June 10, 2016 4:57:35 am
Vijay Rupani, cabinet minister for transport, water supply, labour and employment was picked by BJP to head its Gujarat unit at a time when the party was tackling the Patidar quota agitation. With the 2017 Assembly elections not too far, he says he got into poll mode from Day One.
What have been your initial priorities after taking over as BJP chief?
It has been four months since I took charge and have been doing organisational work (while also shouldering responsibility of a minister). We started with farmers’ meetings for Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna.
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So, BJP had to go to the farmers for the first time?
We had to take the new scheme to the people. So far, all insurance schemes were only protecting the interests of banks and insurance companies. First time, farmers’ interests were protected… It was not about ‘we had to go the people’. We went to talk about a new thing and the response was really good. On April 6, we did Bharat Mata Gaurav Kooch at 18 places. The issue was of the JNU row and the entire programme focused on Bharat Mata ki jai . It was a wonderful event. Almost 1. 75 lakh workers were mobilised.
Then, we did Gram Uday Thi Bharat Uday from April 14 (Ambedkar Jayanti) to April 25, and held Samajik Samrasta Sammellans. At each event, 15,000-20,000 people, mostly Dalits, were mobilised. During Samrasta Sammellans, we spoke about and discussed Ambedkar’s messages. We also captured the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation and won Talala byelection.
You have proved lucky for BJP ?
(Laughs). no but we are working hard. and now we are doing Vikas Parv celebrations at 12 places.
Do you think the Patidar quota issue is settled now?
Yes, that’s the reason we gave the 10 per cent EWS (economically weaker section) quota. The whole thing is diluted now. It was all provoked by Congress. The cases have been withdrawn, they are out of jail.
But Hardik continues to be in jail. E pan thayi jashey. (That too will be sorted out)
But, the fact remains that the Patidar agitation happened in Gujarat where BJP has been ruling for two decades almost backed by this community. Doesn’t that speak of problems?
There were some grievances. A number of issues were at play. It was a year of poor monsoon. Cotton prices fell. There were issues of crop insurance. These all came out (in the agitation). We have tried to address all of them. There was grievance among youth due to quota in admissions. The EWS quota will take care of that.
How does the government hope to handle the 10 per cent quota which has been challenged in the High Court?
See, the 50 per cent limit for quota set by the Supreme Court applies only to caste-based reservation. This (EWS quota) is based on economic parameters. Our interpretation is that the 50 per cent cap is for caste-based reservation. We are hopeful that the court will look at it that way. Since the EWS is not based on caste, people from all communities will benefit. Through this reservation, we propose to upgrade middle class and lower middle class.
The media has hyped AAP. It will make no impact. It is all media hype. You talk about AAP, but look at its state president Kanubhai Kalsariya! He left us and fought from his constituency. But look at the margin by which he lost. What can he do for the state?
What if Kejriwal steps in?
(Nods) … nothing.nothing will happen . In Gujarat only a dual party system has worked and its people always reject a third player.
There are reports of the state government curbing powers of district panchayats over undertaking developmental projects because Congress won a number of panchayats last year.
There is no substance in these reports. The state govenment is not considering any proposal of such kind.
There have been BJP state presidents before, but they were hardly seen or heard like you are.
It is a matter of their personality.I like to meet people, be in touch with the media. The fact that I was spokesperson of the party is also a reason.
Do you have complete autonomy in the decisions you take? Or do you have to consult party leaders in Delhi?
Hundred per cent autonomy. but of course, there is a process of decision making. For example, if there is a decision about an MLA, everyone has to be taken into confidence. If the matter concerns a corporator, that might not be required. However, we have seniors in the party and major decisions are always taken in consultation with them.
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