Govardhan Zadaphia, MahaGujarat Janta Party chief and former home minister in the Narendra Modi government, tells Gyan Varma the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh unit in Gujarat does not want to help Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming Assembly elections
Recently, your former colleague and close friend from Gujarat, Sanjay Joshi, was unceremoniously removed from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) because he doesn’t get along with Chief Minister Narendra Modi. How do you view Modi’s growing influence in the BJP?
What Modi has done with Joshi is not new for the BJP — both at the national and the state levels. This kind of arm-twisting has been going on for a long time. It started with Haren Pandya (former state home minister) when he was denied an election ticket by Modi. He (Modi) should have been stopped then, but the central leadership of the party has always bowed down before Modi.
Now, in Joshi’s case, a fake CD — showing him in poor light — was distributed in 2005. The state government was involved in the distribution of this CD and investigations have linked it to the Chief Minister’s Office. Once the CD came out, Joshi was removed as the general secretary (organisation) at the national-level party; he was brought back and asked to work in Uttar Pradesh, but now he has been relieved of that duty, as well.
The way the central leadership has been bowing down before Modi, it seems the person has become bigger than the party. Today, it is Joshi facing problems because of Modi. The next target could be anyone.
For the first time in Gujarat, ‘get well soon’ cards, posters and pamphlets are being used to campaign against Modi — in support of Joshi. Will this strategy work? Some believe you and your friend Keshubhai Patel are behind this. Your comment.
We have nothing to do with the BJP, as far as my party and I am concerned. We have started a new party and we do not use such tricks. I have always worked at the grassroot level and I continue to do so.
The BJP won 117 seats in 1995 Assembly elections, 121 in 1998, 126 in 2002 and 117 in 2007. When the party is getting nearly two-thirds majority in the last four elections, why is Modi so important for the party in Gujarat?
In 1995, when the BJP won and Keshubhai became the chief minister, there was no communal rift in the state, and the party did well. There was an all-round bonhomie in Gujarat.
Soon after, Shankersinh Vaghela divided the party and the government collapsed. The good work done by Keshubhai was appreciated by the people. So, in 1998, we got two-thirds majority again, though Modi was not present in the state. The two general secretaries were Joshi and I. Similarly, in 1995, during the municipal and the Zila Parishad elections, the BJP won all the 18 districts under the leadership of Patel. Even after 10 years of Modi’s rule in the state, he has not been able to match the election results that Keshubhai had achieved.
Since Keshubhai, former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta and you have joined hands against Modi, the BJP’s central leadership is not even ready to discuss issues with Keshubhai. How will you dent the Gujarat chief minister in the election?
The MahaGujarat Janta Party (MJP) has completed four years. During this stint, we have managed to form our base in every district of the state. As far as the old leadership of the BJP is concerned, Keshubhai, Kashiram Rana, A K Patel and Mehta are with us. They take part in our public meetings. Keshubhai had met senior leaders of the central leadership and that was his last effort. If the central leadership fails to act against Modi again, all these senior leaders will take a decision. In the coming days, the MJP will become the larger third front in Gujarat. The decision will be taken by these senior leaders, and I am only visualising it.
The BJP is closely watching the developments. The day a decision is taken, we expect one-third of the BJP will automatically join hands with us. There are many members of Legislative Assembly, members of Parliament and other senior ministers in touch with us. They are all waiting.
The BJP leaders believe they would be able to convince Keshubhai to not target Modi. But, going by the past instances, Keshubhai might not be ready to go beyond a point against him. How will this alliance stand? Are you in touch with senior BJP leaders like L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj?
Keshubhai is in touch with them. He is in New Delhi to speak with them. He has told the central leadership that if they did not improve things in the party, he would not remain quiet.
Are you in touch with the Congress leaders in Gujarat? Can we expect a tie-up between the Congress and the MJP in the state?
We will not tie up with anyone in the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat. Ideologically, we are neither with the BJP nor the Congress. Our party belongs to the farmers, the poor and the common people of the state. We will not have a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress or the BJP. But, after the elections, any party who agrees to work for the farmers and solve their problems, we would support it. I am not in touch with the Congress leadership because the party has miserably failed as an Opposition in the last 10 years. Even though we are not in touch with it, the two parties believe to overthrow the incumbent government.
Would Joshi be called to Gujarat to support Keshubhai and the MJP? Have you invited him to the state, as he is no longer a part of the BJP?
Joshi will definitely come to Gujarat, but that decision will be taken by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He is a pracharak of the organisation, but even Joshi cannot take this decision. If he comes to Gujarat, we will welcome him. But we don’t want to be responsible for ruining his career. If he wants to change his party, our doors are always open for him.
Just as many senior leaders of the BJP are upset with Modi, a section of leaders of the RSS dislikes his functioning. Have you spoken to the RSS about it?
I am in touch with everyone in the RSS, including the sarsanghchalak and the common workers of the party in Gujarat. I regularly go to the party’s office and attend the shakhas. As far as the RSS unit in Gujarat is concerned, it does not want to help the BJP in the state. The RSS school of thought is upset with the BJP government because temples were destroyed, cows slaughtered and agricultural land taken over.