‘We don’t need any kingmaker, have the king,’ says Ram Madhav
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, its campaign pinned on the theme of protecting national security in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Indian Air Force’s reprisal strikes on a terror camp in Pakistan in February, expects to win 300 seats together with its allies even in a worst case scenario in the ongoing election, the party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav said.
“We have the king so we do not need any kingmakers,” Madhav said in a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He went on to list the states where the party and its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)?are hopeful of notching up gains, including those in the north-east , West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka.
Watch | ‘Have the king, don’t need kingmaker’: BJP’s Ram Madhav on post-poll math
“Our best case scenario is 2014 performance, our worst case scenario is together with NDA we will get 300 seats,” Madhav, who is also the BJP’s point person for Jammu and Kashmir, said in an interview with Hindustan Times.
In the 2014 general elections, the BJP alone won 282 seats, becoming the first party in 30 years to gain a majority in the Lok Sabha on its own. The NDA emerged from those elections with 336 seats.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, told reporters that an internal survey by his party showed the BJP was losing, after the completion of four out of seven phases of polling in the elections.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won 71 out of 80 seats in 2014, the party is facing a challenge from an alliance of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) this time around. Madhav, the key strategist of the BJP, said: “We are trying to maintain our numbers. Just like we are in places like Kashmir; if there is a shortfall, we will make up in states like Odisha and West Bengal.”
Asked if the BJP was in touch with fence sitters like the Biju Janata Dal, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party, Madhav said, “Strategy is not discussed in front of cameras. Anybody is welcome to walk into the NDA.”
Despite his confidence, the BJP has a tough job on its hands in areas in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. The party’s alliance with the People’s Democratic Party in J&K broke up in June 2018. Allies in the northeast have protested against the Citizenship Amendment Bill that seeks to give citizenship to minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The prime minister has termed the alliance with the PDP a “mahamilawat”, or grand adulteration, but Madhav has a different take.
“We walked out of Janata Party in 1980. Was it a mistake to join Janata Party in 1977? I would say no,” he said. “The larger national interest calls for such alliances. We had Samyukt Vidhayak Dal in 1967-68 where Socialists and Jan Sangh worked together, arch rivals ideologically worked together for a larger goal. In 1977, we merged Jan Sangh with Janata Party but in three years we realised it was a blunder. We came out and formed the Bharatiya Janata Party. So certain experiments are because of certain historical reasons.’’
Surgical strikes conducted by the armed forces have become a subject of contention between the BJP and Congress. Former PM Manmohan Singh said in an interview with HT that such operations had taken place in his term as head of the United Progressive Alliance government too. Gandhi has suggested that P rime Minister Narendra Modi’s sarcastic remarks against the claim were an affront to the military.
Madhav said: “Let the Congress party now stop criticising us for politicising the actions of the military. Now that their own former prime minister came forward to say they did, or so and so did. I have seen army giving a reply last year that they did not give any regard to surgical strikes all these years. Army doesn’t know, nation doesn’t know, Parliament doesn’t know, only known to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh...”