Vinay Sahasrabudhe, BJP vice president

‘People voted for our development agenda’

Print edition : June 10, 2016

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. Photo: VIVEK BENDRE

Interview with BJP vice president Vinay Sahasrabudhe.

BUOYED by its resounding victory in Assam and its reasonably good performance in Kerala (where it opened its account with one seat) and West Bengal (where it won three seats), the BJP is gearing up for bigger challenges. “We are no longer a party of north India only,” the party vice president Dr Vinay Sahasrabudhe said in an interview to Frontline after the results of the Assembly elections in four States were declared. Excerpts:

This is the first time that the BJP is forming the government in a north-eastern State. How would you describe the victory?

Our victory in Assam is historic. The victory acquires a larger significance because Assam is the biggest State in the region. This gives us a presence in the entire region. We can now lay justifiable claim to being a truly pan-India party. The media used to take potshots at us, describing us as a north India party. Now, the BJP has a presence spread across the length and breadth of India: from Kutch to Kamrup and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. We have our footprints in all corners of India.

What according to you is the larger message in the BJP’s electoral performance?

Such a resounding victory for the BJP in Assam, where the Congress ruled for the last 15 years, is a validation of our development agenda. The people of Assam have truly endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of “sabka saath, sabka vikas”. They are thirsty for development, which was denied to them in the past so many years. The backlog of development in Assam is huge, but two years of Modi’s rule has made the people believe in our promises and they have reposed their faith in his leadership.

In Kerala, where we won one seat, for the first time, and in West Bengal, where we won three seats, the victory is significant in the sense that it shows people are looking for a third alternative. The victories in Kerala and West Bengal have indicated that there is space for us there as well. People in Kerala and West Bengal definitely want a change from the “fire-to-the-frying-pan” politics of the Left and the Congress and they see us in that context. In Tamil Nadu and Puduchery, although we did not win any seats, our presence has added to our mandate, and it has given us important lessons to learn. All these will help us in planning for our future endeavours.

What was your winning formula in Assam?

There cannot be any formula for an electoral victory, but in Assam we had the perfect mix of right alliances, a credible State leadership in the form of Sarbananda Sonowal, who enjoys huge goodwill, Modi’s good governance agenda, and to top it all, the aspirations of the Assamese people. The Assamese aspiration found a perfect outlet in Sonowal’s credible leadership. He had already earned his place in Assam, and the people had accepted him. Our alliances, on the other hand, convinced the Assamese people that we represented all sections of society.

But are you not overestimating your Assam victory because in Assam, a young Sonowal was pitted against an ageing Gogoi who had ruled for 15 years. Your task was made that much easier by the fact that Gogoi was facing a huge anti-incumbency sentiment?

The fact that Gogoi was well established for 15 years was all the more reason for us to be worried. It speaks volumes for people’s disenchantment with the Congress that they so wholeheartedly rejected that party and voted for our development agenda.

In Assam, you projected a credible face as your chief ministerial choice and that paid off. Will you adopt the same strategy in the elections next year in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand or Punjab?

Our strategy will vary from State to State because each State has a different set of people, problems, issues and circumstances. In the past, sometimes we have projected a face, as in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh; at other times we have not projected any person as the chief ministerial candidate, as in Haryana. One victory or one defeat cannot result in the evolution of an election formula.

Reports indicate that Muslims, too, voted for the BJP in Assam. Can you explain how?

For the simple reason that they saw us as a party that represented all sections of people. They truly believed in our “sabka saath sabka vikas” promise. It is a misnomer created by the media that the BJP is anti-Muslim. We are not anti-Muslim, and people in Assam have substantiated this. We got the truly secular vote in Assam. Also, it shows that people have moved on, leaving behind the politics over places of worship, and are thirsty for development.

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