Former Gujarat minister Gordhan Zadaphia, who had fallen out with Narendra Modi and launched a party in 2007, was last week handpicked by BJP president Amit Shah as one the three leaders in-charge for the party’s electioneering in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, where it is facing a tough challenge from the Samajawadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party that are likely to forge an alliance. With Zadaphia getting the responsibility of Uttar Pradesh, many see it as the political resurrection of a former VHP leader who had quit the BJP after being sidelined by the party following the 2002 riots when he was the Minister of State for Home, only to return to the party fold in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, five years ago. The Indian Express speaks to him about his new assignment and his plans for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
Your task for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh will be that of party president Amit Shah’s role in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when BJP saw a resounding victory, winning 71 of 80 seats in the state. How do you see it?
There is a team of people, and we will work together. I cannot compare myself with Amitbhai (Shah). He has succeeded in expanding the party’s base across the country, including the Northeast. I have never compared myself with the organisational skills of Amitbhai. We have worked together, and definitely one would like to achieve success… Amitbhai’s ability is proven, while we are yet to prove ourselves.
The decision of the BJP arouses curiosity, considering your background. Your comments?
Forget it. Those days are over… Ups and downs are always there in life.
What is your plan for Uttar Pradesh? What would be your priority there?
I will know the plan when I go there (UP). First, I will be going to Delhi. I have not been to Uttar Pradesh on political assignments in the past. But I have been there on many occasions to attend social and personal programmes… I have been to villages of BJP workers there when I was general secretary (of the BJP). I have visited their homes, attended weddings. The people of Gujarat and UP are well connected.
Were you associated with the Ram temple movement in the 1990s?
No No… Everyone knows I was with the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) prior to 1990s. There is nothing to hide. I was its secretary. Thereafter, I have been in the BJP where I worked with (former Gujarat minister) Ashok Bhatt as general secretary of party’s Ahmedabad city unit, Gujarat unit general secretary when I was an MLA… Most of my life was spent in the organisation.
So, the highest position for you was being the Minister of State for Home in Gujarat during 2002?
Organisational post is the highest. Getting ministerial position is outcome of the organisation.
Why do you think you have been given the assignment of UP by the BJP leadership?
I don’t know. It is their trust in me. Nothing else.
Do you think it is also because the Ram temple movement is building up again in the country, particularly UP?
No no… just trust in me as a (BJP) worker — nothing more, and nothing else.
But are you going to give a push to Ram temple movement ahead of the Lok Sabha elections?
See, this is not my job. My job is that of a party worker, and achieve success for the party.
Would you have preferred to stay in Gujarat for the Lok Sabha elections?
We are soldiers. Soldiers have no choice. I am a party worker and will work wherever posted. Nothing personal about it.
There is a view that you were given the UP assignment to keep you out of Gujarat.
I don’t believe it. Whatever task is given is as important, and I accept it. The organisation is my mother, and I will safeguard it.
How will you put behind those years when you fought the BJP? Your statement before the SIT (which was probing the 2002 riot cases. Zadaphia’s name was in the list of the accused in the petition of Zakia Jafri in Gulberg Society massacre ) and so on?
I have already forgotten the past. I don’t want to remember it. I don’t want to comment anything. Let me work for the party till I am alive.
There would be many who stayed loyal to the party and may have aspired for this assignment.
Our honourable Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and our national BJP president Amit bhai (Shah) and the high command… they choose the people for assignments. This is an opportunity and challenge for us.
Minorities don’t feel secure in UP today.
You know the (triple talaq) Bill has been passed (in Lok Sabha). This is a landmark (law) for the women of minority community. This gives them self respect and safeguards their life. Now, no one can throw out a beloved member of the family. This is the greatest work done for the women of the minority community.
How will your presence in UP assuage the minorities?
We are inclusive. We don’t discriminate, by caste or community. Our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) always says Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
But the events that played out in UP don’t reflect that, like the lynchings.
These are all creations. This is all I can say. Certain things are happening, no doubt everywhere, but this does not mean that our party is supporting it. Our party never supported this kind of thing which is discriminatory.
You are seen close to former VHP leader Pravin Togadia, who has now been sidelined.
I don’t want to comment. I am with the party.
Which government programmes will you showcase to the people of UP?
Seventy years of Independence could not give the nation proper sanitation. That is one remarkable job done by Narendrabhai (Modi), the uplift of poor, including them in the banking system. And most importantly, what farmers will not realise today — the scientific calculation of the minimum support price (MSP) based on rate of inflation and expenditure by farmers, has been done for the first time since Independence, and it will play a great role in the future.
What value do you think the Statue of Unity added to the nation?
It is landmark for a man who united the nation, and it is the duty of the people to honour him. And the world has seen the achievement of Narendrabhai Modi. Whatever he promised in 2013, it has been fulfilled.
Will you contest Lok Sabha elections?
My party will decide on it.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines