As the new BJP president, what are the biggest challenges that confront you?
My emphasis is on cleaning politics. Whether it is a party leader or a worker, actions have to match words. One of the main reasons why politicians are being discredited is what they say in public does not match up to what they do in private. That is the biggest crisis facing political parties and it is by no means confined to the BJP. We will try to gain the confidence of the people by our words and actions and I am sure it will work.
The 2014 General Elections are crucial to the BJP. Do you have a road map ahead?
People often talk about road maps but I believe that if every district and village has committed party cadres, no force can stop a political party from winning elections. Money power is not enough.
Will Narendra Modi lead the BJP in the 2014 General Elections?
The BJP tradition is that any decision on the prime ministerial candidate is the prerogative of the party’s Central Parliamentary Board (CPB). They select a candidate taking everyone into confidence.
What would be LK Advani’s role?
The inspiration and guidance of senior leaders will certainly be there.
The BJP will not be able to get a majority in 2014 because of the influence of regional parties, who may be able to cobble up numbers of their own to set up a Third Front or third alternative.
Our aim is to get a majority on our own. But it may not happen. This is the age of alliance politics. The BJP will then head a coalition of parties to form a government. Many political parties will join us.
In Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure, the NDA was a multi-party alliance. At the moment, it does not have more than three or four allies.
At the moment, Advaniji is chairman of the NDA and Sharad Yadav is the coordinator. This is the right time to expand the NDA and with these two highly capable and experienced leaders at the helm, steps are being taken. I am just trying to stick to my brief.
Do you believe Nitin Gadkari’s ouster as BJP president on charges of corruption will harm the party’s prospects?
You may have noticed that despite the issue being in the news for over a month, not a single charge, prima facie, has been framed against him. A charge means nothing unless there is prima facie evidence of wrong doing; only then should a person quit. Gadkariji was a very sad man and he decided to put in his papers.
How will you tackle the shortcomings evident during Gadkari’s tenure?
He did a very fine job as head of the party and I believe that not everything can be done by the party president. Everyone has to work together.
Rahul Gandhi’s coronation as the Congress vice-president coincides with your elevation as the BJP president. Do you see it as Rahul vs Rajnath instead of Rahul vs Narendra Modi?
I have the responsibility of running the organisation and I would like to limit myself to that brief. My brief is the 2014 General Elections and I have my focus on that instead of other factors.
In Rahul Gandhi’s scheme of things, the Congress is laying special emphasis on youth and young leaders are getting a lot of opportunities. What about you?
I can tell you confidently that the number of young leaders in the BJP far outstrip the Congress. Young Congress leaders come from big political or business families so they become high profile. But in the BJP, our youth leaders belong to middle class families who have come through sheer hard work but are often ignored. I would request my friends in the media not to overlook BJP youth leaders who come from small towns. They will show results in 2014.
During your last tenure as the BJP president in 2008, the party came to power in Karnataka, a first in south India. Today with the Yeddyurappa revolt, the BJP lies in tatters.
When trouble in the party started in Karnataka, everyone predicted the beginning of the BJP’s end. But with the projection of Jagdish Shettar as leader, the BJP’s graph is going up again.
Will you get Yeddyurappa back?
At the moment, we have no such proposal.
What will you do if such a proposal comes?
The question is notional at the moment (laughs).
This year, four states are going to assembly polls; Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The BJP state units are faction-ridden; factions led to BJP’s defeat in Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh.
Please get a survey done in all the places, including Delhi. The BJP’s graph is on the rise everywhere.
Now let us talk about UP, your home state. There was a time when the BJP won 50 odd seats there. Today you are just 10 members.
We are rebuilding the party organisation in UP. I believe that the last elections were not conducive to the BJP. This time, things are different. A lot of floating voters go the combination which looks like winning. I have no doubt that we are going to improve our position in the state.
Talking of UP, what is the party’s stand on the Ram Mandir issue? Back in the early 1990s, the Ram Mandir movement pitchforked the BJP into UP and from there they were able to establish a BJP-led government at the centre for the first time.
Ram Mandir was our commitment and it continues to remain our commitment. But things are in court at the moment and we cannot comment on legal matters, but the issue should come to a close soon. In any case, about three-fourths of the land is already with the Ram Mandir. Some people had moved the Supreme Court in an appeal and we are awaiting the verdict.
You are reportedly opposed to the induction of Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh in UP. Will you give them any responsibility in the state?
Uma Bharti was there last time and with Kalyan Singh, who has a big mass base in the state, the party is certain to benefit.
Like Gadkari, it is being said that it is not the BJP but the RSS which has been instrumental in your elevation.
The RSS does not appoint anyone. There was a general debate in which it was suggested that new faces be brought into the party, which is how Gadkari came. The Sangh wants the party to decide. Likewise, the Sangh did not appoint me, there were several names which cropped up and there was a five-hour-long meeting. I was not even aware of it. It was only when people started to call up and congratulate me that I realised that I had to assume charge at a day’s notice.
Like Gadkari, party factionalism has been handed over to you. While he did not take any major step against existing groups, what is going to be your position?
I do not want to warn anyone but it is important that everyone in the party should keep discipline in mind in all their actions. At the moment, I am not saying anything but merely expressing a view.