Narpat Rajvi on BJP’s transition from Bhairon Singh to Modi

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New Delhi: Narpat Singh Rajvi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Chittorgarh assembly seat in Rajasthan, has a message for the high command: be wary of “five-star culture”.

The five-time MLA, who was denied a ticket from his traditional seat of Vidhyadhar Nagar and later fielded from Chittorgarh, said the BJP no longer offers workers “growth prospects” and is banking only on the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win elections.

“Earlier, anger among cadres subsided after meeting leaders like Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi and Hari Shankar Bhabhra. But now, dialogue between senior leaders and party workers — the BJP’s core strength as a cadre-based party — is weakening. Workers no longer get a hearing with the leadership. This led to rebellions.”

In an exclusive interview with ThePrint, Rajvi spoke on several other key issues concerning the party organisation, from the redressal mechanism for workers to rebel leaders and how the BJP has changed since the era of his father-in-law Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Rajvi made headlines last month after the BJP denied him a ticket and instead fielded its Lok Sabha MP Diya Kumari from Vidhyadhar Nagar — the seat he had been representing since 2008. 

The 72-year-old was first elected to the assembly from Chittorgarh in 1993 when Shekhawat was chief minister of Rajasthan. He also served as a minister in the state, handling key portfolios including health and industries. In 1990, Rajvi was credited with saving the Bhairon Singh Shekhawat government by prompting a split in the Janata Dal. 

He remained a prominent leader in the state until Vasundhara Raje — a protege of Shekhawat — dropped him from the cabinet during her second tenure as chief minister.

Shekhawat, who was credited with setting up a base for the BJP in Rajasthan since its Jana Sangh days, rose to serve as chief minister of the state for three terms and later Vice President of India from 2002 to 2007. 

Also Read: ‘Gehlot se bair nahin, MLAs ki khair nahin’— why Congress’s bet on incumbents could backfire

‘It was sudden, learnt about it on the news’

Asked how he felt upon learning that he had been denied a ticket from Vidhyadhar Nagar, Rajvi said he was “shocked” since he did not feel this was such a “weak seat” that the party had to field a sitting MP from there.

“It was sudden. There was no reason for it. I got to know about it only through the news. No one (from the party) discussed it with me before declaring the list of candidates.”

He added that, in Rajasthan, the BJP has fielded sitting MPs to shore up its prospects in “C-grade” or “D-grade” seats. 

“Here (Vidhyadhar Nagar), I won the last three times. I built a constituency by advancing development. It never crossed my mind that I would be denied a ticket and the party would field an MP in my place.”

Rajvi also said that he emphasised education, health and electrification during his terms as an MLA, which is why it was “natural” for him to be upset at the party’s decision but he “accepted it with humility”.

BJP in the age of the ‘missed call’

Further, Rajvi expressed his opinions on rebel leaders who stand to upset the BJP’s electoral calculation in Rajasthan. According to him, the dilution of an internal mechanism to address the grievances of cadres and the lack of a “healing touch” are to blame.

“Rebel leaders aren’t a new phenomenon but it was never at this scale,” he said, adding that in an earlier time, cadres with a grievance were granted a hearing with Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, or Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi (former Rajasthan BJP president) or Hari Shankar Bhabhra (former deputy chief minister) but that is not the case anymore.

The BJP, he said, always “relied on cadres while Congress was mostly dependent on paid workers”. 

Recalling the time when his father-in-law was contesting from Amber in the 1985 assembly polls, Rajvi told ThePrint: “Shekhawat ji used to seek the help of children to write parche (pamphlets) and gave them chocolates in return. These pamphlets were then distributed across villages. Nowadays, CDs and pen drives have replaced that system of campaigning.”

He also said that there is no way for party workers to communicate with leaders if their “mobile phone is switched off or not reachable”. This is how the BJP has “changed” in recent years, he added.

The five-time MLA also blamed the media for “blowing issues out of proportion”. 

“Many people wrote that I was associated with a lobby. If I were associated with Vasundhara (Raje) ji, why did she not induct me as a minister in her cabinet? I have always believed in the politics of principles and will never compromise with that belief,” he said.

Asked how he viewed the generational shift in the BJP from the time of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Rajvi said the party then “nurtured leaders” and had an effective mechanism for communication between cadres and the senior leadership.

“Now there is a missed call mechanism to make someone a member of the party. How will we build cadres this way? Earlier, when one joined the BJP, they were taught about the party’s ideology, and made to attend public meetings. Shekhawat ji used to write questions for MLAs and give them research to help them speak on a particular subject.”

But hand-holding of the kind is no more the norm within the BJP, he said.

He added that the legislative party leaders or state presidents no longer guide legislators on issues that need to be highlighted and how to approach them.

‘Collective leadership & core group’

On the BJP’s “collective leadership” approach to elections, Rajvi said he favoured it.

“The symbol is our face in the election, like paanch pran (five vows), collective leadership is the core of the party.”

He, however, added that “five-star culture has engulfed the party” and the counsel of “experienced leaders is ignored”.

“There is no provision of a core group (for each state) in our party’s constitution but most MPs are in the core group. An MP in Rajasthan, for instance, represents only six to eight assembly segments. Those who have worked across the state should be part of the core group.”

He added that the “core group” occasionally meets to discuss strategy but the party is not “nurturing workers anymore and is only banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership”.

Rajvi also recalled the time he was made a general secretary of the Rajasthan BJP and given charge of Bikaner and Jodhpur. “There were only 750 BJP members in Bikaner at the time. I encouraged the district president and others and we increased it to 1.2 lakh within five to six years.”

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: What JP Nadda told BJP rebels on Rajasthan visit to calm anger over poll list


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