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'There's no BJP anymore. It is now the Narendra Modi Janata Party'

Last updated on: June 02, 2016 09:56 IST

'People will realise sooner or later that there are no jobs, inflation is unchecked and loads of corruption charges are coming from various states which the government is totally brazen about.'

Narendra Modi

Priyanka Chaturvedi had no political connections or ambitions when she joined the Congress party in 2010.

"My family believed in the Congress' political ideology, but we were never into politics," says Chaturvedi, a spokesperson for the party, below, left.

"I believe in the Congress ideology because it is more inclusive in its thought. It wants to take everyone along. It is not about my way or the highway," the mother of two tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ days after she took on Human Resources and Development Minister Smriti Irani on Twitter.

After the Congress debacle in the assembly elections, why do you feel there is still hope for the party? Don't you think a Congress-mukt Bharat is for real now?

'Congress-mukt Bharat' is a hyped-up slogan.

We must remember in a democracy people look for change. They gave us mandates to govern for two terms for which we are grateful.

They have given the BJP a five-year term, but that does not mean the Congress is not the second option. It continues to be the main Opposition party.

Let us not forget that the BJP was given the mandate earlier too and was voted out after a single term because they did not live up to the expectations of the people.

Considering the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised a lot and not been able to live up to expectations, we are confident that we will be able to change the narrative in the coming days with our own vision plan and will be voted back to power.

Priyanka ChaturvediBut your party has lost so many state elections. There are only a handful of states (Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand and Karnataka) where the Congress is in power.
Don't you think a Congress-mukt Bharat is becoming a reality?

Let us understand the states where we lost. Assam gave us three terms. Any political party in the world, not just in India, would find it difficult to get a fourth term. We were hoping that we would change that trend, but it was not to be.

If you look at other states like West Bengal, we have become the main Opposition party. In Tamil Nadu, we have seen better results.

In Kerala it has been a revolving door for the last 45 years with the ruling party voted out. In Kerala we did a lot of good work. Lots of social welfare indicators were positive. We had created a lot of jobs in Kerala. Unfortunately we lost, but our vote share has not come down.

If you look at Bihar we have done very well. In the past 22 years we were not able to do well and now we have done well. There is a revival in various states.

Earlier we were concentrating more centrally, now we are concentrating on every state and every election and ensuring that the state leaderships are empowered to take their own decisions and make changes to be able to turn into a winning team.

But the Congress does not have strong state leaders.

That is a criticism that has come our way. We would say this was one challenge after losing the 2014 elections. This was one of our losing factors as well.

You must have seen that we have brought in younger leaders and changed PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) presidents. They are setting up their teams and (have their) own way of working.

Total independence has been given to them. They have been given positions of authority to ensure that they bring about the change that they seek in their own states.

What about Rahul Gandhi? There's widespread criticism that he is not an asset to the Congress party.

This is again a perception that the BJP want to create in the minds of the people.

As far as our party is concerned we are very clear where we are heading and under whose leadership we are heading. There is no challenge to that and no controversy surrounding that.

The BJP can push that narrative, but that is not likely to turn true.

With people lampooning Rahul Gandhi, don't you feel it is a setback to the party?

Absolutely not. There are challenges facing our party. During our tenure maybe we did not concentrate enough on rebuilding the party and rebuilding the leadership by creating a second rung of leadership. Maybe we were busy concentrating on providing better governance.

We are not a party which pushes one face or works around one person. We work as a team.

Unfortunately, the BJP has become a one-man show. It has become the Narendra Modi Janata Party. There is no BJP anymore where teamwork is in evidence.

We work as a collective leadership, and responsibility is also collective. We ensure that every state leadership also has a say in the decision-making process.

Despite being responsible for running the country, Modi is totally disregarding his position to ensure that his party continues to keep winning.

You need to realise when you are in power it's because of the people of this country. You have responsibility towards the country and not your political party.

But Modi is still very popular. A recent survey stated that if elections are held today, he will win again.

You need to know how surveys work. If you see the vote share of the BJP, 31 percent of the people voted for them in 2014.

Now if you have a survey which keeps in mind urban centres and takes about 2,000 people's opinion, it does not become the voice of the nation.

If we really want to understand where Modi stands, we need to speak to that 69 percent who did not vote for Modi.

The Congress has bought out a booklet Do Saal Desh Ka Burra Haal. It highlights the failures of the Modi government in the last two years but there seems to be some kind of disconnect between the masses and the Congress party.
You are not able to convince voters that things are not going right under Modi.

There are a couple of things. First is that people have voted for Modi with the hope that he will be able to live up to the promises regarding inflation, black money, corruption etc. Maybe they could have looked at other options. As far as the book is concerned, it gives you facts on how the economy is progressing.

Let us take, for instance, creating jobs. Modi promised two crore (20 million) jobs annually and that means four crore (40 million) jobs in two years of his rule. The fact is that only 1.3 lakh (130,000) jobs have been created.

With regards to Skill India, MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) asked for Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion) and the government is giving a budget of Rs 1,300 crore (Rs 13 billion) to work around.

We will have more unemployed youth in future than employed ones.

Let us talk about Make in India, our manufacturing growth is at one per cent, so what are we talking about?

This book comes out with the reality that exists on the ground and the myth creating and public relations driven narrative that is far different from the reality on the ground.

People are realising that. People understand that the promises have not been lived up to. Murmurs have begun within two years of the Modi government.

Modi is talking about another 15 years to live up to these promises. People will realise sooner or later that there are no jobs, inflation is going on unchecked and loads of corruption charges are coming from various states which the government is totally brazen about. It would also impact his electoral prospects in the future.

Monday: Priyanka Chaturvedi on her skirmish with Smriti Irani...

Syed Firdaus Ashraf