People should get Art 370 abrogation's benefits: Madhav

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav. (Reuters file photo)

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav has been associated with key decisions of the party-led government on NRC and Kashmir affairs. He was a member of the National Executive of the RSS. Yet to contest any election, Madhav has been out and out organisation man so far.
 
From RSS to BJP general secretary, Madhav is close to the core of the Sangh family and has seen from close quarters the formulation of opinion and policy of the party and the Sangh on issues like Ram Mandir, Citizenship Amendment Bill and National Register for Citizens.  Madhav is credited with BJP’s phenomenal rise in the North East after he plucked away Congress’ ace strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma from the party.
 
In a candid conversation with Anand Mishra of Deccan Herald, Madhav speaks at length on the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, BJP’s renewed Ram Mandir pitch and the recent Maharashtra blooper of the party.
 
Q) Where do you move forward from here in Jammu and Kashmir? Is there a way forward? It is more than 115 days? Are things really moving up in the Valley?
 
No in the last more than three months, things have pretty much normalised in the Kashmir valley from the civic point of view. Today the entire valley is completely free, with no restrictions or anything. And public activities are going on, institutions are open, markets are open, offices are open. You will encounter traffic jams in Srinagar today. So normal public activities, normal civic activities have stared. What needs to be kick-started now is normal political activities also.
 
In that today some 100 and odd people are in preventive detention. The rest of the leaders of all political parties are outside. There are no restrictions on them. Recently we have had local bodies’ elections. This political activity needs to be resumed. We need to proactively encourage political activities to be resumed in the valley area. Jammu has already been active. Jammu continues to be active. All parties are active, they engage in all activities.  I am sure, although winter time is slightly difficult for any activities in the valley, once this winter is over, we will be able to resume normal political activity here.
 
Q) Most of the mainstream leaders of the valley are under detention. Where is the leadership to resume political activities?. Where is the new leadership? Is any new leadership emerging at all?
 
It’s a natural process. New leadership will emerge automatically. We also want new leadership to come up. That does not mean that the old leadership will vanish or will completely become irrelevant. That is up to the people to decide. But definitely today there is a lot of scope for new leadership to emerge in the valley. Thanks to local bodes election, right from the grass-root level, some new people have come forward to take up political roles. Gradually grass-root leadership is emerging there. Now I don’t know when we talk of main leaders in jail and all that, Congress leaders, their MLAs are outside, CPI-M leaders are outside, independent political leaders are outside. They are also mainstream leaders. Our BJP leaders are also mainstream leaders. Some people's leaders have been restrained from political activities.
 
Q) It is basically about regional party leaders, leaders of the Valley based parties like NC and PDP?
 
Several have been allowed to come out. Recently, two senior leaders have also been freed from house arrest. It is a continuous process. The administration will slowly relax the restrictions.
 
Q) There has been a lot of criticism, even internationally of the communication lockdown in the Valley. How do you respond to that? Do you foresee a complete rollback of such communication lockdown in near future?
 
Obviously, this has to be lifted at some point. We have to be careful about resuming internet services. Other than that today mobile services are available, broadband network service being slowly provided to a number of customers. Only mobile internet services have been restricted. It’s a call that administrative, security agencies together will take. Let me tell you in Kashmir such blackouts happened in the past also. In the aftermath of Burhan Wani killing, for three months the internet services had to be suspended. Because of a particular political situation, terrorism situation and security situation in the valley, occasionally certain restrictions are put on internet usages. Other than that today television is available, all channels are available there, other communication channels are available, everything else is available there
 
Q) Besides the abrogation of special status, another which seems to have riled the people in the Valley is taking away the state status from Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two UTs. It has been said that the state status of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored in some time. Will this take very long?

You, see Ladakh’s demand for separate UT status has been there for very a long time. And at some point or the other, all national political parties have committed to Ladakh issue. We have finally delivered it to the people of Ladakh and they are very happy about the UT status. As far as residual Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, as per the statement of the Union Home Minister also, it is a temporary arrangement. Sooner than later, the Jammu and Kashmir region will again get the full statehood at an early opportunity. As far as people of the region are concerned, I don’t think that is on top of their minds. They also know that at some point of time, they will get the status of the full statehood. What is today uppermost in the minds of the people there is that they have seen Article 370; they have experienced Article 370-based governance for close to 70 years. They know the pitfalls of it. They know the failures of it. Today when Article 370 is not there, they want to experience the benefit of this. So that actually puts a lot of challenge on us. People should feel, enjoy the benefits of Article 370 not being there. So we are putting more emphasis on that. How to do development benefits, how to reach the last man.
  
Q) So how far you have reached on that journey. Has there been some success on that? Is that resonating there?
 
It is almost three and a half months now and the administration is working very hard to ensure that people get all the good civic benefits of the new dispensation. One thing noticeable of Jammu and Kashmir is unlike in the past, today people are not coming out in the streets, pelting stones, engaging in a pitched battle with security forces and all that. It is no longer happening even after such a big decision
 
Q) But isn’t it that due to the presence of a large number of security forces there?
 
Look I have handled the state for five years. The issue of deployment of security forces. For instance, if there is an encounter, a huge deployment used to happen here. Yet in the past people used to come out, fight pitched battle with security forces despite deployment. Now those things are not happening.
 
Q) So, you are saying there is a change in people’s behaviour. Why is it so now according to you?
 
People really want to stop and think as to whether what their leaders have been telling about Article 370 is true or what Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah telling about Article 370 now. Probably they are waiting and trying to understand which is really a marked difference that we all see in Kashmir today. Otherwise, you recall the Parliament debate on Article 370. Opposition leaders were talking about bloodbath. Not a single casualty happened in the last three and a half months. Credit goes to security forces but also credit goes to people of Kashmir valley. They have not created any situation probably where strong police action became imperative. So people in the valley definitely are thinking differently today. That is what critics should understand.

Q) Now since you have spoken of all good things happening in the Valley, do you see a glimmer of hope of normalcy in Kashmir, something positive is coming out and valley.
 
As far as our government is concerned, definitely we are very hopeful because all the predictions of Opposition and our critics have been negated by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They said alright we are ready to accept the new situation and move on and see how benefits are. So definitely there is great hope for us and our real challenge now is we have to prove that the removal of 370 is for benefit of ordinary Kashmiris.
 
Q) This is the first winter after the removal of special status. What is your hope?
  
During winter all passes close down and so infiltration level comes down at the time of winters. They start coming in after April. Summer months are the peak months of infiltration. But having said that, the terrorism challenge, the infiltration challenge has always been there, whether there was 370 or not. When 370 was existing then also we had a lot of terrorism, infiltration problems. For example last year, there were quite a number of infiltrators who had sneaked into India and a large number of them have been eliminated also by security forces. This is a challenge tackling of which, I mean, our security forces, have mastered the art of tackling the infiltration and terror. They will do their job competently and sternly.
 
Q) How do you think this decision has been received outside Kashmir? Many senior leaders of BJP have been talking about it. How do you see its resonance among people outside Kashmir?
 
It’s a matter of public knowledge that the whole country has welcomed this courageous decision of our government. Irrespective of political caste, regional affiliations, people have welcomed it because people feel that ok finally Kashmir has been fully integrated. The expectation is now it should lead to peace and development in the valley.
 
Q) Are you hopeful this will happen?
 
Of course, off course. That is our whole effort.
 
Q) How logical do you find this pitch for NRC at the national level? Do you think it is feasible or even the states want it?
 
Our first NRC was prepared in 1951. The first census in 1951 after independence was considered the first NRC. In Assam that NRC could not be completed. It was updated subsequently recently. We all know about it. In the last 70 years, we have not done any exercise to find out who are the infiltrators, who are the illegal migrants into the country.  So, the Home Ministry has decided that the 2021 census will have an additional dimension of finding out the citizenship of all the Indians so that we can identify the illegal infiltrators or migrants into India. It is definitely possible. The Home Ministry will make the necessary arrangements for conducting this NRC exercise. Home Minister announced it in Parliament that the step will be taken.
 
Q) There are questions about the cost issue. It cost big to do it in Assam alone and if we now do it in all states, costs will multiply. Is it worth it?
 
In front of questions of national security, the nation’s citizenship-related challenges, cost should not be a consideration. If such an exercise is undertaken, there will be some expenditure. In any case, we will undertake our census exercise 2021. It will be clubbed with that. So there will not be any major additional expenditure. Together with the census, this will also be done.
 
Q) When do you see the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) being passed. There has been a lot of noise around it.
 
We are hoping that in this Parliament session, the Citizenship Amendment Bill will be passed. It was to happen in the last session of the previous Parliament itself. It was passed in Lok Sabha but could not be placed before Rajya Sabha for want of time. The Bill has lapsed obviously. So the Bill be placed before both the Houses afresh. We are hoping that in this Parliament session there will be some discussion on it and if members wanted, it will be passed.
 
Q) There is a lot of apprehensions, concerns, criticism about the Bill. Do you find some basis for it? How do you address that?
 
These apprehensions and all are being deliberately created—firstly by certain political parties-opposition parties, secondly certain groups specially in some regions of the country. No genuine Indian citizen needs to be worried about either CAB or NRC. As far as CAB is concerned, India has a tradition of hosting the refugees when they come persecuted by other countries. Look at the 2000-year-long history of India. We have hosted persecuted minorities from our neighborhood. Not from the neighbourhood but even from Iran, Parsis came. The first Christians to come were as persecuted minorities only. They came to Kerala. India has always sheltered persecuted minorities. India’s partition happened on religious lines in 1947. So some minorities in erstwhile India or erstwhile Pakistan you would say, when they come to India, India is duty-bound to provide citizenship to them.
 
Q) What went wrong in Maharashtra? You chose to ally with Ajit Pawar and then he could not muster the numbers. What really happened?
 
Any question with respect to Maharashtra should start with the mandate only first. The mandate was clearly for a BJP-led alliance in which Shiv Sena was also a partner. If you look at the success rate of BJP, it was 70 percent. Shiv Sena’s success rate was less. The vote was for a BJP-led government to continue in power. Unfortunately for Shiv Sena, from the day one had tried to distort this mandate, defeat this mandate in its eagerness to have Chief Minister’s post there. We tried to respect that mandate. In the process yes, we tried to ally with NCP, which from the other side has a similar popular mandate. From Opposition, it was NCP which had the maximum number of seats. These two parties tried to come together but then NCP subsequently backed out, Ajit Pawar backed out. So there was no reason for us to continue. Because the only other way would have been to split other parties, engage in horse-trading. So we decided to allow the other formation to form the government, although it’s completely against Maharashtra. The new alliance that is forming the government is like three failed students coming together and saying that we have more marks than the first-class student. Having said it, it is a democracy. It is a game of numbers. In that, they had succeeded in stitching an alliance. Let us hope they succeed in delivering justice to people
  
Q) Do you think somewhere, BJP overestimated Ajit Pawar or Ajit Pawar failed because of some reason other than what is visible?
 
No, it is for Ajit Pawar to tell the people, not the BJP because he was the leader of the NCP legislative party. He came to the BJP telling that our party is ready to support you. He was the one who went back subsequently. So the somersault was NCP’s and Ajit Pawar. As far as BJP is concerned, when they came forward we accepted and went ahead with the formation of the government.
 
Q) Ram Temple is back in election discourse. During an election rally in Jharkhand Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh raised Ram Temple issue. Earlier when the SC judgment came, people were asked to exercise caution, not to go in celebratory mode and not to treat the verdict as victory or defeat of someone. Why this change now before elections?
 
You see as a matter of fact reference to Ram Temple always happens during campaigning. Even when there was no judgment, our commitment to Ram temple is reiterated in election campaigning. That BJP is committed to building a magnificent Ram temple at Ayodhya is a stated position. It’s not that we are talking about it for the first time in Jharkhand.
  
Q) But the accusation that Congress was putting a stumbling block in the resolution of the issue, the judgment. Why this now?
  
Earlier Congress used to take a different stand. Today they have also changed their position after the judgment. They say now that they are also with the judgment, it’s a different issue. our leaders sometime raise it not an electoral matter but as a reiteration of our commitment to the issue. That’s it.
 
Q) Jharkhand will be the third BJP-ruled state to go to polls this year after 2019 Lok Sabha verdict and results of assembly polls in two other BJP-ruled states--Maharashtra and Haryana, BJP could not repeat is past performance there. What is your expectation in Jharkhand and then in Delhi, which goes to polls in early next year?
  
In Jharkhand, we have run our government for five years, a good government, a development-focused government. Based on the performance in the last five years, we are quite hopeful that the government will be returned by people to power.  Delhi is still several months away. Our effort will be to defeat AAP here and try and capture Delhi also.

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