Prakash Javadekar, Union HRD Minister and BJP’s election-in-charge of Rajasthan, speaks to Deep Mukherjee about the party’s outlook going into Lok Sabha elections following the Assembly election defeat. Excerpts:
In 2014 the BJP won all 25 seats in Rajasthan. Now it is going into elections after an Assembly poll defeat. How big a challenge is it?
It’s not a big challenge because people vote differently for different elections. And what was the Assembly result? If you analyse it properly, it was just 0.5 per cent vote difference, 1.5 lakh votes, that is 3 votes per booth. So it was a close fight and not a defeat. But yes, power went to the Congress… This time they are voting for leadership, stability and progress, and all these things are symbolised by (PM Narendra) Modi.
What are your thoughts on Gulab Chand Kataria’s speech on Muslims? Why does the BJP target Muslims, specifically ahead of elections?
I have not heard it. I will not comment on something on which we have no confirmation…
Muslims comprise 10% of Rajasthan’s population, the state shares borders with Pakistan. Is it a deliberate strategy to raise such issues to consolidate Hindu votes?
Our motto is sabka saath, sabka vikas. Modi ji always says 130 crore Indians and that is our map. We don’t discriminate. Not in any social welfare scheme nor in any other aspect of national life.
Is jobs an issue? The NSSO draft data points to massive unemployment. Or is the election mostly about national security?
I differ with NSSO as it is a random sample method, a minuscule sample. We must have a system to map every employment, which is not mapped today. If there had been a real employment crisis, it would have been a Venezuela-like situation or South Africa. That is not happening because you have employment and jobs but you are not mapping them properly. I will give you examples. In higher middle class homes, there are two or three different types of domestic help. Is that employment or not? But they are not mapped as they don’t have EPFO accounts. Secondly, if in the last five years, more than 1 crore passenger buses and trucks are sold, half of them will be replacements but half of them are new. So does one vehicle create three jobs or not? If we have created 1 crore acre of irrigation in five years, 1 acre of irrigation creates 1.5 jobs per acre. If we have digitised and we are a nation with 120 crore mobiles, has it created something or not?…
I don’t think it’s that (talking only about national security). We talk of development, we talk of 2.5 crore pucca houses created for the poor, 4 crore free electricity connections, 6 crore free gas connections, 9 crore toilets, 35 crore Jan Dhan accounts in which Rs 4,35,000 crore is transferred every year… So, we talk of development, national security and other aspects, from Article 370 to Ram Janmabhoomi…
You have been HRD Minister for almost three years. What are the gaps you have identified?
We have given three things. Firstly, learning outcomes, because we believe that everything has to be based on learning outcomes. We have defined them, have done teacher training for that and made many efforts to improve the quality of government education at school level. We are also introducing Operation Digital Board in all schools so that people get modern education and education that is more understandable. In higher education, we have improved the access equity with more scholarships and interest-free education loans. We have made large investment in research and innovation. Now, we want to expand on that further.
Some states, particularly Rajasthan, have looked at modifying history textbooks. At the central level, is there a holistic plan to look at the way history is taught?
School textbooks are made by state boards and SCERTs. We can’t have a common book all over the country because every state has different cultural ethos, environment and history. This is a state government domain and we only advise them to be national policy-compliant, which means that a national curriculum framework-compliant book should be there.
There was no new education policy in five years, though two committees were set up.
It is ready and we are waiting for the election result, after which it will be before the people…
The BJP has allied with Hanuman Beniwal, a known detractor of Vasundhara Raje. Does this mean Raje’s influence is diminishing?
I don’t think so… every decision is taken jointly. Vasundhara ji is our mass leader here and ex-chief minister. So we always consult on all issues, and Beniwal’s admission was also cleared by her.
What are the election issues for the BJP?
This is an all-India election. People are voting to elect an able Prime Minister. And who are the candidates? On one hand it’s Modi, and others I don’t know… Rahul, Akhilesh, Mayawati, Mamata, Chandrababu, they are fighting for second slot. So, they are voting for an able leader, stability and progress of economy. We were the 11th economy in 2014 and now we are the sixth largest economy. In five years, we will be the fourth largest economy. And lastly, national security. These are three issues on which people are voting.