New Delhi: Murli Manohar Joshi, one of the senior-most leaders of BJP, a patriarch, someone who broke the news in 2013 that PM Modi will be the face of campaign in 2014, spoke exclusively to NewsX.
NewsX: Before we discuss larger and more important issues, what is your primary impression of the Modi government’s first 2 years in power?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well I must confess that these first 2 years have been spent mostly in removing the debris which the past government left, both in the economic field, in infrastructure, in policy. There was almost policy paralysis and the sagging economy. The administrative chaos has been found in the bureaucracy too; having absolutely no idea, no vision. It was the time we devoted to clean all these things and set the parameters of the administration, reviving the economy. As you know now that in the last quarter the economy has grown by 7.9%, industrial production is also now picking up. I will say that some green shoots are now appearing with better hope. So this was a time, in which I will call the building up of the economy, building up the infrastructure, building up the administration and bringing transparency to all these things.
Inviting more foreign investment, creating a business-friendly environment so all these things have taken 2 years of time. Now the real construction which will help the country march towards becoming a real global player will begin. So I consider it as a good investment of time, energy and policies to create a very strong base for a powerful country, and I hope that the people have started recognising this and the country will pick up in all the dimensions.
NewsX: How would you rate the PM’s leadership?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well I can see that the PM's leadership was visible on the day when he took his oath. For the first time people were happy. Some of them were astonished that how can this happen; that all the members of the community, the PMs, the presidents, they were all present on the occasion of oath-taking of the PM. So all this shows from day one that the PM had the capacity to lead, to invite people, to share with them and to give them directions, and I do believe that this created an atmosphere of hope and confidence in the PM.
Thereafter, his visits to foreign countries and the visits of the foreign leaders to India, this all shows that the PM has the capacity to play a real, not only regional but also an international game. He has participated in many international conferences, the recent one in which you saw the 51-point programme was announced. I think that went unnoticed by the media and other people, but that was something I must say was a very positive contribution of the leadership of the PM to give a 51-point programme of not only administration but public behaviour, public lives and improvement in social conditions. It is something that shows that he can provide a leadership. His acceptance of this international day of yoga, which is something I think has never happened before, and now it has become viral almost all over the world. So you can see now that there are certain very important gains in the field of foreign relationships — relationship with Bangladesh, very positive and important relationship, very important in sense of India's security. Then this Chabahar deal; I think this is a master stroke because neither Pakistan nor China can create any mischief even if they want to in the Indian Ocean.
Then this agreement gives us an alternative path for our energy and other trading things. We can have direct access to Afghanistan and then to central Asia. The Look East policy; so we are going right up to Vietnam, Malaysia; down south Sri Lanka. All this shows the imagination and the capacity of the PM to have a niche in the international leadership.
NewsX: One senior former BJP voice or a former BJP ministerial voice Arun Shourie had said that one of the problems with India’s foreign policy initiatives that have been taken throughout the years is that there is very little follow up. Do you think he is right when he says this or do you think that this government has shown itself to be slightly more punctilious with follow-up, etc that they are taking it to the next level?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well, firstly I may, in foreign policy results are not achieved in a day, it is a long journey. Because we have to build confidence, you have to create conditions; but given the conditions, and in certain cases which are important for the country's security, I think the government has followed. But, if you say on the international level for every agreement which has been made, for every conference in which we have played some game, have the results come? No. The results will come at an appropriate time; for example, we tried for our NSG membership. Now we feel that except China the atmosphere is for us, and a time may come when we become the member of NSG. But if one says that we have agreement with America and these countries, they will support us to be the member of NSG, we will defiantly become a member of NSG, that I think is too much because it takes time, because there are several obstacles in a traditional field. But compared to the earlier government, what I can say is that in building bridges with their immediate neighbours, the government has been pro-active.
NewsX: You singled out the PM's leadership as being dynamic. The BJP before 2014 elections had commented at what they describe was a leadership vacuum; has that vacuum now been filled?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well you see in a big country like India the vacuum of leadership depends upon the time-frame and the follow up of the domestic areas. A leader hero is an international hero, so if his leadership is accepted like that in the domestic area then this leadership vacuum is filled up.
NewsX: Has it been accepted in your views?
Murli Manohar Joshi: To a large part yes, to a smaller part no, because there will always be an opposition to this. But the opposition should not be opposition just for the sake of being opposition. If it is merely for the sake of opposition, then the leadership vacuum is filled without any difficulties
NewsX: So you are talking about opposition from within or from outside?
Murli Manohar Joshi: There is no opposition from within; it is the opposition from the other parties.
NewsX: Under the leadership of PM Modi the party has emerged as a pan-national entity; would you agree with this?
Murli Manohar Joshi: It is pan-national now; from Kanyakumari to Kashmir from Gujarat to Arunachal, the party has it's space now. It's for the first time that we are in all states both within the domestic field and also in the non-legislative field and also in the legislative field. So there may be small things like there is no legislature in Tamil Nadu, but there has been an increase of votes. So we have made space in almost all states and the victory in Assam also proves that all the communal plank has also been defeated because in most of the Muslim constituencies BJP has won.
NewsX: Is that the sense of satisfaction with which you recently wrote to PM Modi and Amit Shah after the results?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well I must say it was a historic victory; it has never happened. I think we within the party also were not thinking of such a huge victory; we thought for 50-55 maybe 60 those who were being very optimistic; but normally within the party it was like that. However, outside the party it was, it will be a hung assembly; but then more than 80, that I think perhaps Mr Shah might not have expected.
NewsX: Who must be credited for this success? Does Mr. Modi deserve the lion’s share for credit of this?
Murli Manohar Joshi: In election results there are three components, one is leadership and the other is infrastructure of the core party workers and the third is the electorate. So it is again if you will see there may be a leader but there is no infrastructure then we find no result in Tamil Nadu; party infrastructure is missing. Here the party infrastructure was there, the electorate was anxious to defeat Mr. Tarun Gogoi and remove him from the office and the leadership was there. So it is the combination which has made this a historic success; but leadership is one more important component, the organisation or infrastructure of the party is another component.
NewsX: Mr Modi deserves a lion’s share of credit for building up all of these?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Of course, because people had confidence in Mr Modi and that was reflected in the electorate.
NewsX: Your colleague and fellow ‘margdarshak’ LK Advani has credited the success to Mr. Modi's honesty; do you second this?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well I think Mr Modi's case, until now in these two years, there has not been a single dot, not only on him but also on the entire cabinet. This has been one of the achievements of this government. For continuous two years there has not been any dot on the party and then there is consistent attempt to bring transparency.
NewsX: Well the opposition says there have been scandals, corruption scandals in Madhya Pradesh, Vyyapam case; in Maharashtra there have been leaders involved in corruption; in Rajasthan in Chhattisgarh; but these have gone unnoticed by the party. Do you believe the party could have taken more decisive actions?
Murli Manohar Joshi: No the question is in all these cases, if I remember correctly, the judicial process has been set off. So let us wait for the result of that if any person or any member is found guilty. Well certainly he must be sacked; action must be taken; the correctives have to be taken where ever it is necessary; where ever there is urgency to be noted we do it. We remove people from the party; sack them from their organisational responsibilities.
NewsX: Has that happened to your belief? Often enough we have had leaders of the BJP recently, making all sorts of comments, which were not desirous in the democracy.
Well I must say I have always had one view that those who occupy the constitutional positions or important political positions or even with social status should always keep restrain on what they are speaking and what they should speak. In a democracy the criticism is most welcome but the language, the tenor also has to be under control.
NewsX: Well the reason I was pressing you on the PM's leadership and who should actually be taking credit, is because Mr Joshi you along with some other senior leaders of the party after the Bihar debacle had come out and said that that party was being forced to cow down to a handful. Do you believe that your letters and appeals changed things?
Murli Manohar Joshi: I will say that after the defeat in Bihar and Delhi the part did make some certain changes, and those changes have taken serious actions in these 5 states. The result these 5 states saw is because of the internal action the party has taken and the performance in all these 5 parties shows that the party has taken a serious note and when we find the party has done good work we appreciate it.
NewsX: This emasculation which was happening earlier, at what level did this emasculation happen?
Murli Manohar Joshi: That is not the issue today. These things are for the internal discussion of the party. The issue is whatever we said was in the light of those defeats. Because in Delhi it was never expected to go like this; also in Bihar. There was a perception that had grown in workers that this is happening; that was the feedback; but now after that the moment we find, better results are coming up.
NewsX: What specifically made you change your opinion? Is it just the results, has there been difference in the atmospherics?
Murli Manohar Joshi: Well such results are not possible if the notes are not taken seriously; the party has taken serious note, and is also doing course correction in various directions in picking up leaders. For example, the selection of Sonowal; this shows that the person with impeccable integrity honesty and commitment to the people was selected as the leader. So that shows that the decision makers are now thinking in the proper line, and that is why you see they are careful about the UP elections or other elections.
Watch video for complete interview.