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'Farmers can no more be hoodwinked'

By Sanjay Jog
April 06, 2015 09:24 IST
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A farmerThe Bharatiya Janata Party is gearing up to counter opposition to the land acquisition Bill by reaching out to the people in a big way and cultivating a pro-poor image.

BJP’s vice-President and director of Public Policy and Research Centre Vinay Sahasrabuddhe explains the party’s strategy to Business Standard.

Edited excerpts:

The BJP has been targeted on the land acquisition Bill by the opposition for being pro-rich. How does the party plan to counter it?

In a way, it’s a part of our renewed efforts.

Having gathered the feedback of state governments -- many of them ruled by the Congress -- we hoped the Congress and other opposition parties will see reason and support the new Bill, which was based on views of their chief ministers, too.

But unfortunately, they embarked on the same old politics of poverty.

They painted the new Bill dark and created a huge misconception.

To undo the impact of this misinformation campaign, we have to take special efforts.

The question is more that of perception, which is wantonly created by anti-BJP forces and a section of the media. 

Despite the amendments to the land Bill and the issuance of new ordinance, the opposition is stepping up its agitation against the government. How will you change the perception that this government is anti-farmer?

We only have to reach out to the people and spread the right and factual information. We’re reaching out in a massive way and making people aware.

We’re making people ask questions.

Where was the socio-economic impact assessment when land was given on a platter to Robert Vadra or when coal blocks were allotted to crony corporates for a toss.

Where was the consent clause then?

If the Congress is so concerned about the farmers, why did it take so many decades to provide pension to the farmers?

It was our government that enhanced the social security net phenomenally.

The Congress proposes to launch a rally against the land acquisition Bill saying it will not compromise. What is your comment?

We offer our best wishes.

They will soon realise that farmers are not in a mood to go with them.

Farmers can no more be hoodwinked.

They know who have given them pension or schemes such as soil health card.

Is the party’s make-over plan with an eye on the Assembly polls coming up in various states?

What make over?

Organisationally, we are in a healthy state of affairs.

We have won several Assembly elections back-to-back and we’re all set to win Bihar, too.

Wherever people are fed up with only two available alternatives -- Assam, Tamil Nadu,  Kerala and Bengal -- the BJP is making strong inroads as it is seen as the third and the most credible of the available alternatives.

Hence, we have every hope in the ensuing polls.

Through our successful membership campaign, we’ve converted our voter base into some kind of an organisational base.

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe Finance minister Arun Jaitely said the government would implement reforms keeping the poor at the centre stage. Does it mean decisions barring a few like Jan-Dhan failed to consolidate the party's pro-poor image?

That is an absolutely wrong interpretation.

When in power, the party works as a bridge between the people and the government. Besides, at the implementation level, sensitivity towards the needs of the weaker sections is extremely important and that is what we will be ensuring.

We care for both Jan-Dhan and Jan-Man.

The Opposition also claims acche din (good days) have so far remained on paper as inflation, slow pace of industrial growth, etc, continue to be a matter of concern. How will this be changed?

Who says acche din has not been achieved?

They are there and one needs to look at the changes objectively and on the backdrop of what was the situation just 10 months ago.

People were fed up with indecision, leadership crisis and mis-governance.

Now, every citizen is aware and convinced there is someone sitting in Delhi who cares from them. During the past 10 months, the government has succeeded in deleting the word ‘corruption’ from the political dictionary of the country.

While introducing auctioning of minerals, coal and spectrum as well, we’ve added crores of rupees to the government coffers that were looted by the earlier rulers in broad daylight.

Could the Opposition get even a single chance to stall Parliament on the issue of corruption?

We have given Rs 1.88 lakh crore (Rs 1.88 trillion) more to the states compared to last year. From Jan-Dhan to pension and insurance, what proof of acche din does one want?

Can you please provide further details with regard to the party's Antyodaya hamara sankalp (our pledge is to reach the last man) slogan?

Antyodaya has always remained high on the BJP’s agenda.

Literally speaking, it means taking care of the most disadvantaged section on priority basis.

This was propounded by both Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.

In so far as translating this in governance is concerned, in the late 1970s, when we had our Bhaironsingh Shekhawat ministry in Rajasthan, he had first conceived and implemented Antyodaya programme at village level. Now, we are looking at it as more of a social extension or outreach programme.

On the agenda are four things -- eradicating manual scavenging; eradicating female foeticide; promoting clean Ganga; and Swachh Bharat (clean India).

Party leadership expects cadres to engage in these activities in a more pro-active manner.

This reflects the realisation on the part of the party that the days of routine, traditional politics -- which is considered worn out and jaded - are over and people expect politics to break new grounds leading to a greater and real-time value addition through the process. Politics being seen as synonymous with one-upmanship, crafty and cunning ways of dealing, treachery, leg pulling is something that does not gel with the aspirations the modern society.

Our party leadership is deeply conscious of this change. 

Have objectionable statements by ministers and some party leaders damaged the BJP's image, especially the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s growth agenda? Will the party take stern action if ministers and leaders continue to make communal and castiest comments?

The party is seized of the matter and our leadership has taken appropriate view of these members of Parliament.

They will do whatever is needed sooner than later.

Images: (Top) A farmer; Photograph: Reuters. (Bottom) Vinay Sahasrabuddhe; Photograph: Rediff Archives

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Sanjay Jog in Mumbai
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