Beneficiaries are our new voter base, says Prakash Javadekar

Updated on Nov 12, 2018 08:36 AM IST

Shepherding the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election campaign in Rajasthan, where anti-incumbency and reports of factionalism pose challenges for the ruling party, Union minister Prakash Javadekar insists the delivery of social welfare schemes will ensure the BJP’s return to power and the beneficiaries of these programmes will act as the state government’s ambassadors.

Union minister Prakash Javdekar at an interview in New Delhi on May 22, 2018.(Mohammed Zakir/HT archive)
Union minister Prakash Javdekar at an interview in New Delhi on May 22, 2018.(Mohammed Zakir/HT archive)
By, New Delhi

Shepherding the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election campaign in Rajasthan, where anti-incumbency and reports of factionalism pose challenges for the ruling party, Union minister Prakash Javadekar insists the delivery of social welfare schemes will ensure the BJP’s return to power and the beneficiaries of these programmes will act as the state government’s ambassadors.

Ahead of the December 7 Rajasthan election, Javadekar spoke to Amandeep Shukla and Smriti Kak Ramachandran about what will propel the party win back the state, the threat from Opposition unity ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and the new national education policy being prepared by his human resource development ministry. Edited excerpts:

You are overseeing the upcoming elections in Rajasthan, which appears to be the is the toughest of the five state polls for the BJP. Do you agree you are battling severe anti-incumbency?

In Rajasthan, I feel it’s the other way around. The Congress has not done anything, even in Opposition. (Ashok) Gehlot ji did not even attend the assembly. The jinx that (the winner will be) the BJP once and the Congress once — it has been there for the last 20 years — will be broken this year. We believe that if you do good work, it reaches people.

During our contact programme in the state between November 2 and 4, I went to Dalit bastis (localities with a high Scheduled Caste population). Everybody there is happy with the improved government schooling; even in small lanes, there are good roads; these people are our ambassadors.

On the second day, I visited a Dalit family for lunch. They have a clean gas stove under the Ujjawala programme (free LPG for those below poverty line); they have a patta (title) for housing under the PM Awas Yojna; a toilet; an older person in the family received a monthly pension of ~1,000 and a younger woman has been given a mobile for 100, which is prepaid for six months. The family was so happy. On the third day, I went to see the food served through the Annapurna Rasoi Yojana, where mobile vans offer a sumptuous breakfast for ~5 and a full meal for ~8 to the needy. Our slogan in the state is ‘Na Baton Se, Kaamo Se, BJP Phir Se; Phir ek baar, BJP Sarkar ‘ (Not just words, through work, BJP once more; once more, a BJP government). Beneficiaries are present in every poor household, and their testimonials are our campaign.

Are you saying these beneficiaries are your target vote bank?

Not only targets, they are the new addition to us [our voter base].

Is that the new social engineering then, considering that social groups such as Jats and Rajputs, who supported the BJP earlier, are now upset with the party?

The plank of the poor that was with the Congress during Indira Gandhi’s regime has now completely shifted to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji - first in 2014 with hope, and now with confidence.

We don’t treat any class as a vote bank, the Congress used to play the politics of vote banks. We believe every poor person wants respect and has aspirations for good education and health care.

In Rajasthan, there is the Bhamasha scheme thorough which 2.5 million patients have benefited, they are always grateful. Because of the Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan, the water table has gone up from five feet to 20 feet in each district; so there is water in the hand pumps, there is well irrigation, and tankers are less.

These are real achievements. What we are providing through central and state government schemes is ease of life.

Everybody is supporting us. Jats were given reservation through the OBC (other backward classes) quota by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. We have given Rajputs respect and honour, which is what they wanted. And at the same time, we don’t do politics on the basis of caste. We consider all castes as part of society. It is the Congress that faces this problem (of caste groups being upset) because Rahul (Gandhi) wants Sachin (Pilot) to be the face but he is not able to say it openly since it has political ramifications. Congress is in a dilemma, we have made our choice very clear —the BJP under PM Modi and CM Vasundhara Raje is marching ahead.

But there were reports of disagreements between the state and the central leadership and differences with the Sangh.

Even today, when we are discussing ticket distribution, you can see how amicably it is being done. The basic difference between the Congress and the BJP is that the former is one family party and the BJP is one family. And therefore, our relationship has never been like a sycophant to the family.

You were in-charge of Karnataka as well. Were the recent bypoll results an indication of the Congress-JDS alliance posing a tough challenge to the BJP in 2019?

When I went as in-charge of Karnataka, all the parties were saying it’s a clean sweep for the Congress. But we practically snatched power from the Congress and they are reduced; they then surrendered to the JD(S) [Janata Dal - Secular] and gave them the chief minister’s post. They are not gelling well, and the Tipu Sultan jayanti showed the cracks within. Unprincipled alliances have no future.

There is an expiry date for all such opportunistic alliances. The essence is that the BJP on its own is the single-largest party in Karnataka, and in the Lok Sabha bypolls we contested two seats, of which we won one. So, it’s not a complete rout.

Has the BJP’s poll plank shifted from development to the Ram temple in Ayodhya?

The BJP has made it clear umpteen times that the Ram Janamabhoomi issue for us is a matter of faith and not an election issue.

We say a temple at the birthplace (in Ayodhya) is already there and it only needs to be made magnificent. You have to ask the Congress, in their new role in Madhya Pradesh, they are talking of Ram and Gau Sarakshan while in Kerala they want to organise beef parties. Their member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor is opposed to a Ram temple at the birthplace.

Focusing on your ministry, what is the progress on the New National Education Policy?

The new education policy is practically ready now. The final draft will be ready in a few days. After the code of conduct (imposed because of state elections), it should see the light of the day because final consultations are also practically over.

What will be the process? What are the expectations?

The new education policy is practically ready now. The final draft will be ready in a few days. After the code of conduct (imposed because of state elections), it should see the light of the day because final consultations are also practically over.

Is the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) bill expected in the upcoming session of Parliament?

It is in the discussion stage. Once the Cabinet takes a decision, it can be introduced. UGC, AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) and NCTE (National Council for Teacher Education) are three education-sector regulators and these should work in the same way, follow the same processes, rules and methodology. What we are trying to do is to provide the ease of getting permissions, and at the same time, maintain the quality of higher education.

The second aspect is, all these three regulators are different but as part of UGC (University Grants Commission) reform the grants function should be separated and placed under a body headed by academicians.

It will not be bureaucratic, but a body of academicians. One body will deal with grants and another with regulations. That is the whole idea. But we have not finalised the draft because it is in process.

When is the second list of Institutes of Eminence expected?

It is the empowered committee (headed by N Gopalaswami) which gives its recommendations. I do not know the dates they have decided... The empowered committee has already seen presentations
by 117 applicants.

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