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Satya Pal Malik Interview: BJP Politicises Non-Stop, Opposition is 'Nikamma'

Why is Satya Pal Malik criticising BJP, PM Modi now? Are there political ambitions? Full chat on Badi Badi Baatein!

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"I used to admire him. He used to think of the betterment of the poor, the farmers. He had written to the PM for MSP. But he changed after he came to Delhi," said former J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, quizzed about one of his first meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

One of the staunch vocal critics of the prime minister, Malik made headlines on 2021 when he publicly claimed that he was asked to 'keep quiet' by PM Modi about the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack that led to the milling of over 40 CRPF jawans while Malik was the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

Malik, however, claims that he didn't make his criticisms public until the farmer's movement that began in 2020.

"I told him that the farmers would not go back without talks and he was taken aback," Malik claimed.

What many, however, ask is why the claims and criticism on Pulwama did not come while he was the J&K Governor. That begs the question, what does Malik aim to gain with the criticism now? Does he have any political ambitions?

In a conversation on 'Badi Badi Baatein', Malik tells it all!

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Namaste, welcome to Badi Badi Baatein and Welcome to The Quint and Quint Hindi. 2024 is here, the elections are due in a few months. You joined the BJP in 2004. It's been 20 years. You joined it when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at the helm. 

It was a different party.

What's the difference? 

It was a different kind of party. It was not petty. It was liberal. It was not the way it is now.

You have spent two decades with the BJP - 2004-2014 and from 2014 to now. What is the major difference between these two decades? 

The difference is that the liberal leadership was ousted. and sent to the Margdarshak Mandal. The new leadership has no value system. Atal Ji and Advani Ji had a value system.

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You have been a Governor of Bihar from 2017-2018. What is your opinion of Nitish Kumar? Whatever happened in Bihar, how do you see this whole issue?

Nitish Kumar was my associate and junior in Lok Dal. I won't give my personal opinion about him. But it would have been good if he hadn't done what he did. People did not like it. Not just me, the poor people from Bihar who work here also did not like it. The rest depends on why people did what they did. The way an existing government was dissolved and a new one was formed, people don't agree with it.

What do you think might be the reasons? The INDIA alliance was conceived in Patna with Nitish Kumar taking the initiative. 

Nitish Kumar will have to explain that. The way he projected himself as the PM candidate and then he switched sides. He wanted people to see him as a potential PM candidate but did he behave like one? 

Do you think it will affect his party in the upcoming elections?

It will. And personally speaking, it will affect his popularity.

You think the BJP in Bihar will benefit from this?

That cannot be said yet whether it will benefit the BJP or not. But the people did not like what happened. 

Many say that Nitish Kumar's politics will be finished after this. Do you think that will happen?  

Politics doesn't get over for anyone. But his politics is dented for sure. It will suffer losses.

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We see a movement in the country after Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha on 22 January. What effect do you think it will have on India's politics going ahead?

There will be an effect. In north India where there is Arya Samaj, like in my village, there are 15,000 people. There is a 300-year-old temple but only 3 people go there every evening. There won't be much effect where there is Arya Samaj's dominance. It will affect in UP and Bihar.

You think it won't become a national movement?

No. I don't think so. 

When we discuss Ram Mandir, we also discuss religious politics. Many think the Pran Pratishtha event was more a political event than a religious one.

It was. It was a semi-political event and the BJP will reap its benefits. But it won't be a game-changer.

You think it will influence the 2024 elections?

I don't think so. There are many more factors.

The Ram Mandir movement was a plank of the BJP for years. Now that people speak of moving on from it, what issues do you think the BJP has going ahead?

They will come up with new issues. There is Mathura, there is Kashi. But these issues will not lead to massive changes in the country. The issues which matter are income – unemployment, and poverty which need to be addressed.

According to you, what are the major issues for the 2024 elections?

If you raise issues in the true sense and if the Opposition can - unemployment, MSP, crop prices, law and order - these are the issues. But the Opposition is not raising them which is a complaint I have with the Opposition parties. The elections are so close, the Opposition should be on the streets but they are sitting at home peacefully.

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Speaking of the Opposition, you have been with Congress briefly. You also met Rahul Gandhi recently he also interviewed you. He is on a new yatra now. Where do you think the Congress is falling short?


The Congress isn't falling short anywhere. Rahul is doing as much as he can and he is doing well. I support him and I support his actions. But the Congress has become a lazy party now. The BJP does politics every day, every time. 

The Opposition does politics according to their whims and fancies whenever they like. I had given them the Pulwama issue. They did not pick it up. When the Pulwama incident (of 2019) happened, I told PM Modi it was our fault. He asked me to keep quiet about it.

I thought they would initiate a probe. A while later, NSA Ajit Doval called me and asked me to keep quiet too. He was with me in law school. There has been no probe since. They started taking political benefits from it right from the next day saying, "When you vote, remember the sacrifices of Pulwama soldiers."

I told the Opposition to raise the issue that it has been five years and the probe has gone nowhere as to why it happened, who was at fault, etc. Somebody's head had to roll for it. That never happened and the Opposition is not raising it either. 

You think the Opposition is not able to build momentum in its favour?

It isn't. There are many reasons for that which I cannot speak openly about. All of them have their bellies full. Either they have to fight or the newer generation has to, or the farmers and the poor have to. Those who don't have the machinery to fight, won't be able to. 

Speaking of the INDIA bloc - they built momentum last year with meetings in Patna, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. But it was stagnant after that.

See, they have not built any common manifesto. Neither have they told us what their common issues are. Neither have they given any common minimum program or taken to the streets. If they would have done all of these things, there would have been sufficient momentum built by now.

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Do you see anybody as the PM candidate from the INDIA alliance leaders?

I don't see any PM candidate and we don't need one either. When there is a change, it is always a fight between the people and the dictator. There is no face. There was no face in 1977 (post Emergency) or even before that. When people decide, a face emerges. Among all the people, I will appreciate Rahul Gandhi for being brave. He is getting support too.

Then why do you think Congress become a bone of contention for every party? If you look at West Bengal, there is conflict between Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Mamata Banerjee.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is at fault there. You cannot ignore Mamata Banerjee. She is a mass leader and has a significant hold. The Congress has to be on good terms with her.

You think the Congress central leadership fails to intervene at times like these?

There should be. But I don't think there has been any so far at least for Adhir Ranjan ji.

You spoke about Pulwama. Talking about J&K, it's almost five years since the Abrogation of Article 370. What do you think has changed? Because the BJP keeps claiming that terrorism and stone pelting has stopped.

It is false. Terrorism has increased. You see something or the other keeps happening in Rajouri or Kupwara. All that had stopped when I was there. The stone pelting had stopped at that time. All the gains there are fizzling out. There should be development there, people should be taken in confidence.  That is not happening.

You have clarified your position on Pulwama several times. Many ask why you didn't speak up then.

They don't read well. The truth is, I had spoken up two hours after the incident. The PM was on a shoot at Jim Corbett National Park. He met me in the evening and asked about what happened. I thought there would be a probe. All this was while I was the Governor.  They had asked for 5 aircraft which they had denied. I would ferry stuck students in aircraft. If they hadn't taken the road, the incident would not have happened. 

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Do you think you could have done something differently? If you would have resigned after raising the issue, would that not have sent a bigger political message? 

People say whatever they want to. If one is to look at it responsibly, I was the head of a state. I was not there to precipitate a crisis. I could only try to explain things. I did that. i spoke to the PM about that. But I cannot be expected to resign every day over everything. I highlighted it, and I spoke up.

Why do you think the BJP is so powerful today as a party? 

It's because they do politics full-time while the Opposition does it according to its whims. They come someday to do something, otherwise they don't do anything. The BJP has dedicated workers and they are working all the time.

People cite many reasons behind the BJP's power and growth - the party's ground-level reach, the use of central agencies, a weak Opposition... 

The Opposition is not weak, the Opposition is useless and sitting idle. They do nothing. They should explain what they did for the past 10 months. They did not start a movement.

Do you remember the first time you met PM Modi? When did you meet him for the very first time?

When he was the CM of Gujarat.

What do you remember about meeting him in those days? 

I used to admire him. He used to think of the betterment of the poor, the farmers. He had written to the PM for MSP. But he changed after he came to Delhi.

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You voiced your criticism on party platforms and with PM Modi. You have raised issues of corruption in Bihar, Goa, and several other issues. When you did not get a resolution within the party, when was it did you think that you needed to go public? 

I thought about it for 10 days during the farmers' protests. I was thinking if I should speak because I was a Governor at that time. I ultimately decided that I would have to speak. I took my resignation with me at that time. I told him that the farmers were protesting at the borders for 4 months and that he should speak with them. He said it's alright, they will return at some point.

I also suggested that he could send someone to speak on his behalf but he said that they would return without talk. I told him that the farmers would not go back without talks and he was taken aback. I said that the Sikh Guru had sacrificed his four disciples but did not compromise. The Jats have vehemently protested against issues in the past. So, there is no point in picking up a fight with them and you need to hold discussions with them. He did not understand it then. But a few months later, he apologised and withdrew the laws.

What did you feel at that time?

At that time, I thought this was an incorrigible case and there was no point in banging my head against a wall. Then I started holding public meetings in Rajasthan, UP, and other places to articulate issues. 

The criticism that you have for the BJP, there are questions that why are these questions coming now? Are there any ambitions?

I just want to say that they need to see and read. I have always criticised or not. I criticised the same day when the Pulwama attack happened and I was holding a post then. I spoke up on farmers and I was holding a post then too. 

Those with any personal ambitions would keep quiet and speak when they are out. Speaking of ambitions, I won't take names but many parties approached me to contest elections and I have refused. I don't want to fight any election or have any posts. I did what I had to.

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You will not contest the elections?

I will not contest any election or join any party. But yes, I will help out some of the candidates I admire.

Who are the candidates you admire?

There will be some. They may be from Samajwadi Party, Ajit Singh's party or from the Congress. I will help those I deem worthy.

Will they be able to counter the BJP machinery?

There is no machinery. It's all a show. No machinery works when the people rise. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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