Paresh Rawal is on a winning streak. He has just received the Padma Shri and is set to become first-time Lok Sabha MP from Ahmedabad East constituency on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket, thanks mostly to his closeness to Narendra Modi and the resolve of a large section of Gujaratis and party workers to accomplish “Mission-272”.
But he faces some minor hurdles on his way to Parliament. His candidature robbed Harin Pathak, seven-time BJP MP from the same constituency, of the opportunity to set a record of sorts. Local BJP workers and voters had grown very fond of Pathak because he took personal interest in their lives. And though he won this seat in 2009 with an impressive margin, he was denied a ticket because he is an L.K. Advani loyalist and an old RSS hand. BJP workers have misgivings about how much time Rawal will be able to find for his constituency between his acting career and attending Parliament. Pathak is miffed, and so are some of the workers. They are assisting Advani in the neighbouring Gandhinagar constituency.
Rawal dismisses all these issues with a mix of logic, rhetoric and skewed hyperbole. He is focusing instead on reaching out to people in his constituency. He has campaigned for 30 days, and during this time he has done several roadshows, addressed many public meetings, covered 140 villages, including 38 in one day, all along using his trump card, his political idol Narendra Modi.
He spoke with Suparna Sharma:
What has it been like, your first election?
It’s been very hectic, very unlike where I come from. We face crowds, of course, but not such huge ones. We are truly out of our comfort zone here. But at the same time you come to know the real problems of people and their expectations from you. Given the overall scenario, if you are not positive, you can turn cynical. Though I don’t get depressed too fast, I am a cynical person. But there’s hope because Mr Modi is there. There is hope ki kuch toh hoga. Varna, the kind of deterioration we have seen...
No, not in Gujarat. Overall. See, it’s like this. The previous government left such a mess, they left so many khaddas, first you have to fill all those khaddas. And Modi saab’s first term was spent in doing just that. Slowly, things changed. It takes time — first you focus on infrastructure, then there’s this and that. After all that, development hua hai, which is quite evident and visible.
You have a full career in Bollywood. How will you balance that with your political career?
I’m not worried about my career. I just have to see why some people don’t work — is it because they don’t want to work, or does the system not allow them to work? And we have an example to follow in Mr Modi...
Hota kya hai that you are required for 200 days of Parliament. That leaves 165 days. For a character actor it’s a 15, maximum 20 days’ schedule for a film. So you can do eight films comfortably. I’m already doing five to six films. So I won’t face much problem. Number two, as an MP you have to focus on national policy, not local issues. For that you have corporators, MLAs, a complete system.
As an MP you are kind of a think-tank.
At the same time mera advantage yeh hai that I come to Ahmedabad at least for two-three days a month because of my drama shows... Plus I have a team of professional, committed people here... And in any case, one can work from anywhere. I was explaining this to someone who said that we might need you if something happens. Toh bhaiya, if the MP goes to a hospital, the entire hospital management will be running helter-skelter to be with me. MPs must not go to hospitals. That, in fact, slows things down. You call up the doctor, to the point baat karo. It’ll all happen.
How confident are you of winning?
See, my funda in life is that I don’t worry about things that are not in my control. I just have to do my work, the rest is up to the people. If they find me eligible, they will vote for me. People say, you must have this much lead. Jeetne ke liye ek hi vote zyada chahiye. So I’m not even worried about that. And thirdly, mujhe political career nahin banana hai.
So you will be a one-time MP?
If I feel I can deliver, that I can work, then I’ll come and join again. But if I am unable to work, then I’ll say ke bhaiya mujhe maaf karo.
I am not here to make a political career. My function this time is to support Mr Narendra Modi to become PM in whatever way I can. That’s my function, that’s my aim. Yeh “abhi nahin toh kabhi nahin” wala chunav hai. It’s very, very vital and very crucial.
You have a huge Muslim population in your constituency. How are you dealing with questions about 2002?
The fact is that Muslims have forgotten 2002. This issue is kept alive only by the other party which has no humanity. That’s number one.
Number two, the figures of the Central government say that the way Muslims have progressed in Gujarat, they haven’t progressed anywhere else.
Number three, if people are scared that this will happen, that he’ll do this, it’s all because of fearmongering by the other party.
Awam doesn’t want to fight. It’s leaders who make them fight. People have understood this, they have seen through fake secularism, pseudo-secularism...
A certain section of the media is after Modiji relentlessly... SIT ne bol diya, Supreme Court has given its order. Are you above the courts?
Modiji accepts moral responsibility, and he has said that he was saddened by it. He has also been saying from day one that “I will not apologise. If I have done something wrong, please punish me.” So when a man is so forthright, is giving you a chance, prove it and hang him na. That you can’t do, that you won’t do. But they will keep the problem alive in people’s perception. Ami Yagnik, Congress spokesperson, said, this was a pogrom. Arre yeh riot the. Aapne jo 1984 mein kiya, woh pogrom tha.
We have a long history of Hindu-Muslim riots have you ever heard of Hindu-Sikh riots?
There have been so many riots, but no one talks about those. Why? Because Mr Modi is successful, he has won three times, has done development — these people are scared that this man has everything. They don’t know what to do. So they keep raking this up.
And you know, now people are really bored. They say, “Hatao yaar, kya 2002, 2002. Yeh kya laga rakha hai?” Kitne Musalman dost hain mere yahan jo bolte hain, “Hatao na, leave it na, bore ho gaye hain yaar.” “Bore ho gaye” — these are the words they use.
Do you think you’ll get Muslim votes?
Mujhe lagta hai ki 100 per cent mujhe milne chahiye. See, now even Maulana Madaniji has said ki bhaiya main tilak nahin lagata hoon, aur woh topi nahin pehente hain. It’s simple. Modiji had also said that this is not a political issue, it’s about one’s faith. But leaders from that other party have no humanity at all. If they had any humanity, they would have said, “Bhaiya bhool ja, main marham laga raha hoon, bhool ja.” But they keep scratching that... they want to keep this problem alive because they have no other issue.
Look at the issues they rake up — that Modiji is shaadi shuda. What difference does his marriage make to the country? Rahulji is also unmarried. Does it make a difference? Are these the issues we should be fighting elections on in the 21st century?
Baap-re-baap, these people are dangerous. Look at the language they use. Leaders from their party say “Modi ko maar dalenge, kat dalenge”. Yet, no one stops them. No one says anything.
But look at the language Pravin Togadia uses...
Arre, aap Modiji ke bare mein kuch bhi boliye na. Why are you associating Modiji with Togadia?
Because they are from the same saffron...
No, no, no. They are not from the same thing... Last Assembly elections mein bhi koi nahin tha. All Modiji had was people’s support, that’s why he won.
If Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister, what is your expectation?
Expectations are running very high. Everybody thinks that Modiji will come, and as if by magic everything will improve. This man can do magic, and hundred per cent there will be magic, but for that you will have to give him a majority government. Coalition aayega, someone will pull from here, someone will pull from there, this man will just leave.
See, India’s psyche has been of the sort that when Sanjay Gandhi brought in Emergency, trains and busses ran on time. And people said, “Chalo, gaadiyan time pe aati hain.” Meaning, work is happening, people are doing their job, no one is sitting on files.
The way Modiji rules, he’s not a dictator, he takes everybody along. But Modiji ki files won’t go to another, like Manmohanji’s files go to another... Modiji ke yahan centre of power ek hi hai.
But for that to happen, we need majority. Otherwise one can’t work. And this man is the sort that if he can’t do work, he will leave. And if he gets work done, he’ll get it done only his way.
Look, anyone who becomes chief minister talks of giving subsidy to farmers. Modiji, when he became chief minister, said he won’t give electricity subsidy to anyone... Hindustan ke kisi mai ke lal mein dum hai to say this to farmers? Aur kisi mai ke lal mein dum hai ki bol ke dikhaye ki main appeasement ki rajneeti nahin karoonga, election jeeton ya haaron? Only a man of conviction can say that. Looking at all these aspects of him, one thinks, ki haan yaar, ek baar inko support karke dekhte hain, dekhte hain kya hota hai...
So you are saying he can do magic if he has a clear majority?
He has dum, but he has to be heading a majority government, otherwise these same people will be shouting and screaming that he’s a dictator, he’s a dictator. Main toh bolta hoon ki benevolent dictator chahiye. That’s the best combo. We need a benevolent dictator — one who is well-meaning, thinks about people, their welfare, who understands. Modiji takes everybody into confidence, but he also gets work done phat-se. He says, bhaiya yeh karo. But some people only show what’s not working, not what is working.