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Siddaramaiah Trying to Create Artificial Divide Between North and South, Says BJP's Ram Madhav

The BJP has been trying hard to expand their footprint in South India. CNN-News18's Marya Shakil talks to the man tasked with that objective by the BJP, Ram Madhav, who talks about the accusations that the Centre was financial discriminating against south India is favour of north India, the issue of special status for Andhra Pradesh, the Lingayat question in Karnataka and much more.

Marya Shakil | CNN-News18maryashakil

Updated:March 28, 2018, 11:59 PM IST
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The BJP has been trying hard to expand their footprint in South India. CNN-News18's Marya Shakil talks to the man tasked with that objective, Ram Madhav, who talks about the accusations that the Centre was financially discriminating against southern states in favour of the northern ones, the issue of special status for Andhra Pradesh, the Lingayat question in Karnataka and much more.

You had a meeting with Financial Commission chairman NK Singh. Is BJP worried that an anti-south party tag is hurting it?

My meeting with chairman of 15th financial commission was about new terms of reference, handed down to commission by President of India. We had talked about the issue that 2011 census is going to be basis for population growth, we had reservations about that, because we thought it will do injustice to progressive states. Progressive states, not just in south India, in other parts as well. Don’t want to take their names for political reasons, but I know for sure that taking the 2011 census as basis for 15th Finance Commission will cause some difficulty to some states that have focused so much in the sphere of population regulation in the last 30 years. Earlier the 1971 census was used so we basically wanted to know is now what is the reality from him (NK Singh). What we are reading in papers is true or not. He reassured us that planning commission wouldn’t do any injustice to our state and progressive states will get their share.

How are you looking at statement of Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, who has accused the Centre of discriminating against states?

This is all politics over whatever is available to them. The 15th Finance Commission will start its work later this year, maybe next month. It will not submit work to this government but next one which will come to power in 2019. This mean Siddaramaiah thinks that in 2019 also, there will be a BJP government, which it will be. But our larger issue is that all states should get justice.

What about this argument that balance of fiscal power is shifting to northern states that are less productive, while southern states contribute much more?

This is all fear politicking... trying to divide country. Right now you’re going geographically where you are trying to create artificial divide between south & north when it doesn’t exist. As I said, progressive states are there in all parts of country, I’m not demeaning other states. They have all achieved certain benchmarks. People like Siddaramaiah, for their sheer political ends, are trying to create artificial divide between north & south. It doesn’t exist.

CM of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, has supported Siddaramaiah. He has asked all CMs of 5 south states to come together and unite.

Birds of same feather, they will do this. These parties trying to create a rift between states and states, which is not good for us.

Has the BJP been caught off guard on question of minority status to Lingayats? Now that seer of influential muth has said that he is supporting Siddaramaiah rather than supporting BJP president Amit Shah who has been in Karnataka trying to unite various muths.

Our party president has made it clear that his visit was to seek blessings of Lingayat leadership, it wasn’t political visit. Whether to use such issues for political ends. Now whether or not to use such issues for political ends is for parties to use their wisdom. Although state government enjoys certain powers, for a particular community to be declared minority, should it be used as a political weapon, is something that the parties have to choose, I don’t want to say anything beyond that.

The BJP is projecting Congress as anti-Hindu party calling the Lingayat religious campaign as a divisive one. Do you think it will earn dividends post May 15th?

Congress party is trying to project this. They first said they are being accused of being anti-Hindu, we did not. Now they are trying very hard to prove the point. This temple hopping that’s going on is their own over-zealousness to prove themselves as pro-Hindu. As far as we are concerned, Congress has history of communalising politics, of playing appeasement politics, polarised politics, this is what we have always highlighted and will continue to highlight this character of the Congress party.

But seers of these Maths are saying that such a move by Siddaramaiah would act as a unifier of Lingayats…

A critical question to be looked at is something that is purely religious, if what Lingayat leaders are saying is true, should we really use it as a political weapon in elections? That’s an important question.

But hasn’t BJP done that in the past?

No, never for electoral purposes. We never tried to divide Hindus. Rather, we tried to create oneness, so our doing such things question doesn’t arise. We have always held that we don’t believe in appeasement politics, I’m only talking of politicising issue. If a community wants certain favours, certain status, such things have happened in the past also. Even respected organisations like Ramakrishna Mission wanted minority status in West Bengal. Those things have happened in past also, but you can’t blame BJP for playing appeasement politics.

It is being said that Siddaramaiah playing by BJP's electoral playbook, he's pre-empting every electoral move of BJP, be it on question of Kannada pride, sub-nationalist identity, on the question of Hindi language…

Siddaramaiah trying to play utterly divisive politics. By invoking north-south divide, by invoking anti-BJP sentiments, he is trying to use issues as emotive issues to garner votes. He is seeing defeat staring him in their face, which is why he's resorting to these techniques.

What about Rahul Gandhi's charge that JD (S) is the B-team of BJP?

People will laugh at it. They have seen (Congress) government with JD (S) in Karnataka, they cannot blame BJP for using JD (S) as b-team. As far as we are concerned, we are confident that we will get required numbers in Karnataka.

Now that the question of minority status to Lingayats is pending with Centre, because notification has to be moved and approved by it. What is the government's stand?

I don’t know, this decision taken by the cabinet and government, let’s wait.

In Karnataka, Telugu people have started a campaign, they are saying BJP has betrayed people of Andhra Pradesh, they have betrayed on Andhra Pradesh reorganisation. Given that they are a substantial number in close to 20 constituencies, do you think it’ll hurt BJP?

Let’s not come to conclusion that everyone in Andhra Pradesh is TDP supporter. It’s not that way, and this entire propaganda of the TDP that BJP is hurting interests of Andhra people is not bought by people of Andhra Pradesh either. People of Andhra Pradesh are getting up and questioning TDP corruption and many more things. So, to conclude (that) all of Andhra Pradesh (is) behind Telugu Desam, and then to conclude that everyone outside Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka (is) supporting them is an exaggeration. We have strong leadership in Telugu speaking areas of Karnataka also, remember they are all voters of Karnataka state. For them, Karnataka's interest (is) paramount and they believe in BJP as the real party to secure interests of (the) state.

Is BJP worried?

Not at all, every election a challenge, we take every election very seriously. The issues, if they impact any section of voters like you are saying that sentiment in Andhra Pradesh will impact, then we take note of it and address it.

The Centre says they have fulfilled their promises. Why is it that neither the YSR Congress nor the TDP believes you?

These two parties are politicising the whole issue, the debate should have been centred on developmental issues. They have moved away from development to utter, sheer politics now, it's the politicization of a development discourse. For us, the state of Andhra Pradesh, a new state, it needed a lot of support from the centre. The Government of India has extended a lot of support in the last four years. Our party president has sent a detailed note in the form of a letter to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. We have given so much, Naidu can say anything but facts cannot be denied. The letter is full of facts and figures and that cannot be denied. On the contrary, the propaganda the TDP is unleashing is full of lies.

Of the 19 demands in the AP Reorganization act, one example is that of the railway zone in Vizag which has been denied by the Centre…

When did we deny it? You show me one statement when we have denied it. These 19 demands were to be fulfilled in 10 years, there is a timespan for that. We have not denied the railway zone, we have not denied anything except the tag of special category state or 'special status' after the promulgation of 14th Finance Commission. The implementation of those recommendations, it has become untenable for us to extend this tag to any state except the north-eastern states. That is the only thing we said we cannot probably do and mind you, that is not part of the document of the new state creation.

All other things, we are committed to fulfilling them. There are so many things that were supposed to (be) completed in 10 years, we have completed in 3 years. Those which have not been completed in 4 years, they are taking that up and they are not talking about that also, they are just talking about the tag of the special category.

Our point is, as far as those 19 issues are concerned, it is a development debate. You can argue with us, you can fight with us. But they are only fighting on an emotive issue which is special category status that means that they are misleading people of Andhra Pradesh. It's not the status, it's development which is needed. It’s not sentiment that is needed.

We are committed to the development of Andhra Pradesh as much as Naidu or Jaganmohan Reddy put together.

Coming to the special package, TDP is saying that you will give something that will (be) equivalent to a special status, but no guidelines have been fixed till now

Not true. So many rounds of discussions have happened. Since I was not part of those discussions, I am not privy to what went on. But our leaders have told us that in all these meeting(s) there were so many occasions where the AP government has agreed to take a certain package from the state and then backed off, as late as of February this year. They were supposed to come up with a new financial vehicle to take money from the centre, we are ready with Rs 9,300 crores of development money and they had agreed to take it. The only question was under which instrument they will take it, finally, they backed out.

On Rs 2500 crores for development of Amravati, the Naidu government is saying that they have submitted utilisation certificates, Rs 1500 crore was for the development of capital, and Rs 1000 crores was used for the building of secretariat and roads leading to it…

Fair enough, they will get all the additional money from the centre. The money that was given, that was spent, they will even get more money, they have got much more money. They are only talking about Rs 2500 crores, they have gotten many more things in those 4 years under the 14th Finance Commission. They got 42 percent of the share, from 32 to 43 percent they got a huge rise in their share of central revenues.

There is a specific charge against you, that you are trying to weaken regional parties. The reason why Naidu is making this move is because you are pitting him against YSR Congress and also encouraging Pawan Kalyan in this process…

First of all TDP and YSR Congress are 2 big parties, they are opposition to each other. We don’t have to pit them against each other, they are already against each other. They fought against each other in the last elections. They are two big parties, who are we to pit them against each other? So this whole 'rona dhona' is uncalled for.

Is the BJP in touch with Jaganmohan Reddy?

Absolutely not. These are the lies that TDP is propagating, that is the whole crux of the issue. They face a real challenge from the regional party, so in order to get out of that they are inventing issues and using lies to blame the Centre.

But are you not worried that perhaps K Chandrashekar Rao and Naidu could come together and this entire perception of BJP being anti-south could gain momentum because Naidu has also said that you are collecting funds from southern states and moving it towards the north?

A. Shows the level of maturity of the leaders who are making those arguments. If we go that by argument than many more such arguments will follow, someone in Rayalaseema stood up and said that in Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema is being subjected to great injustice, and Naidu was very unhappy that someone is raising the issue of Rayalaseema now. If you start dividing the country, there is no end to it. We are committed to extending our full support to Andhra Pradesh. As far as politics is concerned, Naidu was with us till one month ago, he left us before also. Now he wants to have another tent, let him go to that front. He is free, this is a democracy.

is there any possibility of Naidu returning?

I don't know. You should ask him, not me.

There are talks of a federal front again, as we see before every election...

As I said before, first of all, Mamata Banerjee was here. She was talking about the third front, we want to know what is the second front in this country. If there is already a third front, already there is a fourth front. Lunch diplomacy in Calcutta, dinner diplomacy in Delhi. We are not worried.

That means for 2019, it is BJP vs all, Modi vs all?

That’s a very good point you're making. It shows that the opposition, no single party today is confident enough to take on BJP, that much is clear. So holy, unholy alliances, efforts will go on. Let them try because we are here to tackle any sort of challenge. In 2019, we are going to go back to the people with Modiji as our leader and five years of our governance and its achievements. With that we're going to the people.

But one partnership has actually worked in UP, BSP and SP coming together. Are you not worried?

No, not at all. So many elections have happened in this very year, we have won handsomely in a number of states, end of last year we won in Himachal, Gujarat. This year, we had three governments, we have dethroned Congress in one state. One or two by-elections, they are a wakeup call for us, we will definitely try and understand what went wrong but to say that there is demoralization. etc., it is farfetched.

In the North East, do you see the BJP’s growth there as an organic growth? The view is this that the north-eastern states invariably ally with the Centre...

Then tell me why there was a Communist government when there was a Congress government in the Centre? Take the case of Tripura, why there was an NPF government in Nagaland when there was a Congress government in Delhi. These are arguments of losers, they want to hide their defeat in the last elections, hide their failures. They say that just because BJP is in power in Delhi, they are allying with them. BJP has done a lot of hard work on the ground, its base has expanded in the north-east. I attribute special importance to two victories, one is in Tripura and the other in Nagaland. A state of more than 95 percent Christian population today has the deputy CM from BJP, 12 MLAs in the 60 member legislature are from BJP with 16 percent vote share. Similarly is Tripura, which came from Communist parties’ stranglehold to the BJP with two third majority.

In Nagaland and Meghalaya, there have been protests in the assemblies against Hindi. Are you not somewhere moving away from the cultural diversity that India stands for?

First of all, there is no Hindi push. People are free to use their mother tongue, whatever language they are used to, they are free to use that. There is no push from our side. But remember Hindi is one of the important national languages of this country, our official language. So, if a particular person uses Hindi, it shouldn't be seen as somebody is imposing it on them. Where is the question of any imposition?

Regarding Jammu and Kashmir, since you are in charge of the state as well, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, said in the Lok Sabha that the government of India has no proposal of scrapping Article 370. Isn't this completely different from the stand of the BJP?

Parliament questions are specific to that time. There was a question whether there was any move to scrap Article 370 before the government today, he said no, there is no such move. That does not represent any ideological position, just the position and the activity of the government on the given day. That is the reply he had to give. As far as the ideological position is concerned, in our agenda of alliance in Kashmir, we said PDP and BJP have two different positions on Article 370. These are ideological positions, but for them to materialise there needs to be a conducive atmosphere in the parliament. It is utterly wrong to interpret that our ideological position has diluted or we have shifted from that position. But as a government, what is the present status that we have to tell the country through the parliament.

Let me (be) specific this time and go back to the question that I asked before, is BJP an anti-south party?

Absolutely not, we were in power in Karnataka. We have been partners in the Andhra Pradesh government till 15 days ago, and we are trying to expand our footprints in the other two states also. To say that we are anti any region is an utter falsehood. South is very important for us, very dear to us.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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