The new UP BJP president Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary is the first leader from the socially dominant Jat community to head the saffron party in the state. Chaudhary earlier served as the Panchayati Raj minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led government. In an interview with The Indian Express, the 54-year-old two-term MLC Chaudhary speaks on a range of political issues including the state BJP’s roadmap for the challenges ahead. Excerpts:
The SP’s alliance with the BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and its alliance with other parties in the 2022 Assembly elections led to a dip in the BJP’s seats in UP. Major Opposition parties are exploring unity in different states for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. How will the BJP counter them in UP?
The BJP fights elections on its strength and its party workers’ hard work. We will reach every constituency with full preparation and will present before the public the works done by our governments at the Centre and in the state. On the basis of our presence, activeness, and contacts and dialogue with public, I can say that UP people have alliance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and its workers. Yeh (Opposition) kitne bhi gathbandhan kar le iska koi prabhav nahi padne wala (It does not matter how many alliances the Opposition parties form, it is not going to make any impact)… There was some decline in seats in 2019 but still our performance was overwhelming and state people reposing their faith in Modi’s leadership gave more than 50 per cent votes to the BJP. Public’s support to BJP and Modi’s popularity have increased everywhere. India’s respect has increased globally. I am sure that public support to the BJP will increase further and that will reflect in our vote percentage and number of seats. Our goal is to win all 80 seats.
Under different UP unit presidents, the BJP won the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha and state Assembly polls but the number of seats declined in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Are you feeling the pressure of retaining the majority in the 2024 polls?
Certainly there is a big challenge ahead. But we will collectively overcome that challenge. There is no problem. We have connect with people. Just see where others are. Where Samajwadi Party (SP) stands. Akhilesh Yadav’s alliance partners are making allegations against him over his inactivity, his daily routine and say that he does not move out of his house. Bhai-behan (Congress) ki jodi is visible now in a yatra. Where is the presence of badi behan ji (BSP president Mayawati)? Other political parties will show their presence only during the elections. But BJP workers are among public round-the-clock and throughout the year with their programmes, campaigns and with government works. BJP has designed 15-day programmes under seva pakhwara on the birth anniversary of PM Modi. We will go to public with them. We are organising health and blood donation camps. BJP is constantly present among the public and our connect and contact with them are maintained.
So far you were a Jat leader of western UP and your community is mainly based in that region. As the party president, how will you connect with the rest of the state?
To be born in a farming community in the western region in a big thing for me (Mere liye paschim me kisaan samudai me paida hona yeh badi baat hai). But party’s structure and workers are spread across the state and I am being recognised both for the community and as a worker. I have worked in the party for a very long time. I have experience and party has shown its trust on me. I will take everyone along with true heart.
Recently, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya tweeted that “Sangathan sarkar se bada hai”. Later, you remarked that the government was working on the party’s agenda and that the organisation has formed the government. Why was there the need to explain all that?
It’s not like that…Keshav ji said that when media persons asked him. They asked me too. I also said the same that sangathan (organisation) decides the agenda. We decided our agenda that time when we were not in the government. We got opportunity to form government after a very long period. Five generations ended in taking forward (the organisation) in 64-65 years. When public gave us the opportunity, we worked to fulfil that agenda decided by the party. The government is taking ahead that agenda of the party. Whether it’s electricity, water, road…its a matter of pride for us that the government is fulfilling the manifesto and agenda….Sangathan ki tapasya ka parinaam hai sarkar. Isliye sarkar se sangathan bada hai. Usme koi prashn ka visay hi nahi hai. (Government is result of organisation’s hard work. Hence organisation is bigger than government. There is no question about it.)
What is the BJP doing to connect with Yadav and Dalit communities, which are, respectively, the strengths of the SP and the BSP?
I request that the BJP should not be seen as a party of any particular caste, section and community. We have a vast mass base. Party exists all around as sarvavyapi (omnipresent) and sarvasparshi (all-embracing). BJP is in the power in most of the states. In some states we are the main Opposition party and in some we are part of the governments. BJP’s strike rate (in UP) was 90 per cent in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 80 per cent each in 2017 assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 70 per cent in 2022 Assembly polls. We got a mandate of more than two-third in all four elections and our vote percentage has increased. Popularity of our government and trust of people on our leader PM Modi is increasing.
In view of the 2024 polls, is there any plan to include in the NDA smaller parties like SBSP and Shivpal Yadsav’s PSP (Lohia)?
In UP, NDA has Apna Dal (S) and NISHAD party as our allies. But who will come with us in future, our central party will take a decision on such matters. If the central party takes a decision for expansion of the family, we will work as required.
Akhilesh Yadav alleges that the BSP is hand-in-glove with the BJP. And Mayawati makes the same allegation linking the SP with the BJP. What is your take?
You should ask both of them why they had joined hands to defeat Modi ji in 2019. Why both had joined hands in 1993 to defeat the BJP? We never did any pre-poll alliance with Mayawati. We supported her in situations of hung Assembly when public did not want mid-term polls…. It is their strategy to divert attention. We have no behind-the-curtains strategy with anyone. We have saidhhantik (principled) and vaicharik (ideological) virodh (opposition) against Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav and it will remain so.
BJP workers often complain about lack of coordination between the state government and the organisation. Your comments?
There is nothing like that. There is mutual coordination between the government and the organisation. We regularly meet and all the issues of organisation are addressed through the government… It is matter of pride for all our workers that the BJP governments are fulfilling the party’s agenda.
How is the BJP preparing for the upcoming urban local body polls?
Last time we had won 14 of 16 municipal corporations. BJP had won majority seats in other local bodies too. We are fully prepared this time. We will contest the elections on the basis of the works doe by the urban local bodies, the works of the government and activeness of our workers. We will perform much better than past elections.
Recently, you had said that the SP MLAs were in touch with you. How many such MLAs are there, what is their expectations and what is their future with the BJP?
They have to decide their expectations. But a large number of SP legislators are in touch with us. BJP will take a collective decision on them as per the circumstances.