After travelling 1,285 km from Puri, Orissa and attending 77 public meetings en route, an impressive cavalcade of more than 80 vehicles, forming part of BJP president Rajnath Singh’s Suraksha Yatra entered Gaya, Bihar in the early hours of April 14. It was an imposing sight, with cars carrying politicians, media personnel, cadres and security men, following the BJP president’s Swaraj Mazda four-wheel drive, decked up as a rath. There was no dearth of security, with both NSG commandos and the more active RSS cadres armed with wireless communication sets. However, Rajnath Singh’s rendezvous with the people of Bihar turned out to be a damp squib. The lukewarm response of the masses towards the yatra was most telling in the rough terrains of Bihar, where the BJP shares power with JD (U). The largest gathering of the day at Sasaram had an assembly of less then 5,000 people. At Aara, Rajnath Singh was greeted by a motley group of around 2,500 people.
Elsewhere, an assembly of 200 to 300 people was a regular spectacle. Evidently, there appeared to be no fervour towards the yatra. A desperate Rajnath Singh even tried speaking in Bhojpuri to strike a personal chord with the masses, but that won him little applause. Perhaps the national issues that he raised in his meetings were of little interest for the men toiling for their daily bread. The BJP cadre blamed the heat and summer for the pitiable response. Whatever the reason, the yatra proved to be a flop, at least in Bihar. The Thakur did not seem pleased. Hardnews caught up with the weary and slightly disenchanted Rajnath Singh aboard his rath on his first day in Bihar and discussed the politics, plans and policies for the party.
What was the sudden urgency to embark on the Bharat Suraksha Yatra in the blazing sun of April?
The two years of UPA government misrule has compelled us to move out to the people. To say that the UPA government has failed on all fronts will not be an exaggeration. The country is facing internal and external disturbance, thanks to the Congress’ politics of Muslim appeasement. Two crore Bangladeshi infiltrators are being smuggled into voters’ lists in Assam, West Bengal and the other eastern states. After the Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1985, the UPA is trying to provide another legal protection for Bangladeshi infiltrators by amending the Foreigners Act. Just to capture and create a vote bank, the Congress is jeopardising national security. This government also sought to communalise the armed forces by encouraging a Muslim headcount. They are also turning a blind eye to the growing network of jehadi terrorists and their supporters within India. The first thing the UPA government did upon assuming the office was to eradicate POTA without creating an alternative. Creation of a separate minority affairs ministry and revision of history textbooks is again an extension of the same policy of appeasement. This polarisation of India along religious lines can have grave consequences for India’s unity, integrity and security.
If Assam is bothering you so much then why did you or Advani not undertake a yatra from Assam? Besides, it might have helped the BJP’s prospects in the state
During the elections, the party cadre is busy canvassing. Any diversion can do more harm then good. Besides, the election code of conduct would not have allowed me to conduct a yatra in Assam.
The two main leaders of the BJP are busy in yatras while assembly elections are commencing in five states. Do you not think it would have been better for the party president to concentrate on the assembly elections instead?
Let me correct you. The two main leader of the BJP are Vajpayee and Advani. As far as elections are concerned, we both are visiting and holding rallies in these states. People often ask me why I am touring the states when there are no elections. I tell them that our party wants to make the country and not just the government. That’s why I am here even when there are no elections.
We are passing through one of the most underdeveloped regions of the country. Do you have any suggestion for Sushil Modi [deputy chief minister of Bihar, who is sitting with us] regarding the upliftment of this area?
Modi is an intelligent man. I need not suggest him. What the Nitish government has done in four months, Laloo could not do in 15 years.
The state is having panchayat elections after 15 years and is giving 50 per cent reservation to women. The government of Bihar has hired 5,000 ex-military men for the police force to maintain law and order. Government servants get their salary on time. Law and order has improved and the criminals are now scared of the law.
Can we expect some changes in the ideology, policies and programmes of the BJP now that you have taken over as party president?
Programmes yes, but not ideology and policies. Any changes in the ideology and policies of the BJP can not be brought about by an individual. It has to be a consensus decision. As of now the BJP will carry on with out any changes in ideology.
You mean the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, the common civil code and the abolition of Article 370. Your party scare the minorities and then you accuse the Congress for branding you anti-Muslim?
See, we respect all faiths and hold that the religious freedom of followers of different faiths is inviolable. At the same time we believe that the politics of minorityism is not helpful to the Muslims themselves, besides being detrimental to the nation. We stand for the socio-economic development of Muslims. But we oppose the appeasement of Muslims and are branded as anti-Muslims. We stand for justice for all but appeasement for none.
Can you elaborate on the ‘Red Corridor’ plans of the Naxalities that you are speaking about in your public meetings?
The Naxalism (in about 220 districts) has become a threat to the security and integrity of the country. The central government has no long-range policy to tackle it and has even encouraged Maoist insurgency in Nepal to go out of hand. Today these forces (Naxalites, Maoists) have become quite strong and are working towards making a red corridor from Hyderabad to Kathmandu. The UPA government washed its hand off the problem by saying that Naxalism is a state-issue.
But the PM has accepted that Naxalism is the most serious challenge before the country. What is BJP’s take on the problem?
The statement came from the PM only yesterday after we have been crying hoarse. Naxalites claim to be the champions of the poor but are in fact their worst enemy. By creating violence and terror they are blocking the development of these areas and pushing the poor into more poverty. We stand for an uncompromising strategy to deal with the naxal menace. The government should appoint a co-ordination committee to come up with an action plan to tackle the reds.
Is throwing out Bangladeshi migrants and thwarting naxalism the only purpose of this yatra? What is your vision of Surakshit Bharat?
Defending the national unity of the country by combating the divisive politics of minorityism and protecting the polity from the evils of corruption and criminalisation. The issue of migrants is a serious problem and so is naxalism. They need serious attention. Prices of essential commodities have gone up. Be it salt, sugar, tea or oil. The only thing that has become cheap is the life of common man. This phenomenon of price rise has to be arrested. The firm commitment to good governance and politics of principles can secure the future of this country.
Sonia Gandhi resigned from Parliament owing to holding an office of profit. Does the move fall in your concept of politics of principle?
She has made a virtue out of compelling circumstances. Why was Parliament adjourned sine die and the need of ordinance felt if she was such a goddess of sacrifice? When the communists refused to back the ordinance she had no option but to resign. Now the Congress is bent on making her Jhansi ki rani. Will Jhansi ki rani now take birth in Italy?
Even if out of compulsion, Sonia Gandhi did resign. So did Karan Singh. But no one from BJP
We do not have any one holding any office of profit.
V K Malhotra was the Chairman of the All India Sports Council at the time he contested election in 2004.
This is not correct.
Now that Sonia Gandhi has resigned, is the issue over for the BJP?
An all party meet should decide upon any confusion that exists about the office of profit. However, we would not let Article 102, 103 of the constitution be undermined.
You are considered a ‘favourite son’ of the RSS. Was it not at your behest that Sanjay Joshi was hurriedly inducted into the organisation even when Advani wanted to wait till the yatra was over?
The decision to induct Joshi was consensus in spite of some difference of opinion. Such differences exist in all parties. He was absolved of the crime for which he was made to resign and to re-induct him was nothing but natural justice. It was a consensus decision.
Finally, are you happy with the response that you are getting during this yatra?
Yes. Definitely. I got a fabulous response in Orissa, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. People in Ranchi last night waited five hours to give us a rousing reception. You see for yourself here in Bihar what I mean.