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EXCLUSIVE | Mallikarjun Kharge Speaking the Language of the Gandhis, Says JP Nadda

The national president of the BJP, JP Nadda hit out at the Congress for making personal attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the day he took charge. He said the party’s senior leader Rahul Gandhi and former president Sonia Gandhi were unable to stomach the fact that a common man could be prime minister. Referring to Mallikarjun Kharge’s statement describing the prime minister as Ravana, Nadda said the Congress national president was speaking in words that “come from Rahul Gandhi”.

In an exclusive interview to CNN-News18’s political editor Marya Shakil, Nadda affirmed a record-breaking return to power for the saffron party as the first phase of polling for the Gujarat assembly elections took place on Thursday. The second phase of polling will be held on December 5, following the counting of votes on December 8.

Nadda also hit out at the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP and Congress, saying the parties had only tried to divert the people of Gujarat. But voters had always reposed their faith in the BJP, as well as Prime Minister Modi for whom they had immense love and affection.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

It looks like there is no election in Gujarat because all the concerns you had in 2017 have been lined out. What, according to you, are the concern areas this time?

There are no concern areas; at that point of time, too, some were raised but they can’t be called concerns because we have been working for the people of Gujarat. The BJP has taken care of all issues – major or minor – and the people have always stood by the BJP and, especially, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in whom they have complete faith. They have immense love and affection for him, so we find that in this election, too, they feel that development that has taken place should continue. That development has gained momentum as well and they want it to be maintained.

The BJP has been in power uninterrupted for 27 years. Is the BJP hoping to better its performance, which was the best in 2002 with 127 seats? How important is it for the BJP to win big?

Gujarat has realised that other parties only tried diverting and deviating the people from real issues, but it was the BJP that always came up with positive answers. They believe in us and you will find that the BJP will break all-time records. It is not negative, it is all positive; it is not anti-incumbency; it’s not that people don’t have the choice so they are voting for the BJP, it is for what the BJP is.

So is this a pro-incumbency vote?

I will be able to comment on that after the percentage of voting. I will say one thing and, that is, we are going to break all records as far as this performance is concerned.

Do you feel this is a bipolar contest?

It’s a bipolar contest. The name of the party that you are taking is a non-starter and their history shows they come to every state and make a hue and cry, bold promises and then they have to face the voters. An AAP leader also went to Varanasi to fight elections, he was shown his place and then he said he will never contest. Anyway, the AAP contested elections in Uttar Pradesh, where there are 350 seats. They fought on 69 seats in Uttarakhand and proclaimed as if they were the only alternative. Out of 69 seats, they lost 65. In Goa, there was a lot of advertisement for the AAP, and they fought on 35 seats and lost.

But the AAP won in Punjab…

In Punjab, their fight was not with the BJP. Whenever they face the BJP, they will meet the same fate. Note my words, they will lose on all the seats they are fighting on from Gujarat. They are non-starters.

Saurashtra and south Gujarat regions have always been challenging for the BJP as we saw in 2017. In Surat, out of 16 seats, the BJP managed to win 14. What are the concerns in this area and the tribal belt?

As I said, there are no concerns. The opposition party tries raising concerns, be it the AAP or Congress who consider these areas as their vote bank. But nothing is going to happen, everyone is going to vote for the BJP. Other parties only shed crocodile tears, they did not do anything for the tribals. If I talk about Saurashtra, they did not do anything. What about water scarcity? Who was there to obstruct the Sardar Sarovar Dam? Rahul Gandhi came for a day and was seen with Medha Patkar, we need not say anything as we can see the kind of people they are collaborating with. They are not for Bharat jodo but Bharat todo, they are anti-Gujarat.

Don’t you think it would be complacent on the part of the BJP not to consider anyone a rival?

We are never complacent, we fight elections like this, we fight till the end and we fight with full might.

Is this BJP vs BJP then?

Concerns of analysts are something else. The BJP has no problem as we try to see to it that everyone joins hands with the BJP. We try to see that it is a big family of people with aspirations. The BJP is an ideological and cadre-based party and, when the cadre decides, people only vote for that person and rebels have no place in the political setup.

I have been in Gujarat and have seen Prime Minister Modi’s huge recall value. There is a narrative that has been started by the Congress recently, where Mallikarjun Kharge made a derogatory statement that has to do with the 100 heads of Ravana. All your party leaders have condemned this statement. Do you see it as a personal attack on the prime minister?

The narrative was started by the Congress when Kharge called PM Modi Ravana. Is that a personal attack? Right from the day Narendra Modi came to power, Sonia (Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi have not been able to digest it. They never thought that a common man could sit on that seat. They have never adjusted to the situation where the PM was running the country. These words come from Rahul Gandhi. Kharge ji is speaking his language, they are not following norms and standards. They are frustrated and should realise this as the BJP has always maintained its decency.

Whenever there has been a personal attacks against the PM, be it statements such as ‘Maut ka saudagar’ or ‘Chaiwala’, which happened in 2014, it has always backfired. Why do you think so?

The BJP has always tried to maintain a certain level of decency in political life and the comments that we make in public. If anybody makes a comment that does not meet that level, we take care of it and see to it that such comments should not come out in the future. But in the political system of the Congress, you get benefits. You are promoted if you make such statements.

Do you think Kharge will be promoted? He is already the Congress president. Is it an endorsement coming from the Gandhis?

Definitely an endorsement and appreciated by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. These comments backfire because of the popularity of Narendra Modi, the love and affection of the people of India for the PM.

Always in elections, the overall political discourse really falls. Why do you think that happens? The Congress is also saying that the BJP leadership does not have faith in local leadership.

What is the problem? It is our outlook and this is how we fight elections. You asked me why I am going for the Hyderabad municipal corporation elections. I said not just me but Amit Shah will accompany me. We went there and won the elections. What is the problem? They do not know how an opposition party should function. I told them to take some tuition from us as we have been the opposition for the longest time.

Since the BJP is extensively campaigning for the MCD elections, the AAP has said the BJP has become “video a day” kind of a party.

A video comes from where the health minister is getting a massage and he does not clarify on that account and says we have opened a video centre. Do you consider this as a responsible statement from a leader of a political party?

The BJP is trying to build a perception that the AAP is full of corrupt leaders…

Not perception, this is a fact. I will not give a ticket to any person with a criminal record. Three are in jail – one for economic corruption, two for initiating riots. We are not doing anything.

This election is like setting the tone for the upcoming elections in 2024? What are your numbers?

We are going to win every election and will fight the same way. In Himachal, we are quite comfortable and Gujarat for sure and the MCD elections as well.

Himachal Pradesh is a state that alternates between governments…

This time the rule will be the same, but patterns will change.

On December 8, what are the numbers that you have predicted?

We will return to power in Himachal Pradesh and break all records in Gujarat​.

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