From a popular Bhojpuri cine-star to entering Lok Sabha as a BJP MP in May 2014 to holding the reins of Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party unit, it has been a fairly impressive political rise in a span of two and half years for Manoj Tiwari. With one third of National Capital population belonging to Poorvanchalis, some political pundits see this as a master stroke by the BJP while others feel that playing such regional card in a metropolis city also holds the risk of consolidating non-Poorvanchalis among Delhi voters.
Be that as it may, Tiwari is considered by the party insiders as the replacement for yesteryear Hindi film star from Bihar, Shatrughan Sinha, who has turned into a rebel in last few years. Clearly, the new responsibility has brought a new array of challenges for Tiwari –the first one being the forthcoming civic elections in all municipal wards of the National Capital.
In a freewheeling conversation with Asit Manohar of The Day After, Manoj Tiwari, shared his views about the future of Delhi BJP and his strategy to take up the challenging role. Edited excerpts:
It has been merely two and half years since you joined BJP and you have scaled to the state president’s post. What could have been the reason for such a meteoric rise in your opinion?
I would give credit to my organization, my supporters and my dedicated services to the party. Prior to joining the BJP, I was only star campaigner for around one year where I helped party to garner some extra votes. It was my crowd-pulling ability and the conversion rate of this crowd into votes that the party high command noticed and entrusted me with the Delhi state president’s post.
A similar responsibility was also handed over to Kiran Bedi before the election. Going by that example, do you think such a rise is also fraught with thorns considering the infighting in the state unit?
My upbringing is of the kind that helps me in working with my seniors by upholding their dignity intact and at the same time engaging with my juniors by due respect that I present my elders with. My easy-to-mingle nature keeps me afloat among my counterparts too. So, I think it would help me to keep the integrity of the BJP flock intact. And I believe this is the only way to keep our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ within the party as well.
Soon after taking over, you changed all 14 district presidents in the state unit. That sounds more like a surgical strike on the previous structure than what you are claiming now?
No, no. Certainly not. You need to understand when the president is changed by the high command, it’s an indication that the current structure needs some adaptation and new energy should be allowed to flow inside. This exercise should be seen in this perspective rather than as a surgical blow on the previous structure. Those who have been relieved are entrusted with other party affairs, which are also as important as a district president’s job is.
What about the representation of women leaders? In a city like Delhi, out of 14 district presidents, not a single woman figures in the list.
The BJP does not believe in caste, creed and gender based appointment. All the 14 district presidents were appointed on merit. These appointees had support of other office bearers of the district BJP offices whose consent matters in the appointments of a district president. Besides, there are around 36 more such posts to be filled soon. Hopefully, there would be all kinds of representations which you have mentioned.
Your first test as a political administrator is fast approaching in the 2017 MCD polls. What is your preparation for this high stake local body election?
We are ready to go to the people whom we have been serving for the last 10 years. My whole team would showcase the good work that the BJP has done in a decade.
We are also asking all our MPs from Delhi to adopt slums. This has been accepted by all our Delhi MPs and we are devoting a good amount of time among the slum dwellers to know about the actual problems which they are forced to face. This move is drawing positive response from the public as they are ready to rely on us after being cheated upon by both the Congress and the current Delhi government. Hopefully, we would perform much better in the coming MCD polls.
At a time when people are queuing outside banks and ATMs, do you think people would vote for the BJP in MCD polls? The BJP lost all 18 seats in the Delhi Mandi polls.
Results of the Delhi Mandi polls shouldn’t be connected with the demonetisation and the BJP performance as the electoral college of the Mandi polls are of such a kind that it is tilted towards the ruling party. Before that, it was Congress party which had won majority of the seats and it has now gone to the Aam Aadmi Party. So, this question should be asked from the Congress party rather from me or my party.
The BJP suffers from the tag of being a communal and leaders like Pravesh Verma have done a disservice to the party from their anti-Muslim rant. Is it a strategy to use such anti-Muslim rants during election time to polarize voters or will a strong action be taken against such motor-mouth leaders?
Look, being a disciplined BJP worker, I believe in a politics which is free from caste, creed and gender biasedness. I strictly condemn the anti-minority statement of Pravesh Verma. I hope, such incident don’t get repeated in future, neither by him nor by any other leader in any part of the country.
You are a Bhojpuri icon and instrumental in the past for bringing Bhojpuri into the Eighth Schedule. What’s the progress in this regard?
The Bhojpuri language could have been added into the Eighth Schedule in the Winter Session itself had it not been derailed by the opposition. Hopefully, it would be done in the next Budget Session.
So, you are planning to bring Bhojpuri in the Eighth Schedule ahead of the UP Polls?
We have been fighting for decades to bring Bhojpuri the respect and status it deserves. I was part of several delegations demanding addition of the language into the Eight Schedule even when there was Congress government in the Centre. But, thankfully, it’s the NDA government which paid heed to this age-old demand. The issue is to pay due respect to Bhojpuri language rather than UP assembly polls. If it’s done at the time of UP polls, it will merely be a coincidence as the Winter Session was washed out.
Any plan to popularize Bhojpuri in Delhi?
Yes. Around one third of the Delhi population speaks Bhojpuri and hence we are leaving no stone unturned to accord the deserved status to this language and the people who speak Bhojpuri in the national capital. We are going to organize a Bhojpuri Film Festival in Delhi from February 3-5, 2017 and other programmes are sure to follow suit.
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