'The BJP will take time to come to power in Andhra.'
Bharatiya Janata Party national Secretary in charge of Tripura and Andhra Pradesh Sunil V Deodhar was assigned to look after the last phase of polling in West Bengal during the Lok Sabha election.
A former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak, Deodhar, acknowledged as the architect of the BJP's first victory in Tripura, tells Radhika Ramaseshan, "."
The BJP has secured a comfortable second mandate. Are there areas that need correction, in the party organisation, the conduct of politics, messaging?
Definitely yes. The BJP is weak in the area known as the Coromandel east-west coast, spanning West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Odisha too.
We couldn't win the state elections, but made good inroads compared to 2014. We got more MPs and MLAs.
But in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, politics is dominated by two local parties and that's because of the Congress.
The Congress was against these two states and created a feeling of alienation among people as a north India party.
The Congress ruled Andhra for 10 years from 2004...
However, the Congress humiliated the local leadership. N T Rama Rao stormed to power (in 1983) on the swabhimaan (self-respect) slogan.
Now Andhra needs a central party, a good party. It's difficult for people to accept a new party immediately.
The BJP will take time to come to power.
When I was appointed sah-prabhari (co-minder) of Andhra, I was asked about my role. I said my first motto is to demonstrate people's no-confidence in (Nara) Chandrababu Naidu who ditched Narendra (Damodardas) Modi and brought a no-trust vote against our government. He tried to malign Modi's image through false propaganda.
In Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, every party has its own media channel, but we don't have one. We have good growth prospects.
Our aims are to occupy the Opposition space and expose Naidu's huge corruption scams.
Jagan Mohan Reddy, the current chief minister, won't be spared either, if the occasion arises.
You handled Tripura, almost single handed, then Andhra and West Bengal. Which of these was the most challenging and why?
Frankly, I was in Bengal for just a month and Andhra for eight months. I couldn't do much.
In Tripura, I had time to build the (BJP's) image, raise leadership and political agents and craft a narrative.
(Tripura Chief Minister) Biplab Kumar Deb was not on the scene. I convinced Biplab to move to Tripura, otherwise I'd have to look for leadership in other parties.
The Congress was full of failed leaders. It wasn't easy to convince our workers to accept Biplab.
Andhra's been the most challenging. I am learning Telugu because I need to occupy space in people's hearts if I have to find a leader from among people.
West Bengal is daily in the news. There's no let up in the violence between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress. With two more years to go for the assembly elections, how will you fight the Trinamool?
(BJP General Secretary in-charge of West Bengal) Kailash Vijayvargiya clearly said if this type of violence continues, we will have to use Article 356.
When a ruling party takes total control of the police and administration and police and administration behave like party workers, you can't fight them politically.
Is the Hindu-Muslim polarisation, evident in parts in the Lok Sabha polls, in the 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Jai Hanuman' narrative vs Mamata Banerjee's 'minority appeasement' an effective counter?
If you suppress something, it can't stay for long.
For nearly 30 years, since the Ramjanambhoomi andolan began, the Left Front government banned Ram Navami celebrations, despite people's love for Ram and Hanuman.
Then (in 2017), Mamata restricted Durga visarjan (immersion) because it coincided with Muhurram processions.
She wanted to attract all the Muslim votes, especially those that went to the Congress and the CPI-M, thinking if 34 per cent Muslims vote for me and some Hindus also, it will add up to 45 per cent and I can easily win elections. Bengali Hindus are not secular.
Subhas Chandra Bose and Swami Vivekananda's definitions of secularism did not mean appeasing Muslims first. If their definitions of secularism were followed, every village in Bengal would have celebrated Ram Navami long time ago.
Bengal is mostly into Kali puja....
The CPI-M didn't want Hindus to be drawn to Rama, that's why the government unofficially banned Ram Navami.
The CPI-M had no issues with Durga Puja. But four years ago, the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) started celebrating Ram Navami and there are several votaries now.
Talking of appeasement, the Modi government announced scholarships to five crore (50 million) minority students over the five years. This is laudable, but had the Congress or Mamata made a similar announcement, the BJP would have dubbed it as appeasement...
When a government takes steps to improve the quality of life of every section of society, allegations will come.
In the last five years, the sabka saath, sabka vikas slogan brought 10 per cent reservation to the savarnas (upper castes).
Some gifts by way of schemes and policies may be announced on Diwali. This was launched on Eid. People felt good.
Retrospective analyses of the Lok Sabha election attribute the BJP's victory to the Centre's micro-economic schemes.
During campaigning, Pulwama and Balakot dominated the narratives and the speeches, making people wonder what happened to vikas.
Why is the BJP shy of saying nationalism won the day for it?
Yes, had there been no Pulwama and Balakot, the margin of votes that the BJP candidates polled might not have been spectacular.
When the Pulwama terror strike happened, a strong message came from rightist intellectuals and opinion-shapers, from youth that we don't want a Ram temple or 370 abrogation. We want only revenge against Pakistan.
The Modi government passed every test it was put through. It passed the Pakistan test too.
For only one day, Rahul Gandhi said, 'We are with the government'. Then the Congress and Opposition went to the extent of alleging that the government did Pulwama.
In politics, you can't stay silent. We hit back and said the Opposition and Pakistan spoke in one voice.
Does the absence of a strong Opposition inside and outside Parliament a cause of comfort or worry to the BJP?
The BJP wants a constructive and not a destructive Opposition.
Critics should enable a government to maintain balance, introspect and correct a mistake that might be made.
It's important for the Opposition to be strongly nationalist because without nationalism, no party can survive.
Will the RSS then audit the Centre's performance?
The RSS-BJP relationship has always been misunderstood. The RSS is not meant to audit BJP's performance. It has faith in its swayamsevaks (volunteers) in every sphere.
All RSS affiliates are formed and run by swayamsevaks. The RSS has control over them and not the organisations.
If the RSS thinks there's something wrong with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, it will convey its message to the swayamsevaks there.
The swayamsevaks know the ideology, the goals and the means to reach the goals so the Sangh need not interfere.
On June 4, at a Kanpur meeting, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said although the government has enormous powers, that must not be misused.
The RSS is an organisation that worships power, 'shakti'. But we believe 'shakti' and intellect must go together.
The RSS had invited Raj Narain (the Socialist leader who defeated Indira Gandhi in 1977) to a Nagpur function. He was so excited on seeing the huge gathering that he said, 'Had I so many youths at my command, I would have set Patna on fire'.
'Shakti' is not meant to spark off fires, but for something constructive.
The sarsanghachalak (Bhagwat) did not target the Modi government. The same sort of speech is made with regard to any government, whosoever is in power, by every sarsanghachalak.