Interview: Keshav Prasad Maurya

‘There is no sectarian plan’

Print edition : March 17, 2017

Keshav Prasad Maurya. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Interview with Keshav Prasad Maurya, Uttar Pradesh unit president of the BJP.

KESHAV PRASAD MAURYA is perceived to be an important element in the organisational and political restructuring plans that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah are advancing in the party. This perception is not confined to the BJP echelons but has spread across the larger Sangh Parivar. At the core of the Modi-Amit Shah restructuring plans is a social engineering plan that aims at building a strong Other Backward Class (OBC) and Most Backward Caste (MBC) support base over and above the BJP’s upper-caste Hindu foundation. The duo apparently holds the view that through this the BJP will be able to reach out to the marginalised sections and remove the perception that the party caters essentially to the interests of the upper-caste Brahmin, Thakur and the Bania communities. Maurya’s elevation as the president of the Uttar Pradesh unit was reportedly dictated by the factors that were in keeping with this line. “Gareebi, Sangh aur OBC” (poor personal economic background, strong connections with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and belonging to an OBC community) were cited as the factors. Amit Shah and Maurya have campaigned together in the ongoing Assembly elections, evidently to send a symbolic message to the targeted OBC and MBC communities. Frontline spoke to Maurya a few times during the election campaign. Excerpts from these interactions:

The BJP started the campaign with the promise of bringing the Modi style of governance to Uttar Pradesh and by highlighting the so-called positive effects of demonetisation. But midway through the campaign, BJP leaders are invoking a Hindutva appeal by talking about communal discrimination. What has caused this shift?

There is no shift or change. Exposing the discrimination practised by the Samajwadi Party [S.P.] government and fighting against it is also part of the development discourse. The positive style of governance propounded by Modi ji does not exist in a vacuum. The wrongs of the past need to be undone to move towards constructive, new governance. That is one of the foundations of our sabka saath, sabka vikas motto. As Modi pointed out, the hallmark of the S.P. government is discrimination. The level of discrimination is so high that nobody is happy. Dalits say they are not getting their rights, OBCs are getting everything. Many OBC communities say the government gives [benefits] only to Yadavs. Yadavs say only those associated with the first family of Yadavs are getting their rights, and the rest go to Muslims. No one is satisfied. We are clear that it is a government’s responsibility to ensure that there is no discrimination. There should not be any injustice on the basis of religion or caste. Only if we assure this can we move towards equitable and fair governance.

Even so there is a difference in emphasis. What dominated in the beginning were concrete governance perceptions and a debate on demonetisation. Now communal issues have come to the fore. Many observers are drawing a parallel between this and the manner in which the BJP’s Bihar campaign unfolded in 2015. Even then there was this shifting emphasis. It was perceived then as desperation. The same assessment is coming up now too, and leaders of the S.P.- Congress combine as well as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, say that the BJP is in panic.

Look, this is campaign time and it is expected that political opponents will portray things like this. But our campaign in Uttar Pradesh has always progressed like this, with multiple points of emphasis. There is no need to compare with Bihar. The people of Uttar Pradesh have seen the Modi style of governance and the S.P. style of governance. You will see which one they will ultimately choose. Until then, our opponents are free to propagate any desperation story they want to.

There is also a stream of opinion, forcefully articulated by the S.P.- Congress combine, that the BJP conducts only negative campaigns without projecting any positive proposal or plan for Uttar Pradesh.

This is completely unfounded. Look at our manifesto and you will see the details we have gone into and the meticulous road map that we have etched for the development of the State. It is a comprehensive road map that encompasses the rural and urban sectors, the youth and women, the agricultural sector and farmers, infrastructure, industrialisation and promotion of information technology.

Across the BJP and the Sangh Parivar you are perceived as an important individual element that will take forward the ongoing political project of non-Yadav OBC-MBC consolidation.

This is again a misconception. The BJP’s political agenda and plans are not advanced at an individual level, but collectively as a team. And do not think that there is any sectarian plan that we are taking forward. All communities, including the Muslim minorities, are rallying behind the BJP. And, as I have said earlier, 40 per cent of the Yadav votes are coming to the BJP and this is what is propelling us towards 300-plus seats in the 403-member Assembly. The time when the family of Mulayam Singh Yadav considered Yadavs as their fiefdom is long gone. Yadavs know that the S.P. has not done anything for them but only for Saifai’s family. All communities are fed up with the goonda raj that has become the hallmark of the S.P. government, with persons accused of rape and murder such as Minister Gayatri Prajapati calling the shots.

There are reports of widespread dissent among the core upper-caste support base of the BJP on account of the OBC-MBC political plank as also on account of allegedly faulty seat distribution.

You shall get answers to all these on March 11. You will realise that your premise on both the political plank and seat distribution is wrong. I do not want to say anything other than this.

There are many chief ministerial aspirants in the BJP. There is a view that you are also a contender.

Don’t be in a hurry. We shall form the government and you will know who is the Chief Minister who will take forward Modiji’s great vision of governance and development.