New Delhi: Vani Tripathi is the glamorous and sensible face of Bharatiya Janata Party. Earlier, known for her roles in television serials and a couple of Hindi feature films, she is now the National Secretary of the party.
Forceful about her observations on issues related to the youth, particularly women, she has travelled all over the country to share her views.
Tripathi said: "The youth, instead of downgrading and cribbing about the quality of politicians in the country, should come forward and take the initiative. Criticising is easy, but it takes courage to join the system and work towards its betterment."
She spoke to Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
GULF NEWS: What are the major issues that the BJP is concentrating on with regard to youth?
VANI TRIPATHI: The foremost is inflation, which is leading to unemployment. The youth ought to understand that being bitter will not help their cause. As a sense of responsibility, they should exercise their franchise.
It's important to involve the youth in decision-making. [They should] be made part of the mainstream process of the country. There is a dire requirement of a national youth policy. And my party's resolve is to create a leadership situation for young women in the 18-35 age group.
Your party president Nitin Gadkari made a tempting offer by saying — gather cro wd, get reward — for the April 21 rally in New Delhi. The reward being made in charge of the party ruled states.
He must have said it only to motivate the cadres. It doesn't work like that. The party is cadre-driven, not personality-driven.
In the BJP, you can't parachute yourself into a situation and become something. As it is, the party-ruled states are not easy to be in charge of.
That has its own baggage of problems, including anti-incumbency. The challenge is to go to a state where you can actually hone the cadre and bring it up to a level of conscientiousness, which goes into the next election. That is rewarding.
BJP has got several celebrities into its folds.
Yes, but as a celebrity, your popularity quotient makes you win only one election.
And if you don't work, the electorate will throw you out. Being a popular face, one does get 20-30 per cent more attention, which can be used as an advantage.
But I always feel that every artiste should have a social conscience, whether you do politics, charity or fund-raising.
I have been, what they call, a celebrity campaigner — a term that I dislike, but yes, people do recognise me and crowds pull up. But if only crowd-pulling were important, I would have become a national office-bearer six years ago.
I have worked cohesively in the cadres in every nook and corner of the country including Chattisgarh, Bastar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and the southern states.
Do you foresee BJP having a woman president in the near future?
Surely. When Uma Bharati became the national youth wing president, it was a situation of its own kind.
Also, BJP being the first political party to give 33 per cent reservation in its organisation to women, we can have a woman president soon.
You're a protégé of the late Pramod Mahajan. What were his strong points that you miss in the party?
The one thing that I miss about him so much was that even if his most ardent detractor mentioned anything in a meeting, which would help the party, he would endorse it and get it done. Seldom does one come across such quality. In fact, most politicians lack this capability.
He had a huge mass support base and across party lines people loved him. He brought youthfulness into the political scenario and could become one with people — whether in a village or a city.
Gadkari is also bringing in a change. He has belief in young people and has created an opportunity for the young to join in. Now, it is up to us to do well in the situation.
What are your political aims?
I feel politics is the only vehicle for social change and only a politician has the change-making capacity.
This can either mean arrogance or having an empowering position.
For me, it's an empowering situation. I've always wanted to become part of policy-making and governance process of the country. I feel there's lot of work to be done for women, especially in semi-urban and rural areas. My prime focus is education, health care and empowerment.
Ever since joining politics, what's that one thing you've initiated to make a difference to the party?
Two years ago, I was able to spearhead one of the first kinds of women leadership initiatives for the party.
We had realised that almost 50 per cent of the electorate was under 40 years of age and by 2014 that percentage would grow. I worked to bring in two focuses.
One, to have a cohesive concentrated leadership programme for young women, who are either studying or teaching and facing extreme situations of security concerns.
Two, to start a professional political leadership programme, which means communication skills and campaign management.
The Women's Reservation Bill appears to have stalled again. Will the deadlock be broken?
There's no doubt that the Women's Reservation Bill will be passed in the Lok Sabha. But where's the baseline structure of representation for women.
They are still dependant on their spouses, village panchayat heads and campaign managers. Sometimes, after coming into politics, for six months they have no knowledge of the know-how.
But if they come in with training, which I want to work towards, where they will know about the political scenario, it will give them leverage. And they will be less dependant on men around them. It's seen that a woman as a village head is doubly sure to come back to power again.
That means she had the conscience and sincerity to work. And that level of sincerity is what will become a defining moment in Indian politics after the reservation. The bill is a change which is inevitable, however abusive some leaders may try to obstruct it.
Do you agree with the recent Mumbai High Court ruling that women should revert to their maiden surname post-divorce?
A lot of divorces happen due to abuse and domestic violence. And in such cases the name does not matter.
The fact that a woman can walk out of a marriage is in itself an empowering situation. Everything else is an edifice. So, it should be entirely the choice of the woman.
Your take on dynastic politics
I don't have any issues with people coming from political families, as some of them do good work. But only lineage being a pre-requisite is extremely unfair to people like me, who do not come from a political background.
For instance, from Maharashtra itself we have 2-3 MPs from powerful political families. It's sad. I've lived nine years in Maharashtra and know that politically it's one of the most vibrant states. Then why?
In the BJP, one can't be 25 years old and sit in the parliament. You might probably be 40 years when you first get a ticket to fight the Lok Sabha elections.
This is the difference between political parties run like private limited companies and cadre-based political parties.
Which policies of the other political parties appeal to you?
NREGA [National Rural Employment Guarantee Act] that aimed at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas was a very exciting project. But it turned out to be a huge disaster. The way the biometric cards were handled, it became a source of corruption. There should have been an independent body to look into the execution of this scheme. I thought the Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi and his team would do good, but where have the Rs160 billion (Dh13 billion) meant for NREGA gone?
Your views on Rahul Gandhi, the role model of the youth today
He's doing good work. But the photo-opportunism is something I do not appreciate. If you go to a backward class family, you don't have to publicise it. We too go to such places, but don't trumpet about it.
But then I don't know whether it's Rahul or people around him doing that, because he seems to be a sensible person.
Unlikely twist in career
- Vani Tripathi was born on July 4 in New Delhi to Dr Uma and Dr G.C. Tripathi, lecturers in Rajasthan University and Delhi University, respectively.
- She studied at Holy Child School and did Political Science (Honours) from Hindu College.
- Received acting diploma under the tutelage of theatre director Ebrahim Al Kazi.
- Joined the National School of Drama at the age of 18 as a faculty with a designation of actor-cum-teacher.
- Entered politics in 2004 and became national secretary of BJP's youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha,.
- Presently, the National Secretary of BJP.