In this Idea Exchange moderated by Senior Editor Liz Mathew, Union MoS, Urban Development, Babul Supriyo says alliance politics is not good for the country, that it’s good to have a state government in sync with Centre, and talks about how becoming a politician has not changed him.
Why Babul Supriyo?
Babul Supriyo has been one of the crowd-pullers for the BJP in its heated campaign ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections. The Bollywood singer-turned-politician, one of the two BJP Lok Sabha MPs from West Bengal, is also a key figure in the ruling party’s grand plan in the eastern state to dethrone the Trinamool Congress. A new entry in politics, Supriyo is believed to enjoy the confidence of both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Liz Mathew: You are here after attending a campaign rally in Delhi. How is the BJP placed?
It is very important for Delhiites to understand that alliance politics and the constant fight of a state government with the Centre in terms of the way they want to handle policy-making have always interfered with development and policies being put in place. It is for Delhiites to correct the mistake they made in making Arvind Kejriwal the most deadliest weapon of mass destruction after AK-47. It was AK-49. I tweeted that immediately after he resigned, saying we have now got an even more dangerous weapon than the Kalashnikov, an AK-49.
Not everything depends on politicians or people in power. The onus is on people to understand what is good for them or not. For sure, anarchy has never been (good). Anarchism is self-destruction. We need people to look at the fuller part of the glass. Everything about India and Delhi is not bad. The point is whether we can make it significantly better at a good, logical pace. Why are we giving Arvind Kejriwal so much importance? Because of the noise he has managed to create?
Kejriwal became the face of that particular campaign because of Anna Hazare, because of Kiran Bediji. There were people like Shazia Ilmi and others with some political background or good standing in society. Today, none of them is with him.
Arvind Kejriwal has created so much ‘breaking news’ — the more TV channels put him on air, the more polluted the air of Delhi gets. I have scientific evidence to show that pollution has increased in the last year or so. He is polluting the political atmosphere. All of India is dreaming with Modiji, for whom policy is a verb, not just a word that stays in your file. The recent Vidhan Sabha elections have proved that. Delhi is going to do a great deal of good to itself by choosing a stable, strong government under the leadership of Kiran Bedi.
We all know the business term ‘break-even’. You break even after two-three years, not in the first year. So regarding the allegations that the BJP is not delivering on its promises, why have these IIT guys forgotten their basics? The government is going to take some time to not only break even, but also to make profit in terms of showing actual work on the ground.
Rakesh Sinha: If the BJP is so dismissive of Kejriwal, why did it bring in ministers like you and MPs for the campaign?
Why not? The more dangerous the opponent, the more anarchism you see in someone, the more scared you get. I use the term ‘scared’ in a positive manner. We are scared that he, with his gimmicks and populist ways, has the ability to confuse people. His method is like what we hear in a courtroom — if you can’t convince, then confuse. And he was successful during the last election. The commitment of the BJP and Narendra Modiji to constructive politics is so strong that when you see one guy playing spoilsport, you have to come all guns blazing to make sure he doesn’t get the importance he is unnecessarily demanding.
You have great singers in the industry and you have Yo Yo Honey Singh. The music that great singers create sometimes gets drowned in the noise that Honey Singh creates. I am taking names because I don’t believe in his music. He charges 10-20 times more than what I charge, or any top Bollywood singer charges for a show. Honey Singh is a super-duper hit, but being good is another thing. You don’t need to be a hit to be good. I’m giving examples of these two (Kejriwal and Singh) to prove there is a parallel — if a bad thing has become a huge hit, then you need to create more good music. Therefore, there has to be more good campaigning from the BJP.
Rakesh Sinha: Have you seen this confusion on the campaign trail?
While driving here, I saw Congress posters saying they will give bijli at Rs 1.50 per unit. Why now? What were they doing for 10 years? And why would someone listen to Manmohan Singhji when he doesn’t say anything? He is a great economist. But you need courageous people in the country, a courageous leader who has the conviction to spell out his dreams. You need a few people with spine who are not going to be sceptical ki agar main yeh keh doon aur baad mein nahi kar paoon, phir log bolenge (what if I can’t live up to my words)… So Arvind Kejriwal needs to be countered vehemently, strongly, aggressively.
Doesn’t Sachin Tendulkar always wear a helmet while facing Brett Lee or any other great fast bowler? It doesn’t mean he is defensive. It is just precaution because prevention is better than cure. And Kejriwal is something that needs to be cured.
Amrith Lal: You seem to be hinting that Delhi should not make the mistake of electing a non-BJP government because such a government will find it difficult…
I did not say that. See, eight months ago, I was far away from politics. So whatever I bring to the table is whatever I have seen with an open mind. Politics has only made me see things in a politically correct manner. It has not changed the way I think. Therefore, I can tell you for sure that alliance politics has been the biggest menace of India. There are too many small parties making small political rotis at the cost of national interest.
Coming from West Bengal, I have every reason to say that it is not very good to trust one particular person, one particular party and walk that path. See what the result is. You had the Congress for 10 years, you had the Congress in Delhi as well, you have had Arvind Kejriwal and that’s what has come out of that AK-49 — one year of absolute political instability in Delhi.
So yes, I don’t want to mince words. If Delhi wants to walk the path and wants politicians who are going to talk the walk or walk the talk, then they have a very good reason to vote for the BJP and ensure that the party gets absolute majority.
Amrith Lal: But India has always had diverse political parties, views etc. Do you think the BJP should negotiate a kind of dialogue with state governments headed by opposition parties?
Right now, where is the opposition? They are just there to paralyse the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. In state governments, in Delhi, I think the question of negotiation comes only when you get to a point where you can’t get things implemented in the manner you would like. That’s when you negotiate. When a divorce cannot happen with mutual agreement, you go for negotiations. Therefore, I think that in terms of state governments, it is good to have a majority government which can take decisions in sync with the Central government.
State governments, often to highlight their political stand, oppose only for the sake of opposing. Let us not have that in Delhi for five years. Let ‘main’ come first and ‘AAP’ later. I believe in a Salman Khan T-shirt — ‘I, me, myself’. So let them wear those T-shirts, let them think for themselves, ‘pehle main, phir AAP’.
Maneesh Chhibber: Hypothetically, if the BJP were to lose in Delhi, whose defeat would that be? The party’s, Kiran Bedi’s or Narendra Modi’s?
I don’t believe in hypotheses. Let’s believe in theorems. We have been told that first learn theorems and then you can go to the hypotheses.
Maneesh Chhibber: Whose victory would it be then, since we are assuming that you are winning?
Based on your first hypothesis, the second hypothesis doesn’t stand. I have been going to different campaigns. What I can see is that yes, Arvind Kejriwal has managed to confuse people. Your hypothesis of what happens if the BJP loses is probably not going to arise and I say probably because it is still a democratic country and we have to wait for the people’s verdict.
Maneesh Chhibber: You said coalition politics is harmful. So why are you entering into a coalition with the PDP in J&K?
The point is to spell out what you want, what you aspire, what you think is more appropriate for a particular state. Therefore, it is our goal and aspiration, in Kashmir, Delhi or other states, to tell people that absolute majority given to one political party gives you a steady government.
Dipankar Ghose: You said two things about Modi — that he is a man who dares to dream and that results show only after a break-even point. The criticism of Arvind Kejriwal so far has been that his government didn’t fulfill its promises in 49 days. But if you apply that break-even point, is 49 days enough? Secondly, Kejriwal is said to confuse people by selling them dreams. In this sense, isn’t he similar to Modi?
Why would you compare Narendra Modi, considering his persona and dynamism, to someone as minuscule and confused as Arvind Kejriwal? What credibility does he have to be even put in that same league or be spoken of in the same breath?
He had a chance. Now if you choose to resign and run away after 49 days and then in six months say ‘it was a mistake, bring us back and we will give you a stable government’, it just shows his instability. On the other hand, Modiji ruled a state and has done wonders for it for three consecutive terms. There has to be some reason to compare Kejriwal to Modi. Would you say that I have hit a square-drive like Sachin Tendulkar? Do you deserve to be put into that bracket and be compared? The answer is a very straight no. So I refuse to give Kejriwal any importance.
Liz Mathew: In Bengal, you are doing what AAP has been doing in Delhi — change what already exists. You have succeeded in that. So what does the future hold for you? You said the BJP has mega plans there for 2016.
I want to talk the language Bengalis understand, which is Bengali. In Bengal, politicians have only spoken the language that suits them. And I think that is the reason why the once-famous phrase — ‘what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’ — has gone topsy-turvy. They have been made to believe certain things by the CPM for very long. And then, suddenly, Mamata Banerjee came with a promise of change. But people understood that it’s old wine in a new bottle — the same CPM culture upgraded in a more dangerously aggressive manner. Mamata Banerjee’s government is doing what no government has done before, which is to practise non-governance. Whether it is money-laundering, working with the Centre or terrorism, in every manner, Mamata Banerjee has failed on the promises she made to the people. She made a slogan — Maa Mati Manush. In three years, people have come to know that the Maa, Mati and Manush are all controlled by political goons. Go to Facebook or Twitter and see the amount of cartoons floating around about Mamata Banerjee, Madan Mitra, etc. Not all the cartoons are in good taste, but the point is that they tell you the mood of the people. Yes, we have a dream plan. I think Bengal needs a couple of strong, even if unpopular, decisions. That is the only way forward.
Coomi Kapoor: How has the transition from playback singing in Bollywood to politics been?
The only thing that has changed is the nature of requests. I used to get papers with requests for songs; now it’s requests for different works that could be done in a locality. I look at it as a chance to give back. And I believe in working hard and playing hard. So you might find a picture of me partying in a lounge or a discotheque. I wear myself on myself, and it has not changed me at all from inside. I spend a lot of time with my dogs. I have four dogs, different types of birds, and a piano at home. So I stay close to things that I love. Politics just happened. I worked for Standard Chartered Bank for two years. Now, I have an office again. I have to discard my jeans to sometimes wear formal pants to office. But if you find anyone riding a black Enfield Bullet with Harley Davidson wheels on the roads of Delhi, it’s me. So nothing has changed. Yes, responsibilities are there. Like I have to please my audience in music, I have to please my constituency in terms of the work that I am doing. I am bringing out a paper called Aasaan Soul (Supriyo is an MP from Asansol). I thought the name was very interesting. Naam Asansol hai, lekin zindagi bilkul aasaan nahin hai, kyunki iske pehle kisi ne soul se kaam kiya nahin hai. In this paper, they are going to see what exactly I am doing for the constituency. I have designed the logo myself.
Liz Mathew: While speaking on the Bill on illegal colonies, Venkaiah Naidu gave a very emotional speech. He spoke of how Delhi looks ugly and how abroad, he saw beautiful cities. Have you talked about this issue in the ministry?
Instructions have been issued with the approval of the Cabinet to extend the cut-off date for regularising unauthorised colonies from March 13, 2002, to June 1, 2014. There are going to be a few decisions which are not going to be popular with everyone. Striking the right balance is very important. If governments in the past have not created opportunities for youngsters to stay back in the villages and earn a living, and if that problem is not addressed, then this problem of urbanisation is not going to stop.
Rakesh Sinha: What do you think is the biggest challenge for the BJP in West Bengal? And will the RSS have a role there?
I don’t know whether the RSS is going to have a role. I understand the RSS is an organisation for whom Bharat Mata is No.1, that comes first. And I think the RSS is often associated with Hindu fundamentalism. But if you go a little deeper, it’s not only about that. In West Bengal, yes, people are very religious. But the BJP is making inroads into all sections of the society — irrespective of religion, caste and creed — because Mamata Banerjee has actually fooled the minorities by continuously calling them ‘minority, minority, minority’.
Liz Mathew: Bengal also has this leadership issue when it comes to the BJP. Do you see yourself there, or will there be someone else?
Let’s not jump the gun. To be too ambitious and put the chariot before the horse is the biggest mistake an individual can make. I’m just a politician who has only been in politics for nine months. Let me learn the politics of politics. When the time comes, the questions will be answered.
Transcribed by Rituparna Banerjee and Prashant Dixit.