Bishnoi joined the BJP this week and stated that politics is about perception, and right now, the view is that Congress cannot compete with the BJP.
Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of former Haryana Prime Minister Bhajan Lal, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Prime Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday, before going to the residence of party chief J.P. Nadda, for a cup of tea and sandwiches Interestingly, BJP leaders believe Bishnoi will be more electorally useful in Rajasthan than in his home state, Haryana. In an exclusive interview with news18.com, Bishnoi opens up about Rahul Gandhi, his reasons for leaving Congress and joining the BJP, as well as his plans for the future. Edited excerpts:
What prompted you to join the BJP?
I was influenced by the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since I had been a member of Congress my whole life, I wanted to give myself another chance to be the leader of Congress and I wanted to make things right with Rahul Gandhi. It is no longer the Congress of Indira and Sonia Gandhi. They kept repeating the mistakes, and this despite my warning them about the wrong group of people around them. I kept telling them that wrong decisions are causing Congress to lose elections. The second reason for joining the BJP was that I was in awe of Modiji’s policies and saw where India stands today globally. I have friends all over the world. Out of three, two of my children are studying abroad and they all praise the BJP.
Now if I talk about the state leadership, I met with Prime Minister Manohar Lal Khattar about the work in my constituency. The tasks would have hurt the BJP electorally, but he agreed. He said that those jobs were for the people of Haryana and therefore the approval. I was very impressed. And during all this, I had some fights with the Congress leaders and this made my decision to join the BJP more firm.
Former congressional leaders have said they did not get appointments from the Gandhi and were not listened to. Did you face the same?
This is absolutely true. Jyotiraditya, RPN Singh and others left the Congress because of this. I had openly said in the media that if Rahul Gandhi does not meet with me, I will not give them my vote in the Rajya Sabha polls. I have my identity and my vote bank. I am responsible to them. I still waited and yet no one approached me despite my influence in Rajasthan and Haryana. I am the patron of All India Bishnoi Mahasabha, which represents 90 percent of the Bishnoi vote. If you don’t stop those people from leaving Congress, that amounts to arrogance or a thought process that is destroying Congress.
What do you think of the anti-inflation protests by congressional leaders, including Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi? They say that there is no longer any democracy in the country.
Such protests have also occurred in the Congress regime and they also undertook the same measures to contain the protests. There were lathi charges, Arun Jaitley was jailed. I think they could do a peaceful protest instead of ripping the clothes off their parliamentarians.
Do you think inflation was the real reason Congress organized this protest?
I do not believe this. The Directorate of Execution is the reason they took to the streets. I think when ED called Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in for questioning, they thought people were going to crowd the streets. But none of that happened. Only officials and a few ticket applicants came out to protest. But this would have damaged the cause and to gain sympathy from the people, they called it a protest against inflation.
What does it contribute electorally to the BJP Haryana?
My family has a legacy. I have led my party for eight years and have visited each village at least 2-3 times. In Haryana, the polarization between Jat and non-Jat is a problem. And if the non-Jats would accept me as their leader, I would be honored. If I had been in Congress, the non-Jat votes would have been split, but now that I have joined the BJP, the Congress does not have a non-Jat leader. While the BJP will win as non-Jat votes consolidate. I also have Jat vow bank in areas like Bhiwani, Karnal etc. We are the only family in the world that has fought from every corner of the state, be it Faridabad-UP border, Bhiwani-Rajasthan border, Kalka-Himachal Pradesh border, Tohana-Punjab border or Karnal which is in the middle from Haryana. I am an extremely hardworking man. There are 78 percent non-Jat voters. We have significant Bishnois in Rajasthan: 37 assemblies and 7 Lok Sabha constituencies.
You talked about family. You have a brother in Congress who also has political ambitions for his son as you do for yours. Do you think the family can see a break in this regard or is your brother too inclined towards the BJP?
My brother has decided to stay in Congress. My son returns from Harvard in three months. He is the most educated politician in India. My son will be a great asset to the BJP. Our family is close and we have strong ties. No one will compete with each other.
Is JJP acceptable to you as an ally?
Anyone who is acceptable to BJP will be acceptable to me.
There is an idea that because he has cases against him regarding income, his switch to BJP was done to prevent any action.
If that’s the case, then I should have made the switch three years ago when my places were searched. We have an LOC (surveillance circular) and it has not yet been withdrawn even though the investigations have been cleared up. I joined BJP because I got the party sensors; my friends and family pressured me to help the BJP. I will win the case legally. I will never ask anyone to help me.
How will the AAP fare because Congress has weakened in the state?
When AAP won Punjab, many from the BJP, Congress and other regional parties gravitated towards it. But now after witnessing what kind of administration they give and how CM (Bhagwant) Mann is remotely controlled by Delhi through (Raghav) Chadha, people got disillusioned. AAP has nothing to contribute. Arvind Kejriwal has done nothing for Haryana despite claiming that he belongs to the state. SYL (Satluj Yamuna Link) is a sensitive issue for both states and Kejriwal in Punjab said that he will not give the state a drop of water. May cause damage in some areas bordering Delhi and Punjab.
You were supposed to join BJP months ago. What was the delay?
I had been in Congress all my life. Even when we formed the Congress (Bhajan Lal), we maintained that it was the original Congress. I made an ideological shift. I had to rethink it several times. Rahul promised me the position of head of state, but that didn’t happen. I told him that if you send me to war, you must give me ammunition. I always maintained that I was not greedy. I want to establish myself as an asset to the BJP now.
What is the problem with Congress today?
People have no faith in leadership. Me, Jyoti, RPN and Sachin (pilot) were all Team Rahul. He was not by his team. Sachin should have had the CM job and made Gehlot CM. In MP, he didn’t give Jyotiraditya what he deserved and named Kamal Nath CM. Jitin Prasada should have been appointed UP head of state, the position was given to someone else and the same thing happened to me in Haryana. We were demoralized. Rahul couldn’t support his people. I think he is ‘kaan ka kachcha’ (gullible) and he could not make decisions like Indira Gandhi. A leader gives strength to his people. Those on the grassroots who can hold rallies and get support were left out.
Politics is about perception, and today it is the perception that Congress cannot stand up to the BJP. And the Congress is Rahul and Rahul is the Congress. He should have changed his ways and he is not about to. Congress has no future courtesy of its advisers. You have been repeatedly losing and yet you do not understand.
Social networks are crucial. Voters would want to know if their leader knows her name or not. I try to collect names before I go to town. My son has made an application where I have a database of my people. Furthermore, BJP has also changed. It has turned congressional leaders into ministers and CMs. BJP knew that I could harm them if Congress gave me any power, so they came to me and took me in.
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