A year after taking over the reins as the state president of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Vishnu Dutt Sharma spoke to The Indian Express on the prospects of a Cabinet expansion, ongoing farm protests and the party’s stance on Pragya Thakur’s recent remark on shudras.
It has been a year since you took over as the state president of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, why has there been such a delay in party restructuring at the state level?
There has been some delay because of COVID-19 followed by by-polls due to which a collective decision could not be taken. But soon our Karya Samitis and various morchas will be announced. Our structure on the ground is ready, 70 per cent of the working committee of the mandals is also ready, we have about 68,000 booth level set ups and working well. We are in the process of forming our zilla working committees which will be formed soon after our Pradesh working committee is ready. An overall structure of BJP is there on the ground level and soon whatever is left will also be ready.
Is a Cabinet expansion on the cards? What about MLAs who defected but lost in the by-polls?
The two who were already ministers, Tulsiram Silavat and Govind Singh Rajput will definitely be made ministers. A decision on Cabinet expansion will be taken by the Chief Minister. When he feels the need, he will do it.
What about the four ministers who have lost?
Both the organisation and government think that irrespective of whether someone is a minister, MLA or not, if they are required in the organisation or government somewhere, they’ll be put there as per the need. In that direction, whoever will be needed in a suitable position will be sent there.
But none of them will be given any ministerial post, except the two…. It will entirely depend on the Chief Minister on how he wants to go about the things. How much he wants to expand the cabinet and take on how many more people, will also be his prerogative. Whatever is going on is running smoothly, not much is needed currently.
Recently, Jyotiraditya Scindia came to meet you and the Chief Minister with all his MLAs in a convoy of 40 vehicles. How do you view this?
Scindia ji kaa glamour hai. But Scindia ji’s people have been accommodated well into the BJP. I have seen it in the elections. Until the very end, we were on the edge thinking if the BJP worker will agree or not to campaign for Govind Singh Rajput. BJP workers have taken a political decision and not an emotional one. Our government, after all, was made because of them (defectors). We decided to keep all our differences behind and give this government stability, which the workers accepted. It was only because of this that we won Ambha, Morena and Johra constituencies. I don’t think there is an issue anymore between the workers.
Isn’t there a tussle between the men who owe allegiance to Scindia and those in the CM’s camp?
BJP is a cadre-based organisation due to which such issues don’t arise. We don’t look at those who have followed Scindia ji to join our party any differently. Depending on who is good at what work, they are chosen and put forward. This is the working of BJP. We are a party with a very specific way of working. Even in India, people from different communities came in and became a part of this country like Tatas who belong from the Parsi community but are working for the country. But some communities abuse the country on a daily basis. Similarly, the MLAs who came into the party have accepted the party and the party has accepted them. If this acceptance was not there then we wouldn’t have got such good results.
Recently, BJP organised a training program for all MLAs who have come into the party. What is this training about?
It is routine; irrespective of how many years a VD Sharma or Shivraj Singh Chouhan has spent in the party, they have to undergo this training. Scindia ji will also come as a worker. I have spent a day in training and so has Shivraj Singh Chouhan, where sessions were held by someone else and we spent the day listening to it as workers. Now Scindia ji will also come as a worker to attend this training. Everyone participates in it, irrespective of their stature. These training are theoretical and practical. We start with the history of the party as to how it became the largest party of the state. In the history of BJP, it is clear that when Article 370 was brought in by Nehru ji, Syama Prasad Mookerjee opposed it and walked out of the cabinet and started the Jan Sangh. Repealing Article 370 is a part of our history, a dream which was now fulfilled after many years by Modi ji. All of this is a part of training as to why and what the workers are working for.
BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur recently said that Shudras feel bad while being called so, how does the party view her statement?
I don’t think such statements are correct. Such a system of a caste hierarchy might be prevalent at some point in society but with time things have changed and we are all one with our country being our topmost priority. BJP always uses a word that the party is ‘Sarvasparshi’ and ‘Sarvavyapi’ and I believe that work has been done to reduce this gap, be it by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar or the Sangh parivar. Practically in thought, BJP and RSS have worked to abolish such caste differences and we do not accept it. I am not sure under what circumstances Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur made these statements but it is not the view of the BJP.
The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is drafting a law on ‘Love Jihad’ . Why was a need felt for such a law and what is the basis for it?
In Bharat, there is no opposition to love and our culture has embraced it. But one cannot do jihad in the name of love. They cannot change their identity to fool a girl and then force her to convert after getting married, which has happened in Kerala and several other parts of the country and destroyed the lives of many women. I have met such women who are from educated families and have married for love and got stuck… Forcing a girl to change her religion is like attacking humanity. A person from a certain community can marry a girl from another community, but you cannot fake your identity to get married or force her to change her religion. The term ‘love Jihad’ is also coined by Kerala High Court and a law is being formed to stop these attacks on women. Haryana has seen a similar case and so has UP, based on which this law is made.
What is the basis of legislating a law in Madhya Pradesh?
In MP, there is a special cell working on rescuing women from such practices. So many women in Bhopal have been rescued, and brought to our shelter. Even in Jabalpur, as part of ABVP, we have saved many women. When you go to get married, you have to show to the court why you have converted; earlier these provisions were not there.
How will this law be any different from that of Uttar Pradesh?
In MP, we are working to have stringent laws that will punish those committing this offence and those aiding them. Many organisations that give a marriage certificate like Arya Samaj will face action if due process is not followed. If someone is coming to them after converting their religion, then they’ll have to investigate the matter and only then can they be given permission to get married or else they will also face action. There are only about 1-2% women who willingly get married, the rest all are trapped. There are women who are successful, in good position in life, and yet feel stuck as their freedom is taken away. They cry but can’t tell people what they are facing even those that are in a good position.
The new farm laws are also being opposed by farmer unions affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. How do you look at this?
Such organisations have their individual opinion and they put it forward. But in Madhya Pradesh, we held a Kisan Sammelan and farmers are supported by the law. It has become a habit for some to oppose everything that Modi ji does…. The Congress, which is on the decline, is trying to stage this opposition. When education was commercialised, government schools didn’t shut down. Similarly, with trade in private areas, mandis will not shut down.
I have demanded that a list of people should be made, those that are returning their awards and every facility given to them by the government should be withdrawn. Hamesha ye thodi chalega. An award is given to a particular person to recognise their talent, the person does not have the right to return it because you have been recognised for your talent, not for anything else.
But isn’t it a way of showing dissent, even Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood following the Jallianwala Bag massacre?
We are not under the rule of the British but live in independent India. Then the British tortured the people, today it is not the same case. Nobody can say in any part of the country that they are being tortured. This is a law, a movement and there is debate around it, some agree and some don’t. The class which is affected by that law can talk about it but what do these artists have to do with it? … Why are there demands to release prisoners of Delhi riots in this movement?