Gujarat is Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh is Madhya Pradesh: BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe
BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe tells Manish Anand that the party’s scaled-down victory in the Gujarat elections does not mean it will be up against similar challenges in Madhya Pradesh.
Stating that the BJP will take cognisance of any weakness in efforts to reach the Modi regime’s achievements to the people, party vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe told The New Indian Express in an exclusive interview that the BJP strikes a balance in its approach towards victory and defeat without getting carried away by the poll outcome.
The newly appointed ICCR president also said the Council will chart out a course to capitalise on cultural diplomacy for development diplomacy but that terror and cultural ties cannot go together in the case of Pakistan.
How do you take the Gujarat election verdict considering the BJP could stay in power only with much-reduced strength? Will the verdict affect the BJP?
The impact of the Gujarat elections will be more on opposition parties than on the BJP. The Congress had mobilised many forces and sought to cause disaffection in various sections of society. Despite all such measures, they didn’t succeed in Gujarat. But within the BJP, we analyse the reasons for success and failure alike. Indeed, success is success. It’s a fact that we have won Gujarat. It’s also true that the BJP’s vote percentage has gone up. But we know that the strength of the party in terms of Assembly seats has gone down. If there had been any shortcomings in communicating the government’s achievements to the people, we will take due cognisance.
Maharashtra witnessed a Dalit agitation recently. How is the BJP gearing up to address social tensions?
Political pundits and intellectuals should know that there has been a tradition of resorting to populism and divisive agenda in electoral politics under the first-past-the-post system as per the Westminster model of democracy. It has been seen that the Congress has a tendency to take recourse to divisive politics and unleash casteism when people decisively and passionately go for politics of development. And people know that the copyright for the term ‘politics of development’ is with the BJP only. Indeed, it’s a challenge for the BJP to overcome politics of division through a substantive development narrative.
Being in charge of Madhya Pradesh, do you think there could be Gujarat-like challenges for the party?
We take each and every election seriously. We aren’t people who spend two months abroad on vacations and then plunge into electioneering. We don’t have such a trivialising approach towards politics. Indeed, Gujarat is Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh is Madhya Pradesh. We have strong organisational strength in the state since the times of Kushabhao Thakre and Rajmata Scindia. Besides, there also is a very popular Chief Minister in the state in Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh is undertaking a Narmada Yatra. Do you see any political meaning?
Digvijaya Singh hasn’t yet renounced politics. Though Narmada parikrama is his spiritual project as stated, there will indeed be political overtones as long as he is in politics.
It is said that the BJP wins elections in Madhya Pradesh because of factionalism in the Congress in the state...
The Congress has a culture of one family at its core and 25 other families who dominate states. Unlike them, we seek and get the mandate of the people on the basis of the strength of the party organisation.
What has been the impact of demonetisation and GST rollout on state elections?
The Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the BJP president have all expressed their views on demonetisation and GST. The Prime Minister doesn’t practise politics of populism. He seeks to cultivate people’s acceptance for initiatives which will be in their interest and in national interest.
Both demonetisation and GST were in the interest of the people. The decisions were taken with the long-term interest of the nation at the top of the decision-makers’ minds. Politics is all about cultivating people’s mind towards issues of public interest.
How do you look upon your role as ICCR president and what agenda are you setting out with?
The ICCR has a long history and rich tradition, besides distinguished personalities gracing the institution in the past. I am aware of the legacy on which I would like to build upon further.
The diplomatic, or rather political diplomacy, has to be taken through cultural diplomacy for development diplomacy. We have to create an enlightened opinion about India among opinion-makers of the world. The agenda of the ICCR need not be confined to a very skewed concept of culture.
The culture has an element of art and entertainment. But along with classical music, dance and Yoga, there are many traditional art forms, including tribal Warli art of Maharashtra, Pattachitra of Odisha and Bihu dance of Assam, which could and should also be showcased on international platforms.
It should ensure that all sections in the nook and corner of the country are represented to give more comprehensive understanding of the country. India is no more known as a country of snake-charmers. But we have to create a more informed opinion and enlightened environment hereon by utilising the services of theatre, actors, poets, musicians, and authors as well as thinkers. The ICCR would be taking up relevant productive and result oriented projects.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also sought to engage the global community during his foreign tours. How is the ICCR seeking to complement India’s search for global footprints?
One can be reasonably confident that people-to-people contact is on the top of the agenda of the Prime Minister. The NRIs, with their culinary and spiritual traditions, have created fertile grounds abroad. From global for a, the Prime Minister has asked about the need to go beyond G-20 and G-8 to G-all. This is the unique thing about the Prime Minister. So, with this kind of Prime Minister who has a vision for uniting the world community, the ICCR definitely will be looking to play a meaningful role.
The NRI community has of late become the target audience for political discourse. Congress president Rahul Gandhi was first in the US and then in Bahrain...
I think the government position is clear that nobody can object to leaders of opposition parties going abroad. But playing partisan politics even from foreign soil is not acceptable.
On the day of his swearing-in, the Prime Minister had demonstrated his priority for the immediate neighbourhood. Will there be strong cultural ties with Pakistan?
The role of the ICCR is global, which also takes care of neighbourhood. But you can’t have cultural ties disregarding concerns of terror. Therefore, terror and cultural ties cannot go together.
India has historical ties with China. Yet, bilateral relations are overshadowed by border tensions...
India-China relations have a chequered history. There have been incidents of incursions on the border. They have also been raising issues about the visit of our political and spiritual leaders to Arunachal Pradesh. Notwithstanding all these incidents, our multi-dimensional ties continue to get a push from both countries.