Interview: P. Muralidhar Rao, BJP

'We spotted the discontent'

Print edition : March 30, 2018

P. Muralidhar Rao. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

Interview with P. Muralidhar Rao, BJP national general secretary.

HIGH on a spectacular victory in Tripura and good results in Nagaland and Meghalaya, the next “Red” target for the BJP is Kerala, says P. Muralidhar Rao, the BJP’s national general secretary. He is the general secretary in charge of Karnataka and was in charge of Kerala until recently. Excerpts from an interview:

What made the BJP’s victory in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya possible, especially that in Tripura?

One has to get three things right in order to win an election. One, political campaigning; two, a political message; and three, a cadre to take this message to the voter and then take the voter to the booth. We had been working on the political campaigning and message in the north-eastern States for a long time. Our groundwork began years ago and as a result we could create a cadre that worked sincerely to take our message to the voter. The fact that the organisational groundwork had been done when the campaigning began two years ago made our task easy.

How did the BJP see the opportunity in Tripura and what did it do to eliminate the Congress and dethrone the Left?

Any government in power for 25 years would develop a degree of anti-incumbency. In Tripura, there had emerged serious weaknesses in governance. We spotted those weaknesses and took advantage of them. For example, our ground-level research in communist-ruled States threw up a very interesting fact: wherever communist governments are in power, their cadre acquires a stranglehold over everything, from governance to delivery of services, access to power centres, even access to polling booths during elections. They threaten those who disagree with them and even resort to violence. This had caused a great deal of discontent among a huge section of people. We spotted this discontent and worked on it.

How come in Meghalaya and Nagaland, too, people supported the BJP? These States have a substantial Christian population and beef-eating is common. How did you make common ground with the people when gau rakshaks have indulged in violence and lynchings at various places in the Gangetic belt?

The problem with the intellectual class and the media is that they view the BJP as a homogeneous party that cannot manage or tolerate or even understand diversity. But we have proved this notion wrong many times; still the media refuse to see it. Recently in Assam, we proved this notion wrong with an unprecedented electoral victory. We have proved that we not only understand but also respect diversity, that we are able to create a framework for all sections to live in peace and stability. Look at India today, we are ruling in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, and even Jammu and Kashmir; we are in alliance in Bihar. So people have seen that we have been able to manage these States well.

In the north-eastern States, did people not ask you about your views on cow vigilantes and beef-eating?

Of course, they asked us. We explained to them that in India an issue that is important in one area does not necessarily become important in another area. Why should beef-eating, which definitely is an important issue in the Gangetic plains, become as important in the north-eastern region? Our priorities are different in each State. We have to take the vibrant framework and culture of the country into account while prioritising issues.

Is Karnataka the next target? Then Kerala?

We are 100 per cent going to form the government in Karnataka. The Congress, with which we are in a direct fight there, is nowhere in the fray. Interestingly, wherever the Congress is in power, it has made our task easy because Congress governments have an unusual ability to make people disillusioned. Look at Bengaluru today. The Congress has made it a rotten city; murders take place in broad daylight; [on March 7] the Lokayukta was stabbed in his office. Violence is rampant, the Congress promotes Hindu-Muslim divide, farmers are committing suicide. There is no government in Karnataka. The State is almost at our gate now; we are looking at 150-plus seats.

As for Kerala, we are hoping to form the government there. For whatever reason, the Congress has failed to give a spirited fight to the Left parties wherever they are in power. That anti-Left ideological space has now been occupied by us, so we have a reasonable ground to hope to capture power in Kerala. When we could win Tripura despite so many contradictions, Kerala comes next automatically. In Kerala, we have been doing the groundwork for the past 10 years or so. Many of our workers have been brutally killed there. Also, the fact that we are on a winning spree will help us win Kerala, too.