People have understood Hardik Patel worked as a Congress front in Gujarat elections: BJP leader
BJP general secretary in charge of Gujarat Bhupender Yadav denies any impact of Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani or Alpesh Thakor on Gujarat election results, says no section of society moved away from the party.india Updated: Dec 20, 2017 19:20 IST
As the BJP general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Bhupender Yadav was closely involved with each element of the party’s campaign in the state. Seen as one of party president Amit Shah’s closest aides, Yadav spoke to HT about the final outcome, what worked and what did not, and BJP’s larger challenges:
You set a mission of 150 seats. You won 99. Are you disappointed?
No. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and performance and party chief’s Amit Shah’s tremendous organisational work has given us a sixth consecutive victory in Gujarat. We have increased our vote share compared to last time. We got almost 50% votes. Converting votes to seats can have its peculiarities. In some seats, you are winning with a margin of 30-40,000 votes; in some seats, you lose by a margin of 35 to 1000 votes. The conversion is seat-by-seat. When there is a triangular fight, the results change. In some states, with a 50% vote share, you can win 80% of the seats. But what our increase in vote share does is create a strong popular base for the party for the future. This is an achievement.
Urban Gujarat is with you; rural Gujarat is where you suffered losses. Why?
If you analyse seats, this is not true. If you see the overall ratio, the urban-rural divide is 40:60. And we have got seats according to that.
But compared to 2012, your rural seats decreased.
But compared to 2012, our vote share increased. You can’t see the results only from one framework.
Let me ask you this differently. Do you think there is rural distress or discontent and you are not being able to meet those expectations?
I will not call it rural distress, but if in some places, the party has got fewer seats, we will take our message of vikas and meet the expectations of people in whatever way we can.
What we heard during our travels was farmers complaining about prices. What will you do about it?
For the first time, we provided MSP (minimum support price) for both cotton and groundnut and bought produce. There could be procedural problems with it sometimes. But doubling farmer income is in our manifesto and we will keep working on it.
But current trends don’t suggest you can meet this ambition.
We are trying to clear the deep gaps created by the past Congress regimes. When Congress was in power, there was no permission to open dairies in areas except central Gujarat. Under BJP, there was an increase in dairies in South Gujarat and Saurashtra. Fruit production, vegetable production increased under us. The Narmada dam, which the Congress had left incomplete, was completed by us. Along with irrigation, we provided basic rural facilities. We will increase all these efforts to meet our objective of doubling farmer income.
The other issue you confronted was Patidar disaffection. Do you think there was a loss in seats because of that?
We won from areas and districts which were once considered the epicentre of the agitation. People have understood that Hardik (Patel) worked as a frontal organisation, as a shadow of the Congress. My question is, if this movement was so big, why did Rahul Gandhi never shared the stage with Hardik Patel?
But they were on the same side.
If they were together, if they had promised reservations beyond 50%, why did Rahul Gandhi not announce it?
What will you do to bring back the section of Patidar youth which has moved away from you?
I refuse to accept that any section moved away from us. BJP believes in taking all sections of society together. We do not practice the politics of division and believe in sabka saath, sabka vikaas.
The larger trend we are seeing is of dominant agrarian communities — be it Patidars in Gujarat, or Marathas in Maharashtra, or Jats in Haryana — unhappy with BJP. Is this a worry?
This is not true. Even today, BJP has the maximum number of Patidar MLAs. BJP has the most MPs and MLAs from the communities you have just mentioned. Your perception is false.
But you are confronting a Maratha reservation movement, a similar Jat movement. Your political alliances in these states have rested on combination of other communities.
The anti-Patidar KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) theory was a Congress invention. The non-Jat politics of Haryana was done by Bhajan Lal. BJP has never believed in this kind of divisive politics.
This perception has also grown because the party is involved in the sub-categorisation of OBCs. And this appears to be based on the premise that BJP can cultivate the lower OBCs as opposed to the more dominant communities.
BJP never does vote-bank politics. We take all communities together. And we work honestly to ensure that all communities get justice according to the Constitution.
Back to Gujarat, we saw that your performance in the second phase was better than the first phase.
We have got an almost equal number of seats in both states. In the first phase, we got 47 out of 89 seats, and in the second, we have got 52 out of 93 seats.
But compared to 2012, you lost more seats in the first phase and succeeded in retaining your share in the second.
This could be your analysis but the phases were also different last time. It is an issue for the internal analysis of the party and we will continue to work to expand the party’s base.
Sure, but the question is this. There was a difference in the tone and tenor of the PM’s campaigning as we moved to the second phase. He spoke more aggressively about Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘neech’ comment; Kapil Sibal’s Ayodhya appearance; and made allegations about a dinner at Aiyar’s home. It was seen as negative. Do you think that made a difference?
BJP never raised these issues. These were issues raised by Congress. They deliberately got Mani Shankar Aiyar to say what he did. BJP only focused on development record. We never engaged in any negative campaign. Congress made false allegations, yet they were not successful.
But the PM’s dinner allegation was not backed with evidence. Many who attended it have said that Gujarat was never discussed.
But Congress leaders first denied the dinner happened.
They said there was a dinner but Gujarat was not discussed.
First they denied there was a dinner at all. They should first explain why.
The other issue that came up starkly in this campaign was youth unemployment. Would you agree that one failure of the Gujarat model has been creating jobs?
You see the data. Nationally, employment opportunities have increased the most in Gujarat in the last 15 years. In fact, people from other states have also come to Gujarat for jobs.
But as you go forward, are the youth getting dissatisfied?
In Gujarat, our vote-share increased by almost two percentage points. And that reflects that young are with us. In our youth town-hall programmes, from 312 places, there were 1.8 lakh young people. Such a big programme has not happened in Gujarat.
So you are saying the increase in vote share is primarily of young voters?
Yes. And no group moved away from us compared to 2012. If youth was such a big factor, Rahul, Hardik, Alpesh (Thakor) would have spoken to students in universities and colleges. If you see the Senate elections that happened in some universities, be it in Baroda or Gandhinagar, during this period, ABVP won.
The Congress also saw an increase in its vote-share. What accounts for this in your opinion?
The votes that used to go to independents may have gone to them. Do remember that the difference in vote-share remains 8 percentage points.
But Congress sees this as a moment of resurgence and has exposed BJP’s vulnerabilities. What do you think?
After 22 years, BJP formed the government in Gujarat again. After five years in power in Himachal, they lost power. If after losing elections in two states, they still consider it an achievement, then they have attained a degree of super-consciousness and have gone beyond worldly problems or are being delusional.