because they don’t capture the mood of the downtrodden. We saw it in Mayawati’s case in 2007 (in the Uttar Pradesh elections) and earlier. You can go into every nook and corner of Rajasthan and you will see the love and affection women have for Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Youths are captivated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We have a strong organisation, our booths have been set up.
The fact that you have been asked to stay put in Rajasthan shows the central leaders lack confidence in Raje's leadership?
Not accurate. When I was in charge of Karnataka, I was told six months before the polls and even then, I was visiting only every two months. In Rajasthan, I was told to be the Gujjar agitation (in 2008) and brought about a settlement.
Raje is the leader, she carried out a successful Gaurav yatra for 800 kms. She covered practically every major constituency and got tremendous response. There was no code of conduct then, so when she addressed meetings at midnight, people waited for two or three hours to hear her. Congress today is unable to speak against Raje. Between 2003 and 2008, the state has made tremendous progress but the Congress raised its voice against corruption in the 2008 election. There’s no taint this time, no perception of corruption even.
Raje is a larger-than-life person who’s not known to brook Delhi bosses and their deputies in Rajasthan. What’s your equation with her like?
I have good rapport with the total Rajasthan unit. I travelled extensively in the state when I was in the BJP’s Youth Front. It’s not about one individual. In our system, the prabhari has to speed up programme implementation and help develop strategies.
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh BJP governments successfully reversed the anti-incumbency factor. Rajasthan has never done it. BJP and Congress failed so it yo-yo’s between the two.
We will break the jinx in this election. MP and Chhattisgarh broke it. We broke the jinx in UP finally. Otherwise in 15 years, it was ruled by the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party. Congress has lost credibility with people, the poor especially. Its plank of poor has gone to Modi. In 2014, the BJP ruled in six and the Congress in 16 states. Today, Congress has only four states while we are in power in 19 states. The vote base has changed. Moreover, we have presented Raje as our leader and we will win on our policies and programmes. Bhamashah Health Insurance scheme up to Rs 300,000. Nearly 2.5 million poor people have been hospitalised in four-and-a-half years. Second is the direct benefit transfer scheme that benefitted 16 million families. Rajiv Gandhi said out of the Rs 100 the government released, only 15 paisa reached the needy. Modi and Raje release Rs 100 and Rs 100 reaches the poor. The Rajshree scheme is for girls’ empowerment from birth to class XII.
(Ashok) Gehlot (former Congress CM) has said recently, we must not close Raje's welfare schemes if we come to power. Of course, he won’t come to power but that’s an admission of our good governance.
In the 2008 election, there was no government-party coordination. Raje wasn’t interacting with the BJP. Is she more interactive now?
Very much. Now it’s the party (in command). We mustn’t forget that in 2008, we won 78 (of 200) seats so it was not a complete rout. Now political scene has changed. When Gehlot says, people are paying to ratchet up their ratings, he obviously means Sachin Pilot. Raje is the daughter of Rajmata (Vijaya Raje Scindia) but what party decides is law for her.
But she and Amit Shah (BJP president) weren’t sharing a dais until recently?
That’s not true. Amit Shah’s programmes have two features. Road shows. The show in Dholpur was 10 times more responsive than Rahul Gandhi’s. Then, the organisational programmes are meant for a targeted audience like our youth workers and not for the general public.
The reports are that the crowds at Modi and Shah’s public meetings were thin and unenthusiastic...
There’s no anti-incumbency. Even Congress can’t criticise our government. People love Modi.
So is the December election a Modi election or Raje’s?
It is Raje’s and Modi’s. We have the parliamentary elections
in six months. There are common issues. Ujjwala scheme, Ayushman Bharat yojana, Jan Dhan, Ujala (to distribute affordable LED tube lights). This time BJP has actively re-defined style of governance by ensuring India benefits from schemes that promote productivity, schemes that are meant to empower people and not just give away doles, meant to incentivise people by asking them to contribute a little while the government contributes the bulk. People like this, they feel a sense of self-respect.
What is the BJP’s assessment of the reported Gehlot-Pilot tussle? A way of keeping the Congress down?
Congress has been weakened with infighting expressed openly before people. Somebody’s accusing the other person of paying money to ratchet up his ratings. They can’t decide who their leader is. Rahul Gandhi talks of irrelevant things. Like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, about Vijay Mallya running away during NDA’s time. He doesn’t ask the basic question that it’s because we became active and changed the law (against absconders) that all this happened. Instead he’s addressing irrelevant matters.
Is the Nirav Modi-Choksi flight from India hurting the BJP? You specifically mentioned it...
Not at all.
Are you repeating your sitting MLAs or doing a winnability check?
We take a pragmatic view. We analyse, we seek feedback from our booth workers, it’s a composite exercise. Changes are usual but I am not saying that many will be dropped. But change is the rule of politics.
Has Sheo MLA Manvendra Singh’s exit from BJP upset local dynamics in Jodhpur district?
He hasn’t joined the Congress, isn’t it? Raje has spoken with Manvendra and his wife.
To hold him back?
The verdict from the assembly elections will have a bearing on the Lok Sabha election in 2019?
We are winning all the three states. We have to prove that we are capable of retaining our governments and we are returning to power after the Lok Sabha polls.