. Do you think forging an alliance with AIADMK was not the right step and the saffron party has to bear the brunt of unpopularity of the AIADMK?
A. The BJP had fought the polls in alliance with the AIADMK. But after losing the exercise, it will be incorrect to blame them for the defeat.
Q. What measures the BJP is taking to strengthen the party in Tamil Nadu?
A. Tamil Nadu BJP President K. Annamalai has been working hard for it. Former BJP state chief L. Murugan has been elevated as Central Minister. We have established ourselves as an alternative in future. We are also introspecting our strengths and weaknesses and formulating a strategy based on it. In the recently-held local body polls in seven districts, the saffron party has performed well.
Q. You said that despite having numbers in Tamil Nadu, you are working as main opposition party. How do you rate M.K. Stalin’s work?
A. Right now, we are adopting a wait and watch policy. If the Stalin government works well for the state, then the BJP will support it, otherwise not. Media is abuzz with news of Stalin’s son-in-law.
Q. But isn’t Stalin opposing the New Education Policy 2020 and refusing to implement it in the state?
A. The NEP is not for the BJP but for the country. We will try to make them understand that this policy does not make Hindi mandatory. The policy provides for learning of regional language as a third language. Moreover, option for English language has also been given. Opposing Hindi in the name of language is not right.
Q. If we talk about your home state Karnataka, BJP has to change its Chief Minister too. Why?
A. Party organisation is strong in the state. While our government is working well, there are bickerings in the opposition parties. Our Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai comes from a political family. His father had also served as Chief Minister. Bommai knows politics, management and administration too well.
Q. On October 30, bypolls were held on two Assembly seats in Karnataka. What do you think about that?
A. I have campaigned for both the seats in the state. Have seen mood of the voters and can say with confidence that the BJP will be winning both the seats.
Q. The Congress or JD(S), which party do you think can give tough fight to the BJP in Karnataka?
A. The BJP is ahead in the race. On some seats, it will be straight contest with the Congress, while on the others with the JD(S). The BJP will also witness triangular contest on few seats in assembly elections.
Q. The BJP is generally considered a party with a Hindutva agenda. Your leaders have always been going to temples and the BJP had also launched a nationwide movement regarding Ram temple, but nowadays the opposition party leaders are also following your agenda.
A. Hindutva and nationalism are synonymous with each other and are inseparable. Playing a drama just for polls is not nationalism. First of all, all these parties should tell the country about their agenda, their thinking and their party’s plan on every issue related to nationalism, only then, the truth will come to the fore.
(Santosh Kumar Pathak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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