Interview: Rajnath Singh

‘Things have gone terribly wrong’

Print edition : November 27, 2015

Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Interview with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

“We need to do some serious introspection. We have been totally taken aback,” said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, stunned by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat in the Bihar Assembly elections. In an exclusive interview to Frontline as the election results were coming in, Rajnath Singh, who addressed more than 50 election meetings in the State, said the people’s mandate had taken the party by surprise because the mood during the run-up to the elections was favourable to the party.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are your first thoughts on the results? Did you at any point during the campaign expect this outcome?

Not at all. At no point of time did we think that we would be defeated in Bihar. The election meetings drew such a positive response from the people…. These are early trends only [the interview was held when the trends were coming in], but the gap is so big that the result is obvious and I am at a loss for words. I don’t know what to make out of this. Bahut gadbad ho gayi [Things have gone terribly wrong].

What could have gone wrong for the BJP?

I have absolutely no idea because the response of the people wherever we went was actually positive. The turnout at our rallies was huge. We need to do some serious introspection about what went wrong where. The BJP Parliamentary Board will take stock of the situation.

Looking back, what mistakes could have upset your calculations? Could it be because no local face was promoted?

I would not call them mistakes. There may have been some shortcomings in our strategy, which we will take stock of. As for promoting local faces, at all our rallies, whether those addressed by the Prime Minister or the party president [Amit Shah] or me, we were always accompanied by State party leaders. So, I don’t think local leaders were not projected.

Is it possible that had the BJP projected a chief ministerial candidate, as the Janata Dal (United)-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress alliance had a strong contender for the post, Nitish Kumar, people would have reacted differently to the National Democratic Alliance?

Well, that is a matter for discussion. I cannot comment on this at this stage. Senior party leaders will have to sit together and take stock of the situation. It is too early to talk about these issues.

Do you think the BJP made a mistake in choosing its allies and also in giving, maybe, too many seats to them? In other words, did the BJP overestimate the strength of its allies?

No, I don't think so. Once we chose our allies, there was no point in debating whether it was too many or too little. These things are irrelevant.

Do you think issues other than those restricted to Bihar, such as the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq at Dadri, influenced the voters and upset the BJP’s agenda?

In any election, both local and national issues get discussed. State elections do not take place in isolation. The big picture inevitably has an impact. The same happened in Bihar; it was inevitable. I personally never raised anything other than local development issues because our first and foremost priority was to usher in development in the State.

Many senior leaders used intemperate language during the election. Do you think that has backfired?

I would not be able to say anything on this because I never used bad language against anybody. I always addressed them [the opposition leaders] as Nitish bhai and Lalu ji. I never addressed them with disrespect. I believe that no matter what your ideological or political differences, there is no place for disrespect in public discourse. Showing respect for your opponent and using decent language is indispensable in public life.

The election campaign was marked by unprecedented hostility between the BJP and the Janata Dal (U)-RJD-Congress coalition. Will this have any impact on the relations between the Bihar and Central governments and make it difficult for the two to work together?

There is no question of that. There could have been some hostility during the campaign, but once the elections are over, the Centre and States have to work together, irrespective of which party is in power. The federal structure of our polity demands that the Central government works in harmony with the State governments and we will ensure that this happens. I can vouch for the fact that the Centre will bear no ill will towards Bihar.

During the campaign, the Prime Minister told the people of Bihar that if they wanted development they should vote for the BJP in the Assembly elections too. Has this cast a doubt on the Centre’s sincerity in honouring its commitment to award the packages announced for Bihar?

Whatever packages we announced for Bihar will be given. There is no question of going back on our commitments. We will ensure that each and every paisa we committed towards development in Bihar is delivered.

Will that also include granting the State special status as demanded by Nitish Kumar?

Special status is not the issue at the moment. But we sincerely want Bihar to develop, and will do all it takes to achieve this.

Do you think the Bihar results will evoke changes within the BJP at the national level?

It is too early to talk about all this.

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