How would you assess your previous stint as BJP president?
My work as party president is before everyone to see, and I think it is for the party to evaluate my performance. But I have no hesitation admitting that during my first tenure, it took me one-and-a-half to two years to understand the organisational affairs of states across the country. As such, it is possible that I committed some mistakes unknowingly. This time, I will not repeat them.
There is an impression that the party was hit by factionalism during the first tenure.
There was no factionalism then. Our political opponents sought to create that impression to run the BJP down. This time, I will take extra care not to give anyone any opportunity to claim there is factionalism within the party.
You have strongly objected to the home minister’s remarks about ‘Hindu terrorism’. What is your stand on what is described as ‘Islamic terrorism’?
I do not relate terror with any religion. It is improper to do that.
Going by Nitin Gadkari’s statement about income tax officials, there have been suggestions that the BJP, if it comes to power, will misuse central agencies such as the CBI and income tax department.
Gadkari has already clarified his remarks. The BJP has never misused any central agency. In fact, we believe that impartial working of any administration is a crucial element of the good governance that the BJP promises.
As a BJP president, how do you see your role in the NDA? There are demands from partners such as the JD(U) to project a prime ministerial candidate ahead of the elections.
See, the NDA is chaired by Advaniji and Sharad Yadavji is its convener. I think that it is their responsibility to expand the alliance and they, in fact, will play their role accordingly. My responsibility is to strengthen the BJP’s organisation and enhance the party’s credibility for the next election. We have to enhance our credibility to be an alternative for the electorate.
What about the PM candidate? There are strong views about Narendra Modi’s candidacy.
No one can deny that Modiji is an extremely popular leader at the national level. But it is the BJP parliamentary board that will take any decision on the issue of projecting a PM candidate.
The question of an SC/ST quota in promotion in government services has found the BJP divided, with its Lok Sabha members strongly opposed to the idea. What is you take on this?
We will strive to avoid social tension. We should work to ensure that social bitterness does not take root. We will consult everybody on this. Social harmony is crucial for the country.
You admitted that the party wanted a second term for Gadkari. Do you think he was hurt after he was made to resign?
It is true that Gadkari resigned when he was hurt that the party was being targeted. In fact, I too was hurt by his resignation.
What will your new team be like?
I will finalise the team after consultations with senior leaders. Young leaders will get their due place. The decision of 33 per cent reservation for women in organisation had been taken during my stint; I will ensure that as well. Overall, people with organisational skills will be given preference.
The government has been very critical of the BJP’s opposition to moves for economic reforms. Will the BJP support major financial bills aimed at such reforms?
We don’t want an economic reform that will derail the country’s economy itself. We don’t want to rush into a situation that takes away the nation’s ability to meet the challenges of global recession. During Vajpayeeji’s time, too, we had a global downturn in 2000-01, but he effectively shielded the national economy from that. We want an economic reform that can bridge income inequalities, that can tackle the challenge of unemployment and create job opportunities for every willing hand, that can ward off the situation of farmer suicides. Economic reforms should strengthen the Indian economy so that it does not need foreign assistance to ward off challenges. Economic reforms in India should leverage the extensive human resources and natural resources to make India an economic superpower.
Are you opposed to FDI?
We welcome FDI in many sectors such as infrastructure and others. But in the multibrand retail trade sector, it will be counterproductive.
What is the BJP’s stand on reforms in the pension and insurance sectors?
If those reforms are in the national interest, we will support it. We’ll be open to discussion if the government comes out with some proposals. But any FDI that takes away the autonomy of the Indian economy will not be acceptable.
In your opinion, what is the way forward in relations with Pakistan?
Pakistan is our neighbour and we want good relations, but Pakistan has not been reciprocating in consonance with our sentiments. We have had a very bitter experience very recently. Pakistan must stop events like violation of ceasefire and brutalities like beheading our soldiers. Haath donon taraf se badhta hai, tabhi dosti ho sakti hai. They must address our concerns on terrorism.
What is your opinion on relations with China?
We want good relations with China, but its positions on Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir is not acceptable to us. I do not agree with its position related to the South China Sea either. China should avoid these situations. It should appreciate that good relations with its neighbours will be helpful for its own rapid economic development and tackling its domestic challenges.