Like all BJP fans, I too was excited when BJP stormed to power in the tea state of Assam. North East has never been BJP’s stronghold. There was no well-defined party structure. The cadres were demotivated. And still in a matter of 10 months, BJP created a formidable task force that led to a glorious victory in the state of Assam. I read almost every article written about BJP’s performance in Assam. They talked about how the quiet, unassuming man called Sarbananda Sonowal became the most loved face in the state. They talked about Himant Biswa Sarma, the Assam Congress stalwart who broke ties with Congress, joined BJP and steered BJP towards a famous victory. They talked about Ram Madhav, the exceptional ally manager that he is and how he quietly directed everything. And they also talked about the new kid on the block – Rajat Sethi, who did the number crunching job for the party. In one of his sessions with the media, the CM Designate Sarbananda Sonowal thanked one Mahendra Singh profusely.
The name stuck. Who was this mystery guy that the CM designate was thanking so passionately? Some back-end hero? I googled for him. The BJP Website had him listed as State in Charge for Assam. Otherwise, there was very little information available about him. But thankfully, I got his number. After 2 unsuccessful attempts, I finally managed to talk to him. I introduced myself as a BJP Fan, a Social Media activist and a Nationalist and asked for his precious time. I was invited to meet him in Uttar Pradesh Bhavan, on Sardar Patel Road, New Delhi.
Dressed in dazzling White Kurta-Pajama and a blue half jacket, with neatly side parted hair, Mahendra Singh looked every inch of a gentleman. He thanked me for coming and asked if I would like some tea. I nodded assertively. He had a dossier in his hand. He put it aside and asked me about myself. I talked at length about myself, The Frustrated Indian, how it started and how it struck a chord with the masses. He smiled. I then asked, if I could interview him. He told me to go ahead. Meanwhile, the bearer was in with a porcelain pot with pre-sweetened tea. He poured me a cup. I thanked and continued.
Atul Mishra: First of all congratulations on a famous victory in Assam.
Mahendra Singh: Thank you Atul, it is all because of the people of Assam and the spirited BJP Karyakartas that we clinched a victory. It looked like a daunting task but gradually everything fell into place.
Atul Mishra: Tell me about how it began? What role did you play?
Mahendra Singh: It started on 20th of October 2014, when we had a meeting in Kolkata. All state leaders from Assam were there, I was there too. And I had no connections with the ground realities in Assam. Shri Ram Lal ji and Nadda ji were there too. Ram Lal ji told us that there are a total of 24,000 booths in Assam hence we should target at least 24 Lac members. Let us round it off to 25 Lacs, he said. One of the leaders present there told that those numbers are impossible in Assam. We currently stand at 3 lac 51 thousand members, at most we can get around 6 lac members.
I was sitting in the back row, I stood up. No body present there knew me. I cleared my throat and said, We can do this job. Don’t worry, we’ll get the numbers. I was told that I do not know about Assam. I responded curtly and said that I’ll do my best to know Assam. I then explained my plan to them and many of them agreed that the numbers aren’t exactly impossible to achieve. As soon as We landed in Guwahati, We began with the “Mahasadasyata Abhiyaan”- An initiative to get new members.
We created Mandal in Charges, District In charges, Booth in Charges etc. In no time, our membership touched 31 Lacs, that’s 6 lac more than the expected targets. We started Mahasampark Abhiyaan and it was a roaring success. It was widely covered in the press. We also started the Maha-Prasikshan (training) abhiyaan. We conducted a historic national meet for the northeast which was chaired by Honourable Amit Shah ji. We conducted PM’s event in a stadium which was attended by over one lac people. We created short term plans for the local body elections first which was to be held in the month of January 2015. We clean-swept the local body elections and Congress was routed. This was when the cadres got motivated unlike anything seen in the past. We then started overseeing the structuring of Mandals and Panchayats.
We distributed Vidhan Sabha responsibilities amongst party leaders. We made sure that no one gets more than one vidhan sabha so that he could focus completely. We structured 21500 booths with this strategy.
Atul Mishra: Tell us about the programs that you undertook to connect with the masses
Mahendra Singh: We started a series of protests against the corrupt regime of Congress. We did gheraos. Over one lac BJP karyakartas including ministers and top leaders participated in it. We were lathicharged, tear bombs exploded right in front of us and we were arrested too but they couldn’t deter our spirits. We started a Jhanda Satyagraha in the state. AIUDF and Congress used to beat villagers for hoisting flags, they had their own issues with it. We did a mashaal Juloos (Torch Parade) and distributed Flags to people to hoist atop their homes. There was a wave of patriotism in the state and we could see the support for us swelling up.
We also did our best to propagate the unique programs of Respected Narendra Bhai Modi to the common populace. From Jan Dhan Yojna to Pradhan Mantri Mudra Bank to Sukanya Yojna to Pradhan Mantri Atal Pension Yojna to the Raksha and Suraksha Bandhan, we made sure that these programs reach to the root level. We also held special events for national leaders. Amit Shah held events in Dibrugarh and Naogaon, Gadkari ji in Borkhetry, Sushma ji in Silchar, Rajnath Singh in Dhumri and Smriti Irani ji in Nalbari.
We distributed pamphlets and handouts about Tarun Gogoi Ji’s bad governance and at the same time we made sure that Assam gets what it rightfully deserves. Rajnath Singh Ji personally oversaw the border fencing task. Nitin Gadkari ji made sure that the Road Constructions in the state are well taken care of. We also did Pad Yatras and Cycles Rallies. It was a unique experiment. Thousands of people cycled in the streets of Assam to show their support to BJP. We painted the lines of trees to create awareness. We did special programs for Women, minorities, Tea Planters and the local tribes and booth Karyakartas. We created special documents for every BJP worker and volunteer so that they know what to speak and how to say it. We created an impregnable Vyuh well before the big battle.
Atul Mishra: So have you worked in any other state before Assam?
I have worked in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. I was one of the directors in the famous victory in Rajasthan. We also scripted the victory in Haryana when I took care of Gurgaon and Faridabad in last Haryana Elections. I was the head of Sadasyata Abhiyaan in both Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. And I have been working in Uttar Pradesh from a long time.
Atul Mishra: So how did you get into politics?
Mahendra Singh: I started my life with a ward. I was the chairman of Municipal Committee. I was noticed when I turned my Mohalla in to an Adarsh Mohalla. I have worked at Mandal level and in the Yuva Morcha at the state level. I went on to become Kshetriya (Regional) Minister and then Maha Mantri. I was the Prabhari in Madhya Pradesh. I am currently a Member of Legislative Council, Uttar Pradesh and a Rashtriya Mantri.
Atul Mishra: What will be your strategy in UP?
Mahendra Singh: Assam and UP are very similar as far as their issues are concerned. There was lawlessness in Assam, same is the case with UP. Assam Government was corrupt, Samajwadis are corrupt as well. There was appeasement in Assam, and UP Government is infamous for its appeasement politics. UP scores low on Development parameters, Assam was on 28th position. People were mad at the Assam Government, People in UP are equally furious at the reigning SP Government. We believe in working. We follow Narendra Bhai Modi’s “Work is Worship” model. And hence I strongly believe that conditions will be favourable to us. We’ll work like we did in Assam to get UP Wallahs the life that they are entitled to.
Atul Mishra: I have heard about some backend deals being made between Congress and BSP. Prashant Kishor is facilitating the same.
Mahendra Singh (Smiles): I think these Kishors get a lot of media footage, however their role in winning an election is zilch. There are just two things that help win an election. The love of people and the work of Karyakartas. At this point of time, we command both.
Atul Mishra: Tell me a little bit about your personal life, your childhood and how you managed to come this far.
Mahendra Singh: I come from a humble peasant family in Pratapgarh. I did my schooling from a small Hindi Medium school where students were supposed to carry their sitting mats along with them. But I was a good student, favourite of the school headmaster. I used to help my father in farms after school. From sowing potatoes to sugarcane, to fetching water from canals to operating Rahat, I have done everything that a farmer’s son is supposed to do. I passed high school with First Division. My brothers who were now employed in Lucknow, called me to pursue higher studies. I did my Intermediate from Lucknow Janata College.
I topped my batch. I was very good at dramatics too. People still call me Harishchandra at my village because of a role that I played in 1987. I became of a lifelong member of Sangh and participated in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. I appeared for Civil service Exams twice, cleared the prelims and mains every single time. Somehow I couldn’t ace the interviews. When I was in MA final year, I contested in Corporator election and became a Councillor in Lucknow. Atal Ji noticed me when I compered an event in chaste Sanskrit. And then like I told you I went on to become MLC and Rashtriya Mantri. Despite the political compulsions, I completed my PhD as well.
Atul Mishra: How come people still do not know a lot about you, despite working so hard?
Mahendra Singh: I do not believe in advertisements. I believe in work. Work matters, ideologies matter, Results matter, Team Spirit matters. People know me or not is not something that I am very concerned about.
I thanked the humble man and he curtly shook my hands. He offered for another round of tea, which I politely accepted. And then we talked about other things. I got to know that he is a lecturer at Lucknow University. He has given the MLC Government Quarter to the party and stays in a humble accommodation on his own expenses.
All the while he was talking, I couldn’t help picturing him as the UP Chief Minister. A well-groomed man, a spellbinding orator, a well-educated man, a determined man, a man who rose to prominence with sheer grit and hard work and a man with extreme humility. A humble man with no glorious family name as UP CM. Wishful thinking, but this is a new Bharat Varsh that we live in.