The daughter of the late Pramod Mahajan, 38-year-old Poonam Mahajan has quickly established herself as a BJP leader in her own right. In 2014, fighting her first election, she won the Mumbai North Central seat, considered a Congress bastion, by 1.86 lakh votes. She has been heading the BJP’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, for two years.
Are you missing a Modi wave this time?
As the BJP youth wing president, I have been touring all over India. The support for Modiji is much bigger. First-time voters, women, farmers, they believe that Narendra Modi has a clear intent of doing something.
Mumbai North Central has the highest number of Muslim voters among the six Lok Sabha constituencies in Mumbai. Are you concerned they may not vote for the BJP?
It is not about Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh or Christian. I look at them as my constituents and they have always expected me to be an accessible MP… It is the hypocrisy of the Opposition that it wants to keep alive a certain religious divide. There is no fear factor but a ‘fair factor’, which is ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’.
But the BJP never fields a Muslim candidate. This time Shahnawaz Hussain too has been denied a ticket.
Shahnawaz Hussain is not a Muslim candidate, he is the BJP’s candidate… Whoever can win, will get a ticket, but don’t single them out as Muslims, they are all a part of the BJP. We won zila panchayat elections in Jammu… I don’t want to say the candidates were Muslims, I will call them BJP people.
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About 282 seats this time are expected to be impacted by first-time voters. Do you think they are disenchanted due to the absence of jobs and due to parochial politics, lynchings etc?
This time, 18-25 per cent of the voters or maybe more will be first-time voters. In each constituency, the number is 10-15 per cent. They want to connect with the Prime Minister’s decisive leadership, and they want to connect their dreams to India’s dream. Hundred percent these youths will vote for PM Modi.
A young person is aspirational — ‘If I have a skill, I need an option to deploy my skill set’. ‘If I want to do some business, I need some money’. There are Mudra loans for youngsters, Start Up and Stand India, Kaushal Vikas Kendras… Youngsters won’t vote for someone with a famous name… Every Indian citizen is a strong patriot, loves the nation, family. And that is what everyone has seen in the PM.
But there are no jobs….
The Opposition has not come up with what joblessness they are talking about. Kaushal Vikas reached out to so many youngsters. Like if someone wanted to be a hair stylist — it’s just an example… Usually, people look at 9-5 jobs, government jobs. The definition of jobs has changed. Ten years back there were no social media managers who could earn so much. The idea of jobs which the Congress is throwing at us has changed completely.
I can give you the example of my constituency. Mudra loans have provided great opportunities for women sitting at home to start small businesses. In Mudra loans, 70 per cent laabh bhartis are women…
Maybe the Congress is seeing job losses because nobody wants to be in the Congress. Maybe it’s joblessness in the Congress, not the country.
As a young leader, how much say do you have in the party?
My Yuva Morcha members got tickets in Bengal, Karnataka, while my ex-collegue is now the Chief Minister of Goa. Yuva Morcha members do get opportunities… For MLA, corporation tickets, I talk to my bosses, Amit bhai Shah or even the PM. We get a lot of support.
The BJP talks about dynasty politics but you are a dynast too.
Dynasty is about a family that starts a private limited company and calls it a political party. Every regional party is like that and even the Congress. I’m not a dynast. After my father’s death, I did not get his position. I did not contest from where he contested. I worked hard to become youth wing president, after 13 years. Everyone has to go through that in the BJP….
Someone coming from a legacy is not a crime. My party said, ‘Poonam has worked hard, yes she’s Pramodji’s daughter… but she has put in her mehnat’. That’s legacy, not dynasty.
Dynasty is not even capable of handling its own constituency (on Rahul Gandhi contesting from a second seat, in Kerala).
Do you think the Balakot airstrikes will help the BJP?
The Balakot attack or the surgical strikes were not politically motivated… Our jawans were killed and our PM said we will no longer take it… Unhone agni ke kasam khaee (He took a pledge) and gave it back to Pakistan… It should have been everybody’s emotion. The Opposition is criticising it, we are not interested in politicising it.