Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha laments ‘lack of internal democracy’ in the BJP, says supporting Modi for PM in 2014 may have been a mistake.
New Delhi: The Modi government has botched up on a range of fronts, including the economy and agriculture, and the results of the three assembly elections earlier this month should serve as a warning to the BJP for 2019, said former Union finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.
“Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been the strongest states for BJP ever since the Jan Sangh days. The cadre is there … they are not so strong in Bihar and probably not so strong in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra,” he said.
But Sinha also had a word of caution for the opposition. It will be a “very grievous error of judgement” to think that because the BJP has lost these three state elections, it will lose the Lok Sabha elections as well, said Sinha at Off The Cuff in Delhi Wednesday.
He was in conversation with ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and Editor, National and Strategic Affairs, Jyoti Malhotra.
Sinha, who left the party in April, also said that most in the BJP are scared today and urged PM Narendra Modi to “restore” BJP.
“Modi should restore BJP to the party it was when Vajpayee-Advani ran it, based on internal democracy,” he said.
“They (party members) feel if they were to raise their voice, they will not get a re-nomination.”
On Gadkari’s recent statements
The former finance minister also said that Union Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who has been in the news recently for questioning the functioning of his party, could be positioning himself for a bigger role.
“With his statements, Mr Gadkari is clearly positioning himself for a likely scenario where he can emerge as the leader,” he said.
Mistaken in supporting Modi
Sinha, who has been very critical of the NDA government’s functioning under Modi, said that in 2014 he clearly backed the leader.
“I believed he would be able to provide strong leadership to India, which is why I went along. Maybe I was mistaken.”
He had supported Modi in the last general election as he wanted it to become a presidential style one.
“I felt that was the best bet for BJP. Then, the country was clamouring for him to become PM, but now they are clamouring for him to go.”
Sinha said he will not go back to BJP, and also made clear he will not contest the next election.
Modi was foolish
Lashing out at the Modi government for messing up the economy, Sinha said one needs a special talent to do that. He called the government’s move to demonetise high value currency a “foolish step”, and said it was “greed” that was behind the decision.
“Demonetisation is the most foolish step anybody could have taken in our country and that foolish person happens to be our Prime Minister,” he said.
According to Sinha, the government had everything going for them when they took over in 2014.
“A very strong mandate… in 30 years a single majority party came into power… (There was) a remarkable decline in international crude oil prices, we had world growth taking place and you mess up the economy in these circumstances… you need a special talent to do that,” he said, adding Modi and his finance minister (Arun Jaitley) have shown this talent.
The only problem the NDA faced when they took charge in 2014 was bank NPAs (Non-Profitable Assets). The government was very aware of the problem and cannot now blame its predecessor for it, he said.
“Mr Modi was in Assam yesterday to inaugurate the longest bridge. Did he sanction it? Did he construct it entirely? But he took full advantage, and mind you, he did not want anyone else to get into that photograph. If he takes credit for the inauguration of that bridge, he must take this credit also for the NPAs.”
Sinha said that demonetisation along with a botched-up GST caused immense damage to micro, small and medium enterprises, and the informal sector.
“That has not yet been recorded anywhere, the loss of jobs in business, and informal sector like construction, etc,” he said.
Disappointing farm policies
The incidents of mob lynching in the past 18-20 months have worried Sinha a lot, but he primarily left BJP because he was disappointed with the government’s farm policies.
“Disappointment rose when I found that not only were my ideas not accepted but we were doing very little to promote irrigation in our country… And farmers told me nothing has changed. So, I was disappointed that here was something that we should have done and it could have changed the face our rural economy, and we did not do it. It started with this and then came demonetisation and then GST.”
“When I was in BJP under Mr Vajpayee, I never felt the blast of the communal ideology of RSS-BJP. But things have changed now and that made me uneasy,” Sinha said.