Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi on Thursday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The interesting thing is that BJP leaders believe that Bishnoi will be electorally more helpful in Rajasthan than in his state Haryana. In an exclusive interview with News18.com, Bishnoi talks about the reasons for Rahul Gandhi leaving the Congress and joining the BJP, as well as his plans for the future. Edited excerpt:
What inspired you to join BJP?
I was impressed by the policies of PM Narendra Modi. Since I was a member of Congress all my life, I wanted to give myself another chance to be a Congress leader and mend things with Rahul Gandhi. It is no longer the Congress of Indira and Sonia Gandhi. They kept repeating mistakes, and this despite the fact that I kept warning them about the wrong group of people around me. I kept telling them that wrong decisions are making Congress lose elections. The second reason I joined BJP was that I was amazed by Modi ji’s policies and saw where India stands today at the world level. I have friends all over the world. Two of my three children study abroad and all praise the BJP.
Now, if I talk about the state leadership, I met Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar about the work in my constituency. The actions may have harmed the BJP electorally, yet they compelled. He said that those works are for the people of Haryana and hence there is acceptance. I was very impressed. And during all this, I had some tussle with the Congress leadership and this further cemented my resolve to join the BJP.
Former Congress leaders have said that they neither got time to meet the Gandhi family nor were they listened to. Have you faced the same?
that is very true. Because of this Jyotiraditya, RPN Singh and others left the Congress. I had openly said in the media that if Rahul Gandhi does not meet me, I will not give him my vote in the Rajya Sabha elections. I have my identity and my vote bank. I am accountable to them. I still waited and still no one contacted me despite my influence in Rajasthan and Haryana. I am the patron of the All India Bishnoi Mahasabha, in which the Bishnois constitute 90 per cent of the votes. If you don’t stop such people from leaving Congress, then it is arrogance or a thought process which is destroying Congress.
What do you have to say about Congress leaders including Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi’s protests against inflation? He says that there is no democracy left in the country.
Such protests have taken place even under the Congress regime and they have also taken the same measures to stop the protests. There was lathi charge, Arun Jaitley was put in jail. I believe they could have held a peaceful protest instead of tearing the clothes of their MPs.
Do you believe that inflation was the real reason Congress organized this protest?
I do not agree. Enforcement Directorate is the reason why they hit the streets. I believe when the ED called Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for questioning, they thought people would throng the streets. But nothing like this happened. Only the office-bearers and some ticket candidates were protesting. But this would have hurt the cause and to gain the sympathy of the people, he termed it as a protest against inflation.
What are you bringing electorally in BJP Haryana?
My family has a legacy. I have managed my party for eight years and have visited every village at least 2-3 times. Jat and non-Jat polarization is an issue in Haryana. And if non-Jats accept me as their leader, I will be respected. Had I been with Congress, the non-Jat votes would have been split, but now that I have joined BJP, Congress has no non-Jat leaders. Whereas the BJP will benefit from the strengthening of non-Jat votes. I also have a Jat vote bank in areas like Bhiwani, Karnal etc. We are the only family in the world who have fought from all corners of the state, be it Faridabad-UP border, Bhiwani-Rajasthan border, Kalka-Himachal. The state border, the Tohana-Punjab border, or Karnal, which is in the center of Haryana. I am a very hardworking man. 78 percent are non-Jat voters. We have important Bishnois in Rajasthan: 37 Assembly Constituencies and 7 Lok Sabha Constituencies.
You talked about family. You have a brother in the Congress who has political ambitions for his son as you do for yourself. Do you think there may be a rift in the family over this or does your brother also have an inclination towards BJP?
My brother has decided to stay with Congress. My son is coming back from Harvard in three months. He is the most educated politician of India. My son will be a big asset to BJP. Our family is united and we have strong ties. No one will contest elections against each other.
Is JJP acceptable to you as an ally?
Whatever is acceptable to BJP will be acceptable to me.
It is believed that because of the cases against you regarding income, you were transferred to BJP to prevent any action.
If that’s the case, I should have switched three years ago, when my bases were searched. We have a LoC (Lookout Circular) and it has not been withdrawn yet despite the investigation being clear. I joined BJP because I found ideologues of the party; My friends and family pressured me to help the BJP. I will win the case legally. I would never ask anyone to help me.
How will AAP perform as Congress is weak in the state?
When AAP won Punjab, many people from BJP, Congress and other regional parties turned to it. But now after seeing what kind of administration they give and how CM (Bhagwant) Mann is remote controlled by Delhi through (Raghav) Chadha, people are disillusioned. You have nothing to bring to the table. Arvind Kejriwal did nothing for Haryana despite claiming to belong to his state. SYL (Satluj Yamuna Link) is a sensitive issue for both the states and in Punjab, Kejriwal said that he will not give a drop of water to the state. It can do damage in some areas bordering Delhi and Punjab.
You were about to join BJP months ago. what was the delay?
I was in Congress all my life. Even when we formed Congress (Bhajanlal), we said it was the original Congress. I made a conceptual change. I had to reconsider this several times. Rahul had promised me the post of state president, but it did not happen. I told him that if you are sending me to war then you need to give me ammunition. I always said that I am not greedy. I now want to establish myself as an asset to the BJP.
What is the problem with today’s Congress?
People don’t trust leadership. Me, Jyoti, RPN and Sachin (pilot) were all Team Rahul. He did not stand by his team. Sachin should have got the post of CM and he made Gehlot CM. In MP, he did not give his due to Jyotiraditya and made Kamal Nath the CM. Jitin Prasad should have been made the state president of UP, the post was given to someone else and the same happened to me in Haryana. Our morale was low. Rahul could not stand with his people. I think he is ‘ear ka kachcha’ and cannot take decisions like Indira Gandhi. A leader gives strength to his people. Those from the grassroots who could hold rallies and mobilize support were sidelined.
Politics is about perception, and today there is a perception that the Congress cannot take on the BJP. And Congress is Rahul and Rahul is Congress. He should have changed his ways and he is not ready to do so. The Congress has no manners of the future of his advisers. You have been losing again and again, yet you do not understand.
Social media is important. Voters would like to know whether their leader knows their name or not. I try to make up my name before going to the village. My son has built an app where I have a database of my own people. Also BJP has changed. It has made Congress leaders ministers and CMs. BJP knew that if Congress gave some power, I could harm them, so they approached me and took me inside.