Interview: ‘Doubt authenticity and intent of Bihar caste census,’ says BJP’s Khushbu Sundar

In an interview with South First, the BJP National Executive member speaks on Bihar's caste census, delimitation, and many other issues.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Oct 17, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdated Oct 17, 2023 | 1:14 PM

Interview: ‘Doubt authenticity and intent of Bihar caste census,’ says BJP’s Khushbu Sundar

“This whole process is just a cover-up, I doubt the authenticity and even its intent,” says Khushbu Sundar, BJP National Executive member, dismissing the Bihar government’s recently released caste census data.

In an exclusive interview with South First, former actor Sundar speaks about BJP’s road ahead in Tamil Nadu, the Women’s Reservation Bill, the Udupi video recording incident, and much more. Edited excerpts from the interview:

Q. Do you believe Bihar’s caste census has made the Opposition INDIA bloc’s campaign stronger? Will it affect the BJP?

A. Definitely not. What caste census are we discussing? Why was the caste census not conducted earlier? Why is it being carried out just before the elections? When we look at the INDIA alliance, we notice that many of their top officials belong to the upper caste. So, what exactly is the purpose of this caste census?

Kushbhu Sundar, Member, BJP party at South First's Dakshin Dialogue held recently in Bengaluru

Kushbhu Sundar, Member, BJP National Executive at South First’s Dakshin Dialogues 2023 held recently in Bengaluru. (South First)

Ravi Shankar Prasad has clearly stated that he belongs to Bihar. People didn’t even ask him anything substantial. So, how many of the actual voters were consulted for this caste census? I view this as a mere farce, a cover-up.

How many people were genuinely consulted? Do they even understand the minorities they are talking about? They don’t even have accurate data on the number of minorities in India or in Tamil Nadu.

Their focus should be on meaningful implementation rather than just announcing that a caste census has been done. If it has indeed been conducted, then I am pleased. But every educated, critical thinker can see this cover-up. I doubt its authenticity.

Also read: Population won’t be only criteria for delimitation, says Khushbu Sundar 

Q. What is your take on the Women’s Reservation Bill? Do you wish for it to be implemented from the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?

A. Yes. We have been waiting for this Bill for 60 long years. We have been eagerly anticipating it at every given point, but it has been postponed for various reasons.

I am glad that it has been tabled and passed very smoothly in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

We are in the 21st century and we are still fighting for 33 percent reservation. Like every woman in this country, it is a dream come true for me.

Q. How do you respond to criticism that linking the Bill to delimitation was unnecessary and it will only mean delay in implementing women’s reservation?

A. Everything has a process. We have waited for 60 long years and delimitation, which has been pushed to the back burner for 50 years, is finally moving forward.

Instead of criticising the Opposition, we should focus on finding ways to expedite the implementation of women’s reservation. It has been tabled and it will be implemented by 2029.

Delimitation is a mandatory constitutional amendment in India and we haven’t even conducted the census. So, I believe that delimitation, which should have been done, has not even been completed yet. Let’s take it one step at a time.

Q. The BJP seems to be in a tough spot in Tamil Nadu. How do you view the AIADMK walking out of the alliance?

A. I won’t be able to comment much on it because we have senior leaders and BJP state president Annamalai speaking about it.

So, I don’t think it would be right on my part to sit and give my comments. Problems could escalate further if everybody starts to comment.

We have leaders to discuss and sort it out, so we should leave it to them.

Also read: Dakshin Dialogues panellists call for public debate on delimitation

Q. Have the results of the Karnataka elections come as a setback to BJP’s momentum in the South — given the rumblings within the alliance in TN and slow pace of electioneering in Telangana?

A. Not at all. We knew how Karnataka operates; it’s like five years in Opposition, five years in power — going back and forth. I am not perturbed and none of the BJP members are perturbed about it. What matters is what will happen in 2024 and we eagerly anticipate it.

Panel discussion on 'Delimitation: Southern Discomfort and Solutions'. (South First)

Khusbhu was part of a panel discussion on ‘Delimitation: Southern Discomfort and Solutions’ at Dakshin Dialogues. (South First)

Regarding the Tamil Nadu and Telangana elections, I would say that we believe in the principle of “slow and steady wins the race”. We are not in a hurry. We are not looking for a five-year stint where someone else forms a government later.

Whether it is Telangana or Tamil Nadu, when we form the government, we are aiming for long-term governance. We are working diligently towards that goal, starting from the grassroots, building relationships with the voters.

Today, the kind of enthusiasm you see in Tamil Nadu for the BJP is remarkable. The BJP, which used to be a small mention on the fifth page, is now making waves in Tamil Nadu. We are confident that we will soon form the government.

Q. How do you respond to criticism of the BJP indulging in communal politics? Take, for example, what happened in Parliament recently when a BJP MP used communal slurs against a Muslim MP and no action was taken.

A. Every political party should understand that the people of India, which we refer to as “Bharat”, come together to prosper and progress. Regardless of their caste or religion, everyone belongs to our country.

So, every political party needs to recognise the importance of maintaining a unified standard, a common boundary, and a decorum of decency that should not be crossed.

Individuals from any party should not cross these lines; they are not acceptable.

Watch: Khushbu Sundar speaks about delimitation, communal politics and more

Q. You were here in Karnataka to take stock of the Udupi college video recording incident. There were so many contentious and communal allegations in that case. What was your assessment of it?

A. At that time, I was not representing the BJP but the National Commission for Women.

We collected reports and communicated with the police, and we also provided the information to the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Since the case has now been taken over by the CID, I prefer to reserve my comments on this matter. I leave it to the Karnataka government to release the investigation report, rather than pushing it into the background.

Q. Why didn’t you visit Manipur? Why was there a delay in taking any action by the NCW there?

Khushbu Sundar and John Brittas. (South First)

Khushbu and Brittas share a lighter moment, following an intense discussion on stage at Dakshin Dialogues. (South First)

A. The severity became apparent only after the video emerged 78 days later. The NCW received a general complaint about women being targeted; specifics weren’t provided.

The media, as the fourth democratic pillar, brought attention to the issue. Responses were based on received reports and messages. The prime minister and Union Home Ministry took actions to control the situation.

The situation was complicated. There was a border issue, tribal conflict, outside funding that had inflamed tensions.

What hurts me the most is why women are often targetted for vindictive violence. As a woman, I want to oppose this kind of gender-based violence. I aim to address and prevent such gender-targetted injustices.

Watch: Poor treatment of Southern India: John Brittas

Q. You have been criticised for changing parties. What is Khushbu’s ideological stand? Is there one?

A. Who doesn’t change parties? Those who accuse me of switching parties have themselves come from other parties, whether it was the Congress welcoming people from the BJP or the CPI taking in members from various backgrounds.

What ideology are the leaders of these parties talking about? I have my ideology and it’s very simple: I aim to serve the people of my country. I will stick with the party I believe will do better for my country.

After careful consideration, I have come to realise that the BJP is genuinely committed to the well-being of the nation, the aspirations of this country, and the future generations. I want to remain with the BJP because working closely with them, I have seen that this party is dedicated to advancing the nation and not sidelining important matters.

Q. What is a more challenging field for a woman — the film industry or politics?

A. Both! It’s not easy; it’s challenging for women. In whichever field a woman chooses to pursue, she faces numerous restrictions.

As a woman, an actor, and a politician, every day is a struggle and a fight. Men often find it easier in politics and cinema, while women are easy targets for defamation, name-calling, and searching for reasons to attack them.