Pankaj Singh, general secretary, Uttar Pradesh BJP talks about dynasty politics, his political ambitions and the prospects of BJP in the upcoming UP assembly elections
The political career of home minister Rajnath Singh’s elder son, Pankaj Singh, has not been free of controversies. It is alleged that his father’s influence has helped him rise through the ranks of BJP. In conversation with Governance Now, Singh talks about dynasty politics, his political ambitions and the prospects of BJP in the upcoming UP assembly elections.
It is said that results of the 2017 UP assembly elections will have a huge impact on the 2019 general elections. How is BJP preparing to take up this challenge?
The assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh definitely have a significant impact on national politics. The BJP is ready for the 2017 UP elections. After seeing the energy and enthusiasm in the party workers and the people for BJP, I can assure you that we will win more than 300 assembly seats in the state. We will be in the majority.
Will infighting in the ruling Samajwadi Party boost the prospects of BJP?
Owing to the misrule of Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, there is no doubt about the presence of an anti-incumbency factor against their government. And, we will benefit from it. However, we are not relying on just the anti-incumbency votes. The schemes that our government at the centre has initiated for the people will definitely have a positive effect on our prospects in Uttar Pradesh polls. Our government at the centre has done a lot for the youth and the farmers. People will definitely take these factors into account and favour us.
Being a general secretary of the party for two consecutive terms now, how important is your role in the upcoming assembly elections? In case BJP forms the government in the state, would you like to be a part of the government?
I see myself as a small-time party worker. I am not into politics because of big ambitions but for social service. However, in future what responsibilities and duties the party wants us to shoulder depends on the senior party workers.
In 2014, the Modi wave got your party a historic 71 Lok Sabha seats from UP. Is that wave still visible in the state?
Definitely. The wave that we saw for Narendra Modi in 2014 is still intact, be it across the country or in particular in Uttar Pradesh. There has been no decline in the trust that the people had in the leadership of Narendra Modi and his government.
Projecting a face helped the party in Assam polls. Will there be a face in UP as well or will you be the only major party to jump in the fray without a CM candidate?
We have a long list of hard-working, progressive and influential leaders. There is no dearth of leadership. At the right time, the central leadership will come up with the right strategy for these elections.
Dynasty politics has been one of the major issues on which the BJP has always been attacking Congress. Your father is part of the party’s central leadership. Many have seen his hand behind your rise in the party. How is your case different from that of Nehru-Gandhis, Scindias, Deoras, and Pilots?
I am against dynasty politics in a democracy. But in particular I am against a dynasty politics in which the son or daughter of a politician graduates from school and enters parliament. In BJP, whoever comes into politics first works as a common party worker and then the party gives them some responsibility. As far as I am concerned, I remained a common party worker for a very long time even when my father was the chief minister [of UP from 2000-02]. My first responsibility was as a member of the working committee of Pradesh Yuva Morcha. Then I served as the secretary and later as general secretary. I have never contested an election till date. When the leadership offered me a party ticket to contest the election, I humbly requested them to let me work for eight-nine years more because it could have adversely affected the morale of other party workers who were my contemporaries. First, I want to work with the party workers for the well-being of farmers, labourers and the youth. Later in future, if party gives me some responsibility, I will accept it.
Keshav Prasad Maurya was appointed the UP BJP president to woo OBC voters. The union cabinet reshuffle was done keeping in mind the caste equation at play in UP. What is the agenda of BJP for UP polls – caste or development?
Belief in ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ has been the mainstay of our prime minister since the beginning. The BJP never gets involved in politics of caste and religion. Saying that Keshav Prasad Maurya has been made the president of UP BJP because of his caste is not right. He has been involved in politics for long now. His leadership has enthused all party workers.
It has been alleged that the Modi government publicised the surgical strikes in Pakistan keeping in mind the upcoming assembly elections in major states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Instead of politicising the issue, the army should be praised and commended. When it is about national interest and the army, everyone should rise above party politics. It is unfortunate that while our army destroyed the enemy, people are asking for its proof. It’s not just me as a political leader, even the people will not appreciate it. Releasing or not releasing the footage of the surgical strikes is a matter of national security; the government will decide whatever is best for the country. After America killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, our people often wondered why we can’t go in Pakistan and kill terrorists. Now that our government has done the same, the government and the army deserve praise for showing such strength and valour. This should not be seen in connection with the Uttar Pradesh elections.
What would you say about allegations against BJP that the party is trying to communally polarise Uttar Pradesh in a bid to consolidate Hindu votes?
Those who make such allegations are into cheap politics.
Leaders like Vinay Katiyar and Yogi Adityanath often make controversial remarks which are not in line with the progressive and development-oriented image that the new leaders like you want to portray. Doesn’t this expose inner contradictions within the party?
There is no contradiction. Within the BJP, our beliefs and ideology are very clear to us. Nothing comes before the country. There are political parties and affiliated people for whom terrorism is an issue of vote bank while nationalism is rubbish. Our people, who talk about our culture and heritage, are labelled as communal.
As a young politician, what is your opinion of the young chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, who has been coping with the infighting within the party, and allegations of lawlessness and misgovernance?
Uttar Pradesh gave an opportunity to a young leader. Had he been willing, he could have rid the UP politics of casteism, religion and lawlessness. Akhilesh accepted in public that the infighting within the party was not family-related but government-related. This is an issue of concern. People want good governance, transparency and honesty which Akhilesh’s leadership has been unable to deliver. Removing a corruption-tainted minister and then reinstating him within 15 days is indicative of the loot that is going on under this government. I would like to add, ‘Khanjar badle, kaatil badle, lekin Uttar Pradesh ke haalat nahi badle.’