In a freewheeling chat, BJP vice president Om Prakash Mathur, election in-charge of Jharkhand said that the saffron outfit has always sworn by nationalism while justifying the party’s strong electoral pitch around Article 370. He exuded confidence that the BJP would retain power in Jharkhand, while stressing that the menace of Maoist violence has been tamed, he said, besides asserting that there will be no electoral impact of the short-term slowdown in the economy.
Your assessment of the political situation in Jharkhand?
There are a few things different in Jharkhand than my past political assignments in other states. When I held the brief of Madhya Pradesh in 2003, the state had Congress government, led by Digvijay Singh, while Atal Bihari Vajpayee headed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) dispensation at the Centre. A similar situation was there in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the 2017 Assembly polls. In contrast, the BJP has a unique opportunity in Jharkhand as the party is in power in the state and at the Centre. People have seen the benefits of the two governments. That gives me hope that the BJP can even get more seats the target of 65.
What task have you set for the party ahead of the Assembly polls?
While preparing for the elections, we have spelt out technical and political tasks. Under the technical aspects, organisational robustness is being taken care of with polling booth level outreach activities to the beneficiaries of the Central and state government schemes. Besides, arrangements for poll management and attending to factors influencing the outcome of the elections are also being attended to. Under the political programmes, CM Raghubar Das has set out on a yatra, while the organisation is making efforts to seal electorally prudent social equations.
Do you sense anti-incumbency against the Raghubar Das government?
I don’t think there is any anti-incumbency against the BJP government. Naturally, there could be some feelings in certain sections. But people are confident that something for the better is shaping up in the state. Jharkhand has seen wide coverage of Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojna (PMAY), Ujjawala scheme, Jan Dhan and others.
The BJP is taking credit for providing a stable government in the state. Will it pay off electorally?
The message has gone out in the past five years that the BJP can not only provide a stable government but also work for the development of all sections of the society. The menace of Maoist violence has been tamed. In the past, people avoided roads between Ranchi-Dhanbad or Jamshedpur and other areas for fear of Maoists. Now, they travel freely. The state has also taken a big leap in laying the grid transmission line, though not fully complete, which has significantly improved the availability of electricity. The state has more than 33 lakh Ujjawala beneficiaries and law and order situation has also improved.
Jharkhand has seen political polarisation on the lines of tribals and non-tribals in the past. Is the BJP comfortable with this socio-political divide?
The tribal and non-tribal political divide had been created intentionally to serve certain vested interests. There are 28 Assembly seats reserved for scheduled tribes in the state. This divide propped up the Maoists menace. The state was divided into a few regions where the Maoists ran their parallel administration while indulging in extortion. All such aberrations have ended. The BJP intentionally started Chief Minister Raghubar Das’ yatra from the Santhal Pargana region (seen as the support base of JMM) from the Assembly constituency of (former chief minister) Hemant Soren. Public response has been encouraging.
But the Patthargarhi incident in Jharkhand turned violent…
That incident was created by the vested interests and is now nowhere since there was no support among the people.
The BJP is seen stoking nationalism into electoral politics by seemingly polarising the people on the issue of revocation of the special provision of Article 370. Is it desirable to do politics on nationalism?
You need to dispel this misconception that the BJP is going to the people on the issue of Article 370 only now. The foundation of Jan Sangh was principally on the issue of full integration of J&K with the rest of the country. The first president of Jan Sangh, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, made the supreme sacrifice on the issue. Nationalism is in our blood. Its wrong to say that we raise nationalism only during elections. Take a look at our manifestos, Article 370 was always there. Why shouldn’t nationalism be a political issue? Unfortunately, the political parties gave eminence to family interests at the cost of national interest. It was only for the national interest that we merged Jana Sangh with Janata Party at the call of Jai Prakash Narayan.
Jharkhand is an industrialised stated and the spectre of a slowing economy has seemingly impacted a large number of industries in Jamshedpur and elsewhere. Will it impact the polls?
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has made a series of announcements. Consequently, there’s fresh energy in the economy. Now, there’s a prevailing sense that the government is listening to the people and taking action. The government is on the right track. Ups and downs keep happening in the economy, but the larger picture that we’re expanding our economy at a rapid pace remains intact. There will be no electoral impact of the short- term slowdown.
Incidents of mob lynching are being reported frequently from Jharkhand. How do you see the issue?
This is a new slogan being fanned by political rivals. Criminal incidents are being given the name of mob lynching. No doubts such incidents are taking place. No one supports such criminal acts of violence. Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has spoken against it several times.
The Jharkhand state unit of the BJP is known to be faction-ridden for a long time. Do you think you have a tough task at hand?
Naturally, there would be differences among political leaders on account of different style of functioning and ideas. But at the end of the day, they are all our party workers. The task is to ensure that the workers get access to leadership. Wherever we need to crack the whip, it will be done.