Union Minister and BJP candidate from Patna Sahib Ravi Shankar Prasad speaks to Shreyasi Jha on his upcoming contest with two-term BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, who is the Congress candidate this time. Excerpts:
What made you to debut in contesting Lok Sabha polls?
I have been the spokesperson and chief spokesperson of the party. I have been the incharge of eight states on behalf of the party, from Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan to Chhattisgarh to Uttarakhand to West Bengal to Uttar Pradesh… This time, I decided that I should contest myself … My journey started as a booth-level agent after I passed matriculation. And then ABVP, then JP Movement and then Bihar and then at the national level.
What are the main issues in Patna Sahib on which you are contesting the elections?
One is national security. People of Patna Sahib are keen to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister once again. This has been a traditional BJP seat. That’s why out of six assembly segments, the BJP holds five.
Shatrughan Sinha was winning because of the BJP or because of his name and work?
I have decided never to take his name. And I will not take his name. But obviously, (he was winning) because of the BJP’s name.
How are you seeking votes from the people, especially when the incumbent MP was from the BJP?
I am going into the positive narrative of India. Resurgent India. Safe India. Secure India. As an IT minister, the digital revolution which I have brought…I have brought metro train to Patna as a Union Cabinet Minister, Smart City to Patna…TCS is going to start its operations in Patna very soon. I have expanded the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) in Patna.
Moving on to the RJD, despite the fact that Lalu Prasad is not participating in the elections, his party is hopeful of outperforming the BJP in Bihar. How do you see this challenge?
No one can stop them from day-dreaming. But, this is an election between hope and opportunism…And as I said, they have no leader. In our party, there is neeti, neta and neeyat. And on their side, there is no neeti, no neta and no neeyat except for Modi hatao.
BJP has promised special status to Bihar, will you fulfill it if you win?
We have already given that. A sum of Rs 55,000 crore has been invested only on roads, then Railways, then power, the IT sector…STPI centres have come up in Darbhanga and Bhagalpur. There has been expansion in AIIMS and modernisation in Patna Medical College and Hospital. All these things are being done. Therefore, one has done politics and one has actually contributed.
Should Pragya Thakur have got a ticket when she is accused in a terror case. Won’t his affect the BJP’s prospects?
Wasn’t Rajiv Gandhi an accused in a case? Isn’t Sonia Gandhi an accused and out on bail?…she (Pragya) was victimised. Persons like Digvijaya Singh, P Chidambaram and others are talking of Hindu terror, saffron terror, a liberal, inclusive Hindu philosophy with the doctrine of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam was linked with terror. She was also tortured. Today, she is on bail and contesting like others are. Then why double standards? Let the people decide. It will not affect people’s votes.
Ram temple is another major issue and you are Ram Lalla’s lawyer. Do you think mediation can resolve the dispute?
Ram Mandir is not an election issue, it is a national issue of faith. We expect the Supreme Court to expedite the hearing. I should not comment on the mediation process.
You have been the one who filed PIL in the fodder scam and Lalu Prasad is behind the bars now. Is it going to help BJP or backfire as backward castes have sympathy for Lalu?
That was not the case. It was a case of massive corruption, loot, fodder scam and other scams. I filed a PIL for a CBI inquiry. The trial has taken place and people have been convicted. So many elections have taken place thereafter. It is basically like that. Basically, it was the desire to expose the ills of corruption.
Do you think the tripal talaq ordinance will impact Muslim votes for BJP?
Yes, it will have. Lots of Muslims have come to me in Patna and all over the country who have been almost given neuroimmune treatment to the victims of triple talaq. They have a profound soft corner for the party, for the Prime Minister and me also.
What do you think about Rahul Gandhi?
I don’t wish to make any comment on him. Rahul Gandhi is exposing himself to the people of India.
Is the 'Chowkidar chor hai' slogan tarnishing the PM's image?
It is not. The integrity of the Prime Minister is impeccable. The Congress consciously delayed the Rafale deal because there no commission was paid. This is a completely motivated campaign.