Here are the excerpts:
Mr. Yadav, you are a Minister serving in the government, writing a book on the party can be a fraught experience. Why the enterprise? Dr. Patnaik, you have been a student of JNU and this government has had a combative relationship with that university. How would you reconcile this writing partnership?
Bhupender Yadav: I have worked in the party at various levels for a long time, travelled extensively for organisational work, worked as a ground-level karyakarta and I now have been privileged to serve as a Union Minister. I have seen the BJP’s evolution and growth. Along the way, I had the opportunity to work closely with some of the biggest party leaders. Since the Jana Sangh days, a lot of canards and misconceptions were spread about our ideology, our worldview, our leaders and their outlook. Many people who have only seen the party from outside have written about it. I, therefore, felt that an insider’s view needs to go out. It was challenging to cover the full story within the scope of a book. But it was something that had to be done — the rise of a non-dynastic party, the commitment to an ideology, the relentless work to ensure Antyoday.
Ila Patnaik: JNU that taught me to be curious, to analyse and to try to understand the world. Partnering with Bhupenderji, someone from inside the BJP, to go to primary source material and to study the views of different academics, politicians of all hues and journalists for the research for this book is very much in spirit of the search for knowledge and understanding that I learnt at JNU.
The book glosses over some tricky phases for the party — from the “Jinnah is secular controversy” to the fact that LK Advani did not make it to the Goa council of the party which anointed Prime Minister Modi as campaign committee chief. Being currently in the party perhaps makes it difficult to write critically?
Bhupender Yadav: My aim in writing the book was not to provide the reader some corridor gossip. My task is to explain the BJP’s rise, explain how the BJP thrived when most other parties formed around varying ideologies disintegrated or turned into family enterprises.
We, like any other party, have had differences of opinion. We, unlike other parties, encourage having a rainbow of thoughts and opinions. Our commitment to the ideology is above all else and that is why you would see senior BJP leaders work out solutions and arrive at consensus on the most tricky questions. A lot of people have written about some instances based on ‘he said, she said’. The Rise of The BJP is not based on hearsay. It is the true account of what happened. As I said, it’s a journey of several decades packed into a book.
Your description of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls of 2017 lays emphasis on how support from OBCs in the State has made a difference. With the recent exit of OBC leaders, how do you think this will affect the party’s prospects?
Bhupender Yadav: For the BJP, there is only one mantra — Sabka Saath, SabkaVikas, Sabka Vishwas. The leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a new chapter in India’s electoral politics. He has been a great unifier. The BJP is running a development-oriented government. We believe in cultural nationalism. When you work for all sections, you don’t have to appease any section. The people know it. When elections approach many people tend to look for individual gains. Some leave when denied tickets. All communities, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, religion will vote for Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh who is wonderfully giving shape to PM Modi’s vision for India.
It has been said the BJP’s movement from being a cadre-based outfit to a mass-based one has left behind one of its key support bases, the middle class, who find themselves out in the cold as far as government schemes etc are concerned. Is the BJP moving on, a la Congress from a largely urban party to a rural one?
Bhupender Yadav: We believe in the growth of India. Rural India cannot progress at the cost of urban India. Urban India can’t progress without rural India. The BJP is the world’s largest political party and we have members from all sections, classes, geographical regions, genders. We are working for our farmers. We remain committed to doubling farmers’ income. The government is spending on roads, ports, pipelines to generate jobs and sustain the growth momentum. I recently released the report on the second round (July–September 2021) of Quarterly Employment Survey (QES). Employment is showing an increasing trend and the estimated total employment in the nine selected sectors from the second round of QES stands at 3.1 crore. We are not leaving behind anyone. We are only adding more and more people to India’s growth story.
In the parts of the book on liberalisation there is due credit given to P.V. Narasimha Rao but not Dr. Manmohan Singh. Why is that?
Ila Patnaik: Dr. Singh is a good economist and I greatly respect him. The credit for government policies, good or bad, finally go to the political leadership that must back the policies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) as a monument to the failure of the UPA government. How do you square that with the enhanced allocations to the scheme under this government?
Ila Patnaik: The UPA government started a very large number of welfare schemes where monitoring was poor and where the scheme once started would continue forever despite failing to have an impact. Evaluation and monitoring of centrally sponsored schemes was lacking and the Planning Commission would seek more funds for schemes year after year despite no evaluation. PM Modi’s government focussed on hugely improving governance in government schemes. Direct Benefit Transfers through the infrastructure of Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile numbers has reduced leakages and rent seeking by middlemen. As we discuss in the book, this improved governance helped the BJP become more popular.
What is your view on demonetisation? Do you think it has been successful in achieving its aims?
Ila Patnaik: Demonetisation succeeded in reducing black money for some time. Reducing and rationalising tax rates and simplifying the tax system could have made this effect longer lasting. Demonetisation succeeded in increasing the infrastructure for digital payments, which proved to be useful later in the pandemic. The impact on GDP was short lived and not permanent as I had feared at the time.