'I don't think the Bharatiya Janata Party can claim any USP which was it is a party with a difference.'
Dr Jay Narayan Vyas, was once a confidant of Narendra Damodardas Modi, defending the then chief minister on television debates after the Gujarat riots. Vyas quit the Bharatiya Janata Party last week after serving as its loyal soldier for 30 long years.
At 75, the civil engineer from IIT-Bombay, who won the assembly election from Sidhpur in Patan district four times out of the seven he contested from the traditional Congress bastion, feels the BJP no longer remains a party with a difference.
"My being in the BJP put my (constituency) people at a disadvantage because of the high-handedness of these leaders. I told myself that if I cannot work for the people of my constituency, then all the trouble I was taking (by being in the BJP) was not worth the effort," Dr Vyas tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.
We have spoken to you twice; in 2012 during the election campaign in Sidhpur at your office and after the 2017 Gujarat assembly election over the phone.
Despite two successive defeats you remained a loyal BJP worker. Why did you quit the party in 2022 just ahead of the assembly election in December?
Let me put things in correct perspective for your readers.
Till 2002, I had won four elections (as a BJP candidate from Sidhpur). I lost the 2002 election (which was conducted against the backdrop of the Godhra train carnage and the Gujarat riots that followed; the BJP won 127 seats, its biggest victory since 1995).
I won the 2007 election and became the health minister (in then Gujarat chief minister Modi's cabinet).
I lost the following two elections in 2012 and 2017. So, out of seven assembly elections that I contested from Sidhpur, I won four and lost three. In the four terms that I won, I was made the cabinet minister thrice.
Now, you are asking me why I left the BJP?
Yes, because you have always been a loyal soldier of the party and that's not just you saying so, but many in the Gujarat BJP have said so on several occasions...
I have no quarrels with the basics (ideology) of the BJP. But then take a look at the present cabinet (of Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel); half of the ministers are migrants from the Congress.
Large numbers of Congress MLAs (who happen to be ministers in the present Gujarat government) have defected from the Congress to the BJP.
In this scenario, I don't think that the Bharatiya Janata Party can claim any USP which was it is a party with a difference.
Today, it is just a different party; that's all. It is now one of the many different parties we have in India.
After I lost the two successive elections I continued to remain loyal to the party; I didn't ask for any sinecures or side assignments like chairmanship of some boards (that come with the privileges of a minister).
Mr Modi wanted me to go as chairman of the North Eastern Development Council, which, for my own personal reasons, I did not agree with.
I never ever asked my party for tickets (in any of the seven assembly elections that I contested); they gave me the tickets and I contested with all my strength and loyalty.
Now, I thought for what shall I take all the trouble? This (Sidhpur) has always been a straight Congress constituency; I won this constituency for the BJP four times; won all local municipal organisations like the Nagarpalika (municipal corporation), taluka, and panchayat elections.
I joined politics for serving people. If it is not happening now... if you constructed hospitals, if you have constructed buildings for Ayurveda colleges and because of vendetta (against me) chief ministers like Anandiben Patel, (former deputy chief minister when Vijay Rupani was the CM) Nitin Patel, shifted the machines (the medical infrastructure) from there (Sidhpur hospitals).
In fact, my being in the BJP put my (constituency) people at a disadvantage because of the high-handedness of these leaders.
I told myself that if I cannot work for the people of my constituency, then all the trouble I was taking (by being in the BJP) was not worth the effort.
More importantly, this is not the party that I joined.
If you want to serve the people, then wouldn't it make sense to serve them by being a member of the ruling party? How do you plan to serve the people of Sidhpur and Gujarat now?
I have been serving the people of Sidhpur without being any office bearer (of the the BJP). So, I have credibility; I am a known face and I have a good rapport with the administrative machinery. I know administration.
We have formed a small organisation called Sabras (meaning salt) which works for getting pension for widows, helps people get ration cards, where we are also doing water harvesting, tree plantations, afforestation, and whatever social work that helps for people's welfare.
I also assist people avail proper medical treatment.
Do you have plans for contesting the 2022 assembly election as an Independent or as part of either the Aam Aadmi Party or Congress?
I shall... I shall... I shall...
I would prefer a credible party, but right now I don't have any idea (about which party I will be contesting from). Contesting as an Independent in the present-day situation would be like committing harakiri.
So, you would be contesting from either the Congress or AAP?
That's right. People would know about it in two-three days.