Ravi Shankar Prasad, deputy leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Rajya Sabha tells Aditi Phadnis the party respects the Election Commission and will never run down institutions. Prasad also believes that in the current elections the party is doing well in areas where it had little or no presence. Edited excerpts:
What are the Bharatiya Janata Party's prospects in these elections?
I have been observing elections since 1977. The 1977 election was different: it was J P (Jayaprakash Narayan) who was the hero of that election. After that, for the first time, we are looking at a yearning for change on such a massive scale. It has to be seen to be believed.
What is important about this election is that the BJP is doing well in areas where it has little or no presence. Whether it is Assam or the north east or Andhra Pradesh or Odisha… states where we had a small presence are now becoming states where the BJP will get a good result.
Even in places where we were an established party, we had slid. Since 1998, the BJP had been managing to get 10 to 12 Lok Sabha seats and 40 to 50 Vidhan Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, but not much more.
In this election, the BJP is poised to almost sweep Uttar Pradesh and do extremely well in Bihar. There is enormous popular pull of the BJP among voters.
From being almost out of the reckoning, the BJP has managed to create a buzz around it, this much is certain. Much of this credit should go to the fact that workers are now coming out of their homes…
The credit should go to Narendra Modi. What he has done is generate hope in the country, awakened well-wishers and energised cadres. This is especially so in those segments where the BJP was not that strong. The most powerful segment the party has galvanised is the young voter.
Second, Modi's leadership has repudiated several conventional myths: that he will not attract allies. We already have 25 alliance partners…
But those 25 are one-member parties...
What about Ram Vilas Paswan? He left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) citing the 2002 riots. Today he's back in the same NDA that is being led by the same man whom he cited as the reason for his exit.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is with us in such a big way. Ramkripal Yadav, who was the secretary general of Lalu Prasad Yadav's party for 25 years, has joined us…
In all the surveys, Modi's popularity is rising. His acceptability as prime minister has touched 45 to 55 per cent. The next best, Rahul Gandhi, is around 20 per cent. This is my answer to those who had said that Modi had peaked too early: you can see for yourself if that is the case… NDA will cross 300 seats. You wait and see.
Your faith is touching, but just in case it doesn't, what is plan B?
There is no plan B and no plan C. There is only one plan: the plan for India's resurgence. The only link between good economy and good politics is good governance, and a government under the leadership of Narendra Modi will provide it. You talk of entrepreneurship, you talk of policy initiatives… under Narendra Modi we can assure you good governance and an enabling atmosphere, which will provide an opportunity for all of you to grow.
Others might not think that way. Advaniji and Joshiji for instance… Their role in the new government is not at all clear.
Advaniji is the BJP's top leader. He will decide for himself along with the Parliamentary Board, what he would like to become once we form the government.
You could have had another ally - Nitish Kumar. The BJP drove him away…
That is a long story and we will talk about it some other time. Who said what about whom is another matter. Suffice it to say that Nitish Kumar will suffer one of the biggest reverses of his political career in this election and this will be a punishment for breaking the alliance. He is now a marginal player in Bihar and the last two years of his rule are responsible for this. He threw repeated tantrums when our parties were together and we ignored them. He said Narendra Modi cannot campaign in Bihar (during the Assembly elections). Then he withdrew an invitation for lunch (in 2010 when Kumar in an interview, had declared that the NDA should announce its leader for the 2014 elections much in advance). The money collected by Gujaratis and the contribution of the Gujarat chief minister was returned by Nitish Kumar. What sort of behaviour is this? For 17 years we were together, we contested six Lok Sabha elections and five Vidhan Sabha elections. And when Modi becomes the BJP's prime ministerial candidate you break the alliance?
Kumar's move was pure minority politics, politics for vote banks and prompted by his latent desire to become the prime minister.
The BJP has now attacked the Election Commission…
The main job of the Election Commission is to hold free and fair elections and facilitate the election campaign. Rahul Gandhi can hold a roadshow in Varanasi. But Narendra Modi can't?
But Narendra Modi did hold a roadshow
No, he was not allowed to. He went by road to the party office and people joined him.
Similarly, Arvind Kejriwal has done a roadshow in Benia Bagh. Mulayam Singh Yadav can do one. But not Narendra Modi? The Election Commission even cancelled a meeting of intellectuals? The Commission is far too concerned with the kind of speeches that are being made, how quickly it can file FIRs. But why isn't it acting against booth capturing?
We are not attacking institutions. I come from Bihar where murders used to occur every polling day with monotonous regularity. But the Election Commission has put a stop to all that. We respect the Election Commission. But they must do their job well. And they must be fair and also be seen to be fair. The BJP is not a party to attack institutions. We have never done it and we will never do it.