JAMMU, Dec 14: Ex-BJP MLA Dr. Gagan Bhagat in a candid talk with Pallavi Sareen of The Straight Line levelled serious allegations on powerful BJP General Secretary for J&K Ashok Koul. He accused Ashok Koul of being anti-Dalit and calling Dalits people who had no brains. Below is the detailed interview and the video is on the facebook page as well as you tube channel of The Straight Line
Pallavi Sareen: Dr. Gagan Bhat, it seems you are the favourite child of controversies? Do you like being controversial or is it that media is following you too much?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: The political system of Jammu and Kashmir is quite sensitive and even the trivial political issues get blown out of proportion. I have a habit of saying the truth in front of everyone. Perhaps, that is not accepted as a good practice in politics. That is why, controversies keep on happening. It is the social media age and in such times, you should have TRP on social media so people could get to know what is happening. This also gives you an opportunity to keep your viewpoint.
Pallavi Sareen: BJP has recently issued a press note and thrown you out of the party. The reason given were well understood but why this delay? Why not when your photos went viral or you talked about Article 35-A?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: The ideology because of which my workers and I joined BJP. Even I thought that this is a party with difference. We had joined BJP with a positive thought and we won the 2014 elections. It was a huge success. Our ancestors have seen tough times. We have studied in government schools, walked on foot. It is a fact that in the state BJP unit, there is no space for Dalits.
They need Dalits but only those who have no voice, who can sit and stand on their orders. Moreover, the space that you get in BJP is according to your religion and community. When you see the ones who are becoming the State President and the community they belong to, everything becomes clear where the leaning is.
Out of twenty-five BJP MLAs who won, seven come from reserved seats. That amounts to 25 percent. They did not even make one of them MLC. There is SC Advisory Board in which none of us was made members. It was given away to PDP. The community that supported BJP not only in those seven SC dominated constituencies but even in Akhnoor, Nagrota, Ramnagar and Udhampur both constituencies of Jammu, Gandhi Nagar along with Kathua and Billawar just to ensure that the party wins seats in Legislative Assembly, they have been completely ignored.
After Muslims, Dalit community is second on the census according to population. In Jammu, they have the highest population and BJP has ignored such a community. While seeking vote bank, they remember equality for all ‘Bhajpa Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’ but it is not like that. They do want everyone’s support while seeking votes but when they come in power, they only favour those who belong to particular religion.
A party leader donated Rs. 10 lakh when the party needed. His wife was made nominated MLA, later even Minister and everyone knows what the couple did later. It is in public domain. The benefit the person got out of it is that the white money that they gave, their relative is made a minister. The person that was not chosen by the people was made MLA and a Minister.
Pallavi Sareen: Did it take you four years to come to all these conclusions and that too after you have been thrown out of the party? You are aggrieved because you were not made Minister, you were not heard, and you were ignored. Is this so?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: You can look at the proceedings of the Assembly. I have raised every issue and at times, even gone against the party line. I have raised the issue of Artificial Lake, holiday on the birth anniversary of Raja Hari Singh, Refugee crisis and even about west Pakistani refugees. I have taken stand against the state government and even received support from the opposition.
The party would pressurise me to withdraw and stop speaking against the government but I would go on and take the government to task. You can see the records. I was told that I should not be speaking against the government. I have never desisted from speaking against the party line. I even raised these issues on the platform of SC morcha. Nothing came out of this.
Pallavi Sareen: You have been talking about General Secretary of J&K BJP Ashok Koul. What exactly is your issue with him? It looks like you left BJP primarily because you were agitated with Ashok Koul?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: Ashok Koul has centralised BJP in Jammu and Kashmir to the extent that he has become a dictator. From a small worker to Deputy Chief Minister, he wants to control them all. Everyone knows how experienced Ravinder Raina who is the State President is and what kind of qualities he has from the way he speaks.
All know his theatrics. Can such a man who is so controversial be made the State President of a party, which was in power not just in the state but in the centre as well? For a man who blames Pakistan even for his own gastric troubles or headaches, was he eligible for being made state President of such a party? The only quality he had was that he was loyal to Ashok Koul.
He knew that Ravinder Raina could be remote-controlled and through him, Ashok Koul could get his people in during the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Even in the Municipal elections, where there will be four MLCs, he is planning to have his own coterie. Kashmiri Pandits are a small minority in Jammu yet they have got much more than what they deserve, just because a Kashmiri Pandit is the most powerful person in the party.
Kashmiri Pandits did not vote for BJP and the proof is that Moti Lal Koul contested on a BJP ticket from Habba Kadal constituency in Kashmir valley. However, Kashmiri Pandits did not vote for him. Had they voted for him, Koul would have won. What was the reason then, that the people who had not worked for the people were made MLCs? Because they were also Kashmiri Pandits and belonged to the same community as Ashok Koul. If this is the criteria, then where do we stand? Ashok Koul is casteist and does not like Schedule Castes.
Pallavi Sareen: Have you ever brought all these issues into the notice of the central leadership? If yes, what has been there response?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: Against the national-level official, the state workers are midgets. I have told them about Article 370 and 35A that it is beneficial for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Maybe that is not so for the rest of the country, but for the people of J&K, it is beneficial. We must understand there is difference between regional and national issues.
Regional issues have their own importance. The regional issues are also quite important like you see the Maratha Andolan, Jatt Andolan in Haryana, even they think that due to encroachment of outsiders, their own character is vanishing. If Article 35-A is removed, Dogra Andolan may begin here. Neither the Dogra nor Dogri would survive because no one would wish to go to Kashmir.
The entire encroachment and trespassing would be in Jammu and while BJP might get the benefit of it, Jammu would be destroyed. I have said this on every platform. This must come to the cognizance of BJP in the centre. They say that BJP does not compromise with ideology and it is all a lie. When they sit in power, they will compromise to whatever extent they can. They joined hands with PDP. They talk about “Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan, Ek Nishan” but they sat in a car with two flags. Where was their ideology then? They allege that I am involved in anti-party activities. Just because I am a Dalit, I got a notice from the Disciplinary committee on a personal matter, which is already sub-judice in court; they created a controversy against me. Another big leader of BJP faced similar allegations but just because he is from a different community, no action was taken.
Pallavi Sareen: Your pictures went viral in which you were seen with a girl. Your wife shared the pics and videos with media. Don’t you think that has damaged you in your constituency?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: I need not explain because the truth is in front of everyone. Because of personal enmity, people tried to ruin my political career. Is our police so useless that a girl is kidnapped and they do not register an FIR? You can check in all the police stations if there is an FIR against me. Our law is so strict for women safety that if someone misbehaves with a woman or harasses her, you are jailed. But nothing like that happened. There was no kidnapping because the girl herself said that she was not kidnapped. Moreover, it is about personal life.
Even Modi ji’s personal life is talked about that he left his wife after three years of marriage. Can someone ask why Ashok Koul never married? What is the reason, what defect did he have? It is his personal life and someone’s personal life is filled with turmoil. In today’s time, due to social media, things that should not be highlighted often are highlighted and some matters can be solved after having a discussion. It is my personal matter and it has been rectified. There was no kidnapping or molestation here. It was just a small misunderstanding, which was used by some party workers against me because they knew that I am a Dalit who speaks against the wrongs and exposes people.
It has been rectified and now there is no matter anymore, neither in police nor court. I appreciate people from R.S Pura that during troublesome times they stood shoulder to shoulder with me and not one of them said anything against me. They all said that it is my personal life and there could be different perspectives to this. Moreover, whose wife wears what clothes, eats what, loves him when and fights when is all-personal.
Pallavi Sareen: There are people saying that you are going to join NC? And reports are that Congress too has approached you? Where are you headed and why?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: There is no permanent enemy or friend in politics and the way I work, people are with me because I have always stood by them. We have solved their issues. The kind of infrastructural development that is there in R.S Pura is for everyone to see. You see the roads, stadiums and everything, all the work is done. The kind of development that we have done in four years is incomparable with the work done in past forty years. I feel that when Sarpanches and Municipal Counsellors will not find work that is yet to be done.
No political party is far from me and I will go with the party that will talk about Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. I am not the sole decision maker. There are party-workers, booth level workers and block presidents. We will discuss and join only the political party that talks collectively of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Not that you incite Kashmir on the name of Jammu and vice-versa.
Pallavi Sareen: Is Congress an option?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: See, regional party means Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Whether it is PDP, NC, Panther’s Party, Congress or BJP, they see all three regions. However, there must be a consensus in all these regions and the people must be brought together. The potential leadership must talk about the people and highlight their issues. You must have seen the gap increasing between Jammu and Kashmir and it must be removed. I have always said that Kashmir’s people should move to Jammu and Jammu’s people should go to Kashmir to interact. The interaction will lead to negation of the vote-bank politics. Like in the last elections, BJP showed the fear of people of Kashmir to win the people of Jammu over. That would not work.
The politics would be that about important issues like poverty, development, unemployment, militancy. They bring issues like Ram Mandir in the spotlight so people forget about inflation, black money and other big issues. Since the recent election results came out, it is not that people have voted for Congress, people have rejected BJP. Congress does not have any option either. In comparison, PM Modi is way better than Rahul Gandhi because Rahul Gandhi is not capable enough. He does not have the maturity and experience. He is quite childish. The decision-making capability is essential because the pride of every citizen is on stake.
In the past years, BJP has been a complete failure in terms of Pakistan policies. Kashmir’s people are essentially angry with BJP because they had high expectations. However, after BJP came, the gap and discrimination has only increased because the previous ministers had been useless. Ladakh’s sitting MP resigned. Now it feels like no seat will be there for BJP in the Vidhan Sabha.
The collective blame of this should fall on Ashok Koul because the tiniest decision is in his hands. He is the only person who has worked anti-dalit and has discriminated a lot. He does not go to the programmes of Dalits or their homes. If he really respected them, they should have been given their constitutional position and their rights.
Pallavi Sareen: If Ashok Koul had not been in BJP, would you have been in the party?
Dr. Gagan Bhagat: It is clear that BJP does not have a space for Dalits. Ashok Koul is their point man who was furthering their agenda. Their agenda is simple that you must gather votes from Dalits but give them no benefits. There must be no development for them because otherwise they will get educated and not vote for us. Such ideology exists not only for state BJP but the party all over the country is anti-SC.
The MP that BJP made from Ladakh was from Scheduled Tribe community. From Jammu, Poonch, it was Brahmin community and from Doda, Udhampur and Kathua, it was Rajput community. Not even one Dalit was appointed. They do not respect Dalits and even if they even take one Dalit into the party, they will put him in a place where he need not do anything. They believe that Dalits do not have any calibre. Ashok Koul has made statements that Dalits do not have the stuff. This is why I am against the man because he leads the anti-Dalit agenda of BJP.