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Our preparation has clearly perturbed the opposition


Om Mathur, BJP’s in-charge for UP, is known as a master strategist who has scored victory for the party in several polls through his astute understanding of electioneering. In a long chat with Pramod Kumar, Mathur reveals party’s strategy for the coming polls
PRAMOD KUMAR | Issue Dated: May 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Om Mathur | Deoband | Panchayat elections | BJP | Lucknow | Narendra Modi | Benaras |

This can be a make or break election for the party in Uttar Pradesh. Are the preparations good enough?

I’ll admit that 2017 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh is a challenge for us. But BJP is a cadre-based party and if our cadres get good leadership, they can surmount any odds. We have been ending up at the 3rd or 4th position for the last decade and a half. But in between, we triumphed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and our vote share has also increased. We have the face of Prime Minister Modi and the leadership of Amit Shah, and we have already prepared a roadmap for the polls. The cadres are full with enthusiasm. The logistics are in place. We have no doubt that we’ll form the next government with absolute majority.

You have stressed a lot about the able leadership and the enthusiastic cadre; however, the by-polls have sprung up a very different picture, which is not very positive for the party…

I don’t think we should compare the results of the by-polls with those of the upcoming assembly elections. I think they are different. The misuse of state machinery is a big factor, as you would have witnessed in the recent MLC elections. In a scenario where muscle power rules the roost, a party like Samajwadi Party will always rule the seats. But after I was appointed as the in-charge, of the two seats that have gone for by-polls, we have won one and lost the other by a very close margin. So, you cannot say that we have performed poorly. As far as the opposition is concerned, the grin on their faces will be wiped off in the near future. We have won in several District Panchayat seats; as many as seven districts have Presidents from our party. So I am not sure that comparison with by-polls is a valid argument. I believe that we’ll form the government with an absolute majority. 

Your preparations seems to have failed in the Deoband by-polls?

We lost by 4000 or so votes in a very polarized election. But we won Muzaffarnagar. Wouldn’t that be considered our victory?

But a loss is a loss irrespective of the margin. Was this because of what happened in Muzaffarnagar? Does not this indicate that Muslims continue to see BJP with suspicion?

The polls in Uttar Pradesh are based on social equations. Communities, including Muslims, have been misguided against us. But unless they come and sit with us, how will they develop confidence in us? Communal activities are not happening in the states where we have our government. It is indicative that the differences have been created as part of political machinations. Considerable propaganda against Narendra Modi was spread after Godhra. They tried to intimidate Muslims like one intimidates a child. As soon as this lack of confidence is bridged, they will see that we work for the betterment of all the communities. We are confident that minorities will support us in the assembly polls as they did in the general elections. 

UP has been a laboratory of identity politics. SP and BSP have been taking turns in forming governments here. Is the appointment of someone from the backward caste as the party president a strategy to counter that move?

These stories are spun by you people. We have selected an able cadre of our party as our state president. The media praised us when we appointed 56 district presidents. Every leader is a greenhorn at one point of his life. Does that mean that we should not promote fresh faces? The decision has been taken by our parliamentary board. I am positive that he’ll do a wonderful job and his popularity will only rise from here.  Should we only continue with established faces?

Then why has he not been declared as the Chief Ministerial candidate? Is it because you want to declare someone from the upper caste as a CM candidate?

Again, these rumours are a figment of your imagination. These stories are pulled out of thin air by the media. I will again insist that we are a cadre-based party and we don’t believe in dynasty politics. Therefore, our parliamentary board takes the decision about who is to be declared the president and who will be declared as the Chief Ministerial face. We recognize the hard work put in by the cadres and we award accordingly. As far as the Chief Ministerial candidate is concerned, we don’t have a name as of now. It is for the parliamentary board to decide.

Recently, a female leader from the party who targeted a particular caste was expelled. But when others targeted the minority community, they were not even reprimanded…

That’s wrong. We gave a stern reprimand to such leaders. This is also a disciplinary action. The dismissal of the particular female leader was essential to maintain the discipline inside the party.

Let’s talk about the programs initiated by NDA. There is no trickle-down effect visible. When you talk to people, they say that the government has nothing to show for all the hullaballoo.

See, we have already done whatever groundwork we had to do. The opposition parties are in panic. We organised a contact program during the District Panchayat elections and made people aware about the internal and external factors affecting our country. We also organised an agrarian meet and made farmers aware of the programs. Our cadres will also start awareness campaigns at the block level. There are other forums as well through which we are trying to make people aware about our programs and their benefits.

UP is a huge geographical expanse and it is difficult to run the entire state from Lucknow. Will BJP raise the issue of creating smaller states out of Uttar Pradesh?

BJP has maintained from the very beginning that smaller states are the way to go. And we have created smaller states as and when we had the numbers. But as of now this is not an issue in UP. It depends on the central government to make such a move.

So, we can be sure that this won’t be an issue in the elections...

As of now, this issue is not part of the election manifesto that we are preparing. But it is still early to talk about the manifesto. First, we’ll constitute a team that will work on the manifesto. Only then can we decide which issue to include and which not to. 

The youth of this nation, who helped propel the Narendra Modi-led NDA to power in the centre, has started to turn disillusioned.

No, I don’t agree. Whatever promises that the government had made are being implemented in a step-by-step process. Youngsters are not disillusioned. A small section that appears to be, is because of political reasons. Party president Amit Shah has made it very clear what our stand is on this issue. As far as job creation is concerned, programs such as Make in India, Start-Up India etc will start to show results very soon.

What are your priorities regarding integration of youth in politics and preferring them during ticket distribution?

As far as distribution of tickets is concerned, we have only two criteria, and those are the prevailing social equation and the individual's ability to win the election. I assure you that because of the personality of the PM and because of his programs, the youth has joined our party in large numbers. We’ll choose many candidates from among them based on their abilities. We have always advocated more participation of the youth and women.   

Even people of Benaras don't look very happy with the work...

You can go and watch for yourself what developmental works have been initiated. Development is something that you cannot hide. You will feel a sea of change in today’s Benaras and the Benaras of a couple of years back. But to expect that we can correct every wrong of the past 60 years is unreasonable.

Is Ram Mandir in the agenda for the polls?

I believe that we’ll develop the state in the same way as it was during Ram Rajya. As far as Ram Mandir is concerned, the issue is subjudice in the Supreme Court. We believe that any construction in Ayodhya can be done only with the agreement of both the communities.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017