Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday in the presence of Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, before visiting party chief JP Nadda’s residence for tea. Sandwich Interestingly, BJP leaders believe that Bishnoi will be more electorally helpful in Rajasthan than in their home state of Haryana. In an exclusive interview with News18.com, Bishnoi opened up about Rahul Gandhi, his reasons for leaving the Congress and joining the BJP, as well as his future plans. Edited excerpts:
What made you join the BJP?
I am impressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies. As I have been with the Congress all my life, I wanted another shot as a Congress leader and I wanted to mend things with Rahul Gandhi. It is no longer the Congress of Indira and Sonia Gandhi. They kept repeating the mistakes, and despite this I kept warning them about the wrong people around them. I kept telling him that Congress is losing elections due to wrong decisions. Another reason I joined BJP was that I was in awe of Modiji’s policies and saw where India stands today globally. I have friends all over the world. Two of my three children study abroad and all praise BJP.
Now talking about the state leadership, I met Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar regarding the work in my constituency. Even though these works would have harmed the BJP electorally, he admitted it. He said that the works were for the people of Haryana so the works were approved. I was very impressed. And during all this, I had some arguments with the Congress leadership and that made my resolve to join the BJP even stronger.
Former Congress leaders have said that they did not receive appointments from Gandhi and were not even listened to. Have you faced the same thing?
This is very true. Jyotiraditya, RPN Singh and others left the Congress due to this. 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 answerable to them. Despite my influence in Rajasthan and Haryana I still waited and still no one contacted me. I am the patron of the All India Bishnoi Mahasabha which has 90 per cent of the Bishnoi votes. If you don’t stop such people from leaving the Congress, it is the arrogance or the thought process that is destroying the Congress.
What do you think about the agitation against inflation by Congress leaders including Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi? They say there is no democracy left in the country.
There have been similar protests during the Congress rule and they have also taken measures to prevent the same. Lathi-charged, Arun Jaitley jailed. I believe they can have a peaceful protest rather than tearing the clothes of their MPs.
Do you think inflation is the real reason behind Congress’s agitation?
I can’t believe it. The enforcement directorate is the reason they are on the streets. I believe that when Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were called for questioning by the ED, they thought that people would come out on the streets. But nothing like that happened. Only officials and some ticket aspirants were protesting. But it would have hurt, and to get people’s sympathy, he called it a protest against inflation.
What election are you bringing in BJP Haryana?
My family has a legacy. I have managed my party for eight years and have visited each village at least 2-3 times. Jat and non-Jat polarization is an issue in Haryana. And I will be honored if the non-Jats accept me as their leader. If I had been with the Congress, the non-Jat votes would have split, but now that I have joined the BJP, the Congress has no non-Jat leader. BJP will benefit from consolidation of non-Jat votes. I too have a Jat vote bank in Bhiwani, Karnal etc areas. We are the only family in the world who fought from every corner of the state, be it Faridabad-UP border, Bhiwani-Rajasthan border, Kalka-Himachal. The state border, Tohana-Punjab border, or Karnal which lies in the center of Haryana. I am a very hard working person. 78 percent are non-Jat voters. In Rajasthan we have significant Bishnois: 37 Vidhan Sabha and 7 Lok Sabha constituencies.
You talked about family. You have a brother in Congress, who has political ambitions for your son. Do you think there may be differences in this family or is your brother leaning towards BJP?
My brother has decided to stay with Congress. My son is coming back from Harvard after three months. He is the most educated politician in India. My son will be a great asset for BJP. Our family is together and our relationship is strong. No one will fight against each other.
Do you accept JJP as an ally?
I will accept whatever is acceptable to BJP.
It is thought that since you have income related cases, you were transferred to BJP to avoid any action.
If so, I should have changed it three years ago when my place was searched. We have a LoC (Lookout Circular) and it has not been withdrawn yet despite the findings of the investigation. I joined the BJP because I got an offer from the party; My friends and family pressured me to help BJP. I will win the case legally. I will never ask anyone to help me.
How will the performance of ‘AAP’ be as the Congress is weakened in the state?
When AAP won Punjab, many from BJP, Congress and other regional parties pointed to it. But now people are disillusioned after seeing what kind of administration they give and how they remote control Delhi through Chief Minister (Bhagwant) Mann and (Raghav) Chadha. ‘Aap’ has nothing to bring to the table. Arvind Kejriwal has done nothing for Haryana despite claiming that he belongs to the state. SYL (Sutlej Yamuna Link) is a sensitive issue for both the states and Kejriwal from Punjab said that he will not give even a drop of water to the state. It may cause damage in some areas bordering Delhi and Punjab.
You were going to join BJP a few months ago. what’s late
I was in Congress all my life. Even when we formed the Congress (Bhajanlal), it was the original Congress. I changed my mind. I had to rethink it several times. Rahul had promised me the post of state president but it did not happen. I told him that if you are going to send me to war, you have to give me ammunition. I always maintained that I am not greedy. Now I want to establish myself as an asset of BJP.
What is the problem with today’s Congress?
People no longer have faith in the leadership. I, Jyoti, RPN and Sachin (Pilot) were Rahul’s team. He did not stand by his team. Sachin should have had the chief ministership and he made Gehlot the chief minister. In Madhya Pradesh they did not give Jyotiraditya his due and made Kamal Nath the Chief Minister. Jitin Prasad should have been made Chief Minister of UP, that post was given to someone else and same happened to me in Haryana. We were disappointed. Rahul could not stand by his people. I think they are ‘kan ka kacha’ and cannot take decisions like Indira Gandhi. A leader empowers his people. Those at the grassroots who could rally and gain support were sidelined.
Politics is all about perception and today there is a perception that Congress cannot compete with BJP. And Congress means Rahul and Rahul means Congress. He should have changed his ways and he is unwilling to do so. Congress has no future for its advisers. You lose over and over and still don’t understand.
Social media is important. Voters want to know if they know their leader’s name or not. He tries to take names before going to the village. My son made an app where I have a database of my people. Moreover, BJP has also changed. Therefore, Congress leaders have been made Ministers and Chief Ministers. BJP knew that I could damage Congress if it came to power, so they approached me and took me in.
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