The BJP general secretary insists his party did nothing wrong in forming the governments in Manipur and Goa, calls for patience regarding the Yogi Adityanath government, says the RSS plays no role in the day-to-day functioning of the government and is hopeful that there will be relative calm soon in J&K.
Why Ram Madhav
After leading the BJP to electoral successes in Assam and J&K, Ram Madhav, the BJP general secretary, was among those who helped deliver Manipur for the party, with his tenure in the region under the RSS coming in handy. Since joining the BJP, Madhav has been entrusted with a number of important positions, including hosting global events of the Prime Minister. He is considered to be among the few leaders to have direct access to both the PM and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Liz Mathew: The way the BJP formed governments in Manipur and Goa has drawn a lot of criticism. The Centre was seen to be misusing powers.
This political rona-dhona (chest-beating) goes on. They (the UPA) did the same thing. When we do it, they complain. Democracy is about first past the post, and when I say first past the post, I mean once you get a given number of seats, you get to form the government. You mentioned Manipur and Goa. How do you define a mandate? A mandate is not just defined by the number of seats you have secured. I will give you a hypothetical situation: take the case of Manipur. If the BJP gets 24 seats, and the Congress gets 25, who should be deemed the winner? Merely because you’ve one extra seat than me, should you be declared the winner? Both should be given an opportunity (to form the government) because 31 is the halfway mark. Once you reach there, you will be declared the winner and can form the government. In a democracy, you have to cross the threshold, which is halfway. We were able to do it in both the states and formed the government. Nobody stopped the Congress from securing the support of other parties. To call it murder of democracy etc, you’re doing it because you lost the race. There is no logic behind it.
Liz Mathew: But do you differentiate between Goa and Manipur? In Goa, the BJP was in power. So the results could be termed as a mandate against the existing government.
In Goa, we got more votes than the main opposition party, the Congress. In Manipur too, we secured more votes than them. I see the victory in Manipur — not because I was in-charge of the state — as a very significant victory for us. One, because it’s a northeastern state, there is very little attention, including from you all… Those of you familiar with Manipur will know what a difficult state it is, in terms of demography and its divisions; it is the most conflict-prone state in the Northeast today. And above all, the BJP was almost non-existent in the state. But we worked very hard. We only had 2.2-2.3 per cent of the votes in the previous election, and didn’t do well even in the parliamentary polls. From there to pull off a victory like this and get a good number of seats is a major achievement for the BJP.
In Goa, we could have done better, I accept that. The local leadership was confident that they would cross the 20-mark (halfway); some of us who watched closely and get a lot of information from the grassroots and other agencies, were confident that we would emerge as the largest party. I personally thought that we would be where the Congress is today, and where we were at the end of the day, is where the Congress would be. That was my assessment, but somewhere something didn’t go well for us in Goa.
Liz Mathew: You come from the RSS. In the BJP, you’ve been given different assignments, from organising the PM’s meetings abroad to looking after three border states. Why were you given these border states, you think?
Firstly, the one state that was specially given to me was J&K. What had happened was that J P Nadda was the party’s J&K in-charge but then he became a minister. The state was then assigned to me because we were two months from elections. Luckily, the party did well in the elections, and you know the history of the negotiations that followed. In the first place, no one ever thought that something like this would happen, so they thought, ‘Let this go to him, anyway it’s improbable’. But somehow everything fell into place. I wouldn’t say it was all because of me alone but sometimes things work. In the Northeast, the party assigned me the responsibility from the beginning. Incidentally, in the RSS too, I used to look after the Northeast.
I had a lot of experience in these states, especially Manipur, and that certainly helped me. In the end, I can tell you that elections are not won or lost because of any one person. Tomorrow, I might be assigned to a state from where the party may lose.
SHEELA BHATT: Do you see someone with a strong RSS background becoming the President of India?
Since we have the required numbers, any person the BJP prefers or proposes should be able to make it to that position. A person who enjoys a broader consensus, and of whom, largely, all the parties are supportive of (will be chosen). Anyway, this is an issue that has to be handled by the PM and other senior people in the party. There are many people in the larger political spectrum who are from our party, and are quite popular as well. I don’t agree with the statement that if someone has an RSS background, you can’t build a consensus around him or her.
Sheela Bhatt: Do you agree with the view that the RSS’s ideology and agenda dictate this government’s policy?
I know the RSS very well, it has one agenda, which is the good of the country, good of the nation. But the government is guided by the PM and his cabinet — their decisions, their views.
SUSHANT SINGH: You have been closely associated with politics in J&K in the past two-and-a-half years. What is your assessment of the current internal security situation in the Valley? Particularly in south Kashmir, which is your ally PDP’s stronghold?
As far as Kashmir is concerned, we are keeping our fingers crossed about the developments once the summer sets in. There are a few trouble spots which have been identified in the Valley. Also, there are few continuing problems there — stone-pelting, demonstrations, attacks — but they are all concentrated in a small area. We are putting in place a very effective security mechanism so that we do not see a repeat of 2016. That is one of our priorities.
We have noticed some gaps in our security establishment, but they will be taken care of in the coming weeks. So, by the time the Valley completely opens up after winter, we will have a proper security establishment in place. One major problem we are facing in the Valley is social media; our neighbour is using it very effectively. So much so that our own supporters get swayed by their propaganda. For instance, they will put up a 30-second video saying that in so and so district, cricket players are singing the Pakistani national anthem, which is not true at all. But once the clip is out, it has a psychological impact in the Valley and also on our supporters. So most of the times the discussion on Kashmir is not based on facts. We need to stem the response, that is a challenge for us.
The other issue in Kashmir is political will. This combination, where the BJP is also a part of the establishment, is absolutely not acceptable to the militants and their sponsors from across the borders. They want this arrangement to collapse. One very important thing that has happened due to this arrangement is that there is no political platform available for the militants anymore; Mehbooba Mufti is crystal clear about it. You see her public statements… she is very clear about where the government stands on separatism today.
There are only certain pockets in the Valley that are under the spell of these forces. Large parts of it are today free from any kind of separatist influence. We are keen that tourist season goes off well this year. It begins in April and goes on till about July-August, when the Amarnath yatra ends. I think things will return to normal. There are bouts of this (violence)… there was a bout in 2010, then relative calm for four-five years. Then it suddenly erupted in 2016. Hopefully, for the next few years, things will be peaceful. The government is very firm: no violence, no terrorism.
Krishn Kaushik: Can Indians eat beef in India other than in the Northeast?
By law or the Constitution, cow slaughter it is not allowed in a number of states. My party has a view that cow slaughter should be banned across the country; I think there are some seven-nine states where it is not banned, most of them in the Northeast naturally. If it is legal, nobody can stop somebody from doing it. If somebody tells you to stop doing something that’s legal, you should stand up and say ‘no’. But cow slaughter should be completely banned in the country is our stand.
ANAND MISHRA: What led to the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of UP?Also, what are the expectations from him?
My party has amply explained the reasons for selecting Yogiji. The first is that he is one of the most popular leaders in the state, and worked really hard in the elections. There was speculation that he would be declared the CM candidate even before the elections. So it’s not like something unexpected happened.
But the propaganda part of Yogi Adityanath — that he said this somewhere, that he said that somewhere — let’s look at the larger picture, his overall performance… It has been broadly in line with what we all stood for, what we all stand for. He may say that there should be no appeasement, that everybody should be treated as equals… That is the line we have always taken. In an interview, the main objection was that he apparently said, ‘If one Hindu is converted, we will convert 100 Muslims’. What is the issue here? We have always said that if conversion is right, re-conversion is right as well. We have always taken this stand…
Yogi Adityanath has rich experience as a parliamentarian, and he will deliver. One has to wait and see. He has followers across sections of the society, and that experience will help him run UP. It is Modiji’s vision of development, change, clean and transparent governance, that we expect all our CMs to follow in their respective states; and I am sure Yogi Adityanath will certainly follow that line in his state.
Shyam Lal Yadav: In electioneering and politics, what is the difference between the RSS and BJP now?
A lot of difference. The RSS does not involve itself in day-to-day electioneering at all. Broadly because we share the same ideological vision and the vision about the future of the country, the RSS tends to extend its support, not necessarily officially. The RSS never interferes in the day-to-day functioning of the party… I am from the RSS, Modiji too. On a lighter side, some of you may remember that when Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) was asked if the RSS is using remote control, his response was, ‘Why remote control? It is direct control’. What did he mean by direct control? He said, ‘I, Atal Bihari Vajpayee am the RSS. My number two, L K Advani, is the RSS. We are the RSS, we are running the government’… We share a bond, that is how it works. Otherwise, if you ask me if the RSS interferes on a day-to-day basis, I say no.
MUZAMIL JALEEL: You quoted Yogi Adityanath selectively. But he also said, ‘We should be ready for dharm yudh, that there are two civilisations, Muslims and Hindus, and that they can’t live together, a war is going to happen’. He is also accused of saying that if one Hindu girl elopes, we should bring 100 Muslim women. Do you mean that now that he is the CM, he will change himself?
I repeat myself that look at his televised speeches in the past 25 years. I haven’t heard him say any such things in front of me… He has said so many good things inside Parliament and outside. I am not saying that you have no right to raise that controversial issue. You have raised it before also but to stereotype him because of that one statement, I say you are taking it out of context. He hasn’t said it, somebody sitting next to him has said it, that’s how you should see it. As CM, he is bound by certain Constitutional obligations. We have seen him as a public figure in the last five terms in Parliament. We are confident that he will manage the affairs of the state diligently as per Constitutional law. We are confident.
MUZAMIL JALEEL: Whenever anybody enters public life, we judge him by what he has said. If you look at YouTube, there are not five-six such speeches, they are in the dozens. He also recently said that India should become a Hindu rashtra. When a party chooses that type of a figure to head a state that has 20 per cent Muslim population, isn’t it a very clear-cut signal by it?
Many people in this country think that India should become something. Many thought India should become a proletarian state. Just because it didn’t happen, you should not go after anybody else who thinks differently. You quote selectively, you have the freedom. But at the end of it, we have the mandate. People have elected us; give us a chance. See what happened? So much abuse for Modiji, so much doubt, so much propaganda all over the world undertaken by many of you also when he became the PM. Today, he is the most popular, most celebrated PM not only in India but across the world. He is one of the best PMs, an international forum stated that. At a time when global governments are collapsing in country after country, his government is a ray of hope.
This is a democracy; people have given us a mandate. At least learn to respect it. If he (Yogi Adityanath) does anything wrong, violates the Constitution or the law, you are there, we are there. Certainly necessary steps will be taken… I urge you, have patience. If he violates any constitution or law, our party will not accept it, but I am confident (that he won’t violate either) because I have seen him in totality.
Abantika Ghosh: One of Yogi Adityanath’s first decisions was to raise anti-Romeo squads. UP has one of the worst maternal mortality ratios, it has got malnourished children, malnourished mothers. Is cracking down on ‘road Romeos’ the most important thing that the CM had to do for women of UP?
By the way, again selective picking. He visited a rape victim, provided compensation to her, and has taken steps to punish the guilty. You are not pointing out that this was the first action he took. Don’t you see it as woman-friendly action? As far as anti-Romeo squads are concerned, my information is that it is not new to UP. UP has had this system even before we came to power — of police taking certain action on certain days. Anti-Romeo squad is not an extra-constitutional entity; police make sure that certain order is maintained in society. No inconvenience is caused to anybody, and nobody will be given any constitutional authority to go after people.
Rahul Tripathi: How does the government plan to engage China considering that they have expressed their unhappiness over Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh?
As far as their protests over the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunanchal are concerned, it’s not just the Dalai Lama. If you recall, when (former PM) Manmohan Singh went to Tawang, that time too they protested… Any senior Indian leader goes there, they protest. But we have our position, we have always maintained that Arunanchal Pradesh is an integral part of India.
As far as the larger issue of relations between India and China are concerned, in the last couple of years, major efforts have been made by both the governments. I would give credit to President Xi Jinping also, for the efforts he undertook to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. Luckily for us, leaders of both the countries enjoy a good personal rapport. It matters in diplomatic relations as to how one leader sees the other. So these factors should help us in further improving our relations. But there are certain strategic areas where we have issues — we have certain border problems, some other issues with Chinese activities in Giligit-Baltistan area in Pakistan. So those issues are there, but we are trying to handle them in a better way.