How important are the West Bengal elections for the BJP, both ideologically and politically?
Not just for BJP, the elections are very important for the entire nation. BJP has won almost all the states, (but) not Bengal so far. Bengal shares borders with Bangladesh and around 1,000 km of border is not barbed.
The CPI(M) and the TMC want to bring infiltrators from Bangladesh to turn them into their voters, and in fact, this has been happening so far. This has resulted in a number of terrorists belonging to al-Quaeda, SIMI etc coming in… Even today, terrorists are getting caught in West Bengal.
While the entire country is peaceful, including Jammu and Kashmir, there is no peace in West Bengal and there are bomb blasts taking place there. Law and order has collapsed, communal riots are happening. So if there is unrest in Bengal, it could have its implication in the entire country.
Bengal will be secure only if BJP wins. Not just this, our Prime Minister has already stated that the country is developed in the north, south and west but the east remains underdeveloped. It is our mission to develop the east also, otherwise India’s development will be incomplete.
When Amit Shah was the BJP national president, it was one of his main concerns that the party is strong in other parts but not in Bengal and east India. So winning West Bengal is very crucial and important for us and we will win.
Do you see a rise in violence as the election nears?
Violence is a part of Communist politics. They brought it into India — be it in Kerala, Tripura or West Bengal. The same people went to the TMC and now corruption also has become a part of their politics. So Bengal is in a very bad shape. As the election nears, violence will escalate because they do not have any other means to win elections as their popular support has been dwindling. It will end only with the removal of the TMC government.
One criticism the TMC had faced was that it imported all kinds of elements from the CPI(M) and now the BJP does the same. What’s the change that the BJP is offering?
See, BJP takes qualified people from different parties, different ideologies and communities into it from every part of the country. That’s how the BJP expanded. Seeing our leadership, its efficiency and acceptability, leaders from different parties join us.
Many people joined the TMC thinking it would fulfil the mission they had stood for, but it did not happen. People like Suvendu Adhikari etc joined the TMC to oppose the violent politics of the CPI(M), but they were left disappointed. They gave their youth to the party but Bengal has not changed.
In Assam, BJP government is run by people who have come from outside. I was an RSS man and I was made the party president. We have taken people who work for the state and the society into the party. They feel that the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi is taking the country forward. We will correct them if there is anything wrong with them. If there are criminal records, the law will take its course.
Don’t you think that they joined the party for the sake of power as BJP is the ruling party at the Centre?
It happens. Every election you will see some inflow here and there, you cannot deny it. We have to take them along. We know such techniques!
The BJP initially wanted to build its cadre to come to power. But now you are poaching…
We have the structure, the organisation which is in action year-round. Our cadre is strong and active and our attempts to expand the party are always on. We have the highest number of booth committees in West Bengal. Immediately after the (previous) Assembly elections, those who won (on a BJP ticket) sat together and made strategy for Lok Sabha.
Won’t there be conflict between the cadre and those who have come outside?
It happens. Those who are already in the party will feel that those who come from outside are rewarded. But we have our own system to adjust both. The cadre will understand. Yes, it’s a problem, but we keep that in mind while working.
See, a party goes forward when qualified people are given responsibilities. Some of them are good for contesting Councillor elections, but not for Assembly or Lok Sabha polls.
Isn’t there a race for the chief minister’s post?
In the states where the BJP hasn’t won power yet, we never project CM candidates. We have a number of people who can lead.
Are you one of the contenders?
Because I am the president and the party has been doing well during this years, attention has come on me. I was an RSS volunteer and I still live a simple life. I still walk to Parliament from my house (in North Avenue)… yes, because of the peculiar circumstances, I got some security personnel with me in West Bengal.
The party asked me to fight the Assembly polls, I did and won. Then the party wanted me to fight the Lok Sabha polls, and I won… I am just a worker even now.
After the Lok Sabha elections, the party asked me if I wanted to be a minister. I said I want to be in the organisation. My mission is to win West Bengal. Now, it’s up to party leadership, the parliamentary board to decide who will be the chief minister. Whatever responsibility the party gives me, I will do that.
Mamata Banerjee has declared that she will contest from Nandigram. Will it upset the BJP’s plans?
See, the uncertainty and confusion in her mind makes her do a lot of things. She feared that she wouldn’t win from Bhabanipur because the BJP has done well there. Nandigram is not all-safe for her. She will not be able to win from there. It has a history of defeating big leaders.
She’s nervous, her organisation is crumbling and those who were there with her in building the party are now with us. Her striker and defender have come to my party. More are expected to come to BJP in February. Her party is going to be finished.
Furfura cleric Abbas Siddique has formed a new party. How will it affect you?
It’s not going to affect us because Muslims don’t vote for the BJP. Of course some young progressive Muslims started supporting us seeing Modi ji’s welfare measures. But it’s going to affect the TMC, because he (Siddique) has influence among Bengali Muslims and Muslims were supporting Mamata Banerjee. But now they feel cheated by her party.
The narrative in the campaign seems to have become ‘bahari’ vs Bengali…
It has no impact on the society, because it’s wrong. BJP’s origin was in West Bengal but was accepted by the entire country. I am the party president and I am a Bengali. Every MP except one is Bangla-speaking. We got more than 2 crore votes in the Lok Sabha polls. If we were outsiders, would it have happened? Our national anthem and Vande Mataram were written by Bengalis. Migrant labourers from Bengal are everywhere. Why should Bengalis have any issue with others?
I ask them, you accepted Mahatma Gandhi who was from Gujarat. You cannot accept Modi ji and Amit Shahji? You treat people from Gujarat as outsiders and the infiltrators from Bangladesh as your own? What kind of logic is there? It’s just their frustration.
Will BJP’s ideology and the cultural narrative have any issue? Because people in Bengal are not used to ‘Jai Sri Ram’ chants.
‘Jai Sri Ram’ is a chant linked with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Vande Mataram started with the freedom struggle. The entire country accepted it. Ram is there in every household in Bengal. The campaign TMC is running is wrong. Bengalis feel insecure, they feel that the state has been divided once and should not be divided again. Now people welcome Mamata Banerjee with ‘Jai Sri Ram’. In fact, it was their (TMC’s) objection that made the slogan popular.
The CAA has been a key issue for the BJP to take up during the elections in the past. Now the Centre has not yet framed the rules after passing the law. Will this delay cause you trouble?
Home Minister Amit Shah is going to West Bengal and he will explain. The refugees, however, are confident that citizenship will be granted to them by the BJP. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had resigned from the Central government on this issue. It was the BJP that made the law after winning 18 seats from the state. People have waited for so long and they will wait one or two more years. But people are confident. We will make them understand.