By Kunal Majumder
UNTIL A few days ago, Anurag Thakur was merely the son of a chief minister and a BJP MP. Several persons answer to that description, so it wasn’t a big deal. Now, suddenly, Thakur is being billed as one of the next big things in the BJP. His Ekta Yatra was a big show for a party that hadn’t done mass politics for a while. It must count for something in a notoriously slow party when you can get Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj rushing to be seen at your show. When TEHELKA met Thakur for its Upcomer series, where promising Indians are interviewed to get an early sense of their perspective, he was presiding over a bustling Yuva Morcha office unlike a somnolent BJP office next door. There have been highprofile youth leaders in the BJP who have slowed down as they moved into the core party. What goes on in Thakur’s mind that can save him from a similar slowdown? Excerpts from an interview:
What, to your mind, is the solution to the Kashmir issue beyond the rhetoric we heard?
We should abolish Article 370 as soon as possible. You cannot treat one state different from other states in the country. Jammu & Kashmir is given special status and that is why the people of that state feel they are not part of this country. Anti-India elements like the Kashmir separatists exploit these emotions and speak of a separate flag and a separate constitution for Kashmir. What do you mean by a separate constitution, when our constitution and their constitution clearly say that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India? We give them 90 percent subsidy on everything. We spend 10 percent of our revenue on J&K though the population is only 1 percent. But, not a single person in this country regrets spending the money on J&K because we believe it is an integral part of India.
How would you reconcile with the separatists of J&K?
Saif al Islam al Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, got a survey done in Kashmir recently, which showed that only 2 percent of the people in J&K want autonomy or want to go with Pakistan. So, it is absolutely clear. Jawaharlal Nehru made a mistake 64 years ago, when he said the solution at that time was only temporary. Nehru’s statement has become a permanent problem for J&K as well as the rest of the country.
Two states governed by the BJP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, are unable to cope with Naxalism. Is there a solution apart from carpet-bombing?
The gun cannot be a solution in a democracy. We should deal with Naxals firmly but at the same time, we should hasten the pace of development. It is very slow at the moment. This is the time for the government to take the development initiative.
What do you think of human rights organisations working in conflict areas? In states like Chhattisgarh, the complaint is that there is no middle ground, it’s like, either you are with the government or with the Naxals. Isn’t there a middle ground?
NGOs and human rights organisations cannot be above elected representatives in a democratic set-up. When they feel a government is not doing enough, they are welcome to contest elections and do something for the society.
In recent times, we have seen the armed forces involved in extortion and fake encounters in places like Manipur. What role should they play in disturbed areas like the Northeast and J&K?
Along with the army, the Indo Tibetan Border Police and the CRPF are playing a huge role in many Naxal-hit areas and J&K. They should not feel demoralised by human rights and other cases, because at times there are fake cases. However, we need to avoid putting pressure on our forces because they wok continuously in high threat areas. Of a thousand decisions, one or two might be bad. It may happen to anyone. At the same time, the forces need to be careful so that no step is taken that may turn against the common man.
As a young leader, how do you plan to end poverty?
Money does not make you rich if you don’t have a sense of belonging, if you don’t feel for your country, and if you don’t feel for the poor. The corporates, and people who can afford to, must adopt poor families. They should provide the poor good education and good job opportunities. Industrialists have to play an important role along with the government. While the government should ensure that the money it spends reaches the common man, industrialists too should have good corporate social responsibility schemes. There are examples of people spending crores of rupees on their houses. They should spend a little less on houses and use the rest of the money to provide homes to the poor at low cost, like for Rs. 30,000 or Rs. 40,000.
But didn’t your party president spend extravagantly at his son’s wedding recently?
That is not correct. The function to which I went barely had 2,000 people, mostly party office-bearers. There were too many uninvited guests whom you cannot afford to say no to. Even at a common man’s wedding, if anyone comes to your house, you don’t ask them to leave.
How would you deal with corruption, considering that your party didn’t allow Parliament to function on this issue while your chief minister in Karnataka is in middle of a corruption crisis?
If you don’t bribe, there is no corruption. We jump the traffic lights and then bribe a constable so he does not give us a ticket. If we want a license within two days, we pay. The system may be corrupt, but we should do something to correct it. Many people in this country don’t file income tax returns because they have to hire a chartered accountant. We need plenty of reforms and simple procedures that will involve the people. As far as Karnataka is concerned, you have to look at the finer detail. There was no corruption. Yeddyurappa has the authority to allocate land, which he has done. You may call it immoral but it is not illegal.