Lahar Singh Siroya: ‘What should we do when Muslim leaders do not want to join us?’

A substantial portion of the beneficiaries of schemes launched by Modi are poor Muslims, asserts the Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka.

Published : May 24, 2024 16:38 IST - 9 MINS READ

Lahar Singh Siroya, BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka

Lahar Singh Siroya, BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka | Photo Credit: Rabi Debnath

Lahar Singh Siroya, a Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka (BJP), has been a two-term MLC. Originally from Rajasthan, Siroya came to Bengaluru 50 years ago and as he says, “the State [Karnataka] embraced him.” Known for his forthright views, Siroya’s comments have sometimes been at odds even with his colleagues in the BJP. He has been a loyal member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP for more than five decades and has often been described as the State BJP unit’s Hindi conduit to the Central leadership. He is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Excerpts from an interview:

The Rajya Sabha MP discusses the BJP’s chances of electoral success, his alleged closeness to the PM, the RSS’ influence over the ruling party, and more. | Video Credit: Interview: Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed; editing: Samson Ronald K.; camera: Rabi Debnath; supervising producer: Jinoy Jose P.

Several political analysts have stated that the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will find it tough to regain their supreme position in 2019 when the BJP won 303 seats and, along with the NDA, won 353 seats. Do you agree with this assessment that the BJP/ NDA will not be able to repeat this feat?

Before replying to your question, I want to make it clear that I am not close to the Central leadership of the BJP or even to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I am a party worker and an MP which is why I meet him sometimes but there should not be any misunderstanding that I am in any way close to him.

Coming to your question, let me assure you that the BJP will win more than 330 seats. Members of the media have witnessed my accurate estimation of the seats that various parties won in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections last year. I had predicted that the BJP would win less than 80 seats and I had even informed the party high command about this. I had also predicted that the Congress would win more than 125 seats. So, I base my statements on reality. I have friends in different States and I am certain that the BJP will win at least 330 seats and the actual number will be much higher than this and surprise everyone on June 4.

Also Read | Karnataka: Congress still hunting for a compelling strategy

Five phases of the election are done now. According to you, the electorate would vote for the BJP because of the work done during the tenure of the Modi government. Before the campaigning began, Modi was focussing on vikas (development), labharatis (beneficiaries) and national security. Why did Modi shift his campaign to uttering Islamophobic statements?

You have asked two questions: first, why is there no discussion on the theme of development? We always wanted to discuss this issue but the Congress did not allow the Parliament to function over the past five years and they lost the opportunity to highlight the flaws of the policies of the ruling government. The Congress did not allow a fruitful debate to take place. Rahul Gandhi did not want senior leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to participate in the debates. Three leaders have been given prominence in the Congress to checkmate Kharge; Jairam Ramesh, K.C. Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjewala. Their agenda is to ensure that no Congress leader appears better than Rahul Gandhi who does not have the capacity to debate. So who should we debate with? We cannot debate with Yogendra Yadav, can we? Jairam Ramesh only tweets, where does he debate? 

That is why the discussion gets trivialised by focussing on people like Adani and Ambani. Adani is being welcomed with a red carpet by the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka and if the Karnataka government is welcoming Adani, I don’t know, maybe tempos full of cash must have gone there [to the Congress party]. 

Coming to your question about Modi’s Islamophobic statements, you have not understood Modi. From day one, Modi’s slogan has been Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and a substantial portion of the beneficiaries of various schemes launched by him are poor Muslims but the Congress and other opposition parties do not acknowledge this as they have stayed relevant because of votes from Muslims. Support from this vote [Muslim vote] also led to the division of the country and the Congress has only used Muslims as a vote bank for 60 years. Modi does not want this and he is clear that he wants to work for the poor. Many schemes launched in the MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector have benefited Muslims. If I talk about myself personally, I have many Muslim friends and have lived in a Muslim-majority area. My observation is that the ordinary Muslim is a hardworking and creative person. Rather than encouraging Muslims to take advantage of the schemes in the MSME sector, the opposition provokes Muslims to focus on what Modi has said…

According to you, Modi has done a lot of work for the Muslims and is not communal. Then, why does the BJP not provide tickets for Muslims to contest in Parliamentary and State Assembly elections?

This question should be posed to the Congress and not to the BJP because our Muslim brothers do not come along with us so whom should we give tickets to? When Mumtaz Ali Khan joined us [in Karnataka in 2008], we made him an MLC and a Minister. What should we do when Muslim leaders do not want to join us? Why don’t you ask the Congress why it doesn’t give greater representation to Muslims. There was a time when two Muslim MPs used to be elected from Karnataka but what is the situation now. Rather than ensuring that Muslims were citizens of the country, Congress bestowed them with a tag of a ‘religious minority’ and kept them separate. By privileging Muslims, they have treated them in a stepmotherly kind of way and Modi wants to end this discriminatory treatment of Muslims.

The Congress is to blame as it provokes Muslims and creates a sense of fear in the community. This leads to inciteful comments made by Muslim leaders setting off a reactionary chain naturally.

Also Read | North Karnataka: BJP, Congress in direct fight for 14 Lok Sabha seats

In an interview, BJP president J.P. Nadda said, “In the beginning, we would have been less capable, smaller and needed the RSS. Today, we have grown and we are capable. The BJP runs itself.” This statement has led to a lot of speculation that there is a rift between the RSS and the BJP.

I [meaning the RSS] have ensured that my business [politics] has prospered and now my grandson has developed this further. So, I’m assured that my grandson [the BJP] is doing a good job and I have taken a step back. The RSS formed the BJP in a certain political context because of a few issues such as Kashmir.

You are talking about Jan Sangh.

Yes, I am talking about the Jan Sangh. The Jan Sangh was formed because of the then-government’s policy on Kashmir, and the RSS sent its cadre for that cause. These people were responsible for the formation of the BJP (Jan Sangh) but the RSS has always aspired to not get involved in politics directly. The sarsanghchalaks (heads of the RSS) in the past such as Balasaheb Deoras and K.S. Sudarshan had always intended that the BJP would become independent so that the RSS could focus on its distinct work. Modi’s ascendance, the way in which he is running the country and the party, has assured the RSS that he is providing a direction for the implementation of the ideology [of Hindutva]. This, as per inside information from the RSS, means that the RSS feels that they should not interfere in the party’s daily affairs. Now the BJP is a large party with 10 crore members and the RSS also feels that everything is proceeding smoothly so why should we interfere?

The BJP has become a large party, but how has this happened? It has become a joke now that the BJP’s “washing machine” absolves corrupt politicians who join the party. For example, Ajit Pawar in Maharashtra and Janardhan Reddy of the infamous mining scandal in Karnataka have both joined the BJP.

If someone has the most powerful washing machine, it is the Congress where even Shiv Sena underwent a cleansing. If a Congress man views old videos of Arvind Kejriwal, he will die of shame. Congress raised the issue of the liquor scam first, we [the BJP] were unaware of it. When the Enforcement Directorate (ED) began its inquiry, Congress was in the favour of the investigation. The Congress has a hypocritical attitude because it ensured that Kejriwal went to jail and now is trying to get Kejriwal released.

“If someone has the most powerful washing machine, it is the Congress where even Shiv Sena underwent a cleansing. If a Congress man views old videos of Arvind Kejriwal, he will die of shame. ”

You are talking about the double standards of the Congress but not talking about the BJP.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the individuals that you mentioned but when it comes to the case of Janardhan Reddy, it wasn’t a question of ideology. He has been part of many RSS functions along with his brother Karunakar Reddy. Ideology is separate from the charges of corruption levelled against him which will be investigated. We will not help him in any of these accusations. I also want to assure you of one more thing: In the next five years Modi is going to commence a war against corruption on the same lines as his commitment to [the abrogation of] Article 370, the Ram Mandir and CAA [Citizenship (Amendment) Act]. No one who is corrupt, across party lines, will be safe. Some alliances were made because of political necessities.

There are two allegations made against the BJP by the opposition; first that the Constitution is under threat and second, that reservation is under threat. What do you say about this?

On the question of reservation, the BJP is committed to reservation for the backward castes and the poor. When we come to reservation for the poor, Muslims will get the greatest benefit but we are against religion-based reservation. We need to devise a policy of reservation that will be acceptable to all. There will be reservation for backward castes but I don’t think anyone is in favour of providing reservation on the basis of religious identity. Modi will not allow this to happen and there is also no provision for this in Ambedkar’s Constitution.

I have started a small campaign to meet at least 1000 families among religious minorities [mainly Muslim] to understand their sentiments and communicate Modi’s message to them. Modi considers the entire nation to be his family and Muslims are also part of this family. They should have faith in Modi.

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