Amit Shah says if Lok Sabha elections are held today, BJP will get more seats than it did in 2014
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah says the party has never looked at voters on the basis of religion and has always opposed appeasement.india Updated: Jan 25, 2018 12:51 IST
In a free-wheeling interview with Shishir Gupta and DK Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah spoke on a range of issues – from the polls in the north-east to the jobs crisis in the country to the party’s approach to the 2019 Parliamentary elections. Edited excerpts:
Where do you see the gains for your party in 2019?
It’s not hidden any more. In Odisha, we did well in local elections; in West Bengal, the number of wards under us has increased; we have made gains in Telangana; and in Kerala. We are gaining in every state in the north-east. The field is completely open in Bengal, Odisha, Telangana... From 2014, we have been at work in the Coromandel states, in the north-east, in the southern states.
You are ruling 19 states, which may even go up to 21-22 by the next General Election. Do you think all other parties will group together against the BJP in 2019?
It won’t be proper to predict at this stage, but it has to happen sometime. If we expand, naturally, we have to fight in every state. In 2014, we had six governments. If we go with 22 governments in 2019, we will have to fight in 22 states.
It’s necessary to have an Opposition in a democracy.
Yes, but it’s not our responsibility.
Of course, but do you think there will be a new generation of Opposition?
It emerges automatically. It’s a natural process. When the Congress was in power, the BJP emerged. Similarly, some Opposition party will emerge.
When we came to power in 2014, every citizen was apprehensive about the future. The youth didn’t know in which direction the country was heading. Women were not safe. Borders were not safe. The country’s standing before the world had come down. There was policy paralysis in the government. There was no chain of command.
One saw caste politics at work in Gujarat and one is seeing caste violence in Maharashtra. Do you think this will derail the BJP?
If you try to root out the problems of casteism, nepotism and appeasement, there will be a last attempt to fight back. I won’t analyse it by linking any caste with it. It’s a natural process, but we have to win this fight for the country, and for democracy.
Will you be able to maintain your seats in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere?
I am confident we will. So many incidents happen in such a big country, so it can’t be healthy to guess anything. But if there are elections today, we will return with a bigger majority.
After Gujarat, the Congress is quite upbeat...
We will see what happens after Karnataka.
Dravidian parties are showing signs of weakness in Tamil Nadu now. Rajinikanth is a new entrant. How are you looking at the situation?
We are looking at it closely. We will discuss it with our state unit at an appropriate time.
Overall, are you comfortable about your prospects in 2019?
Certainly. When we came to power in 2014, every citizen was apprehensive about the future. The youth didn’t know in which direction the country was heading. Women were not safe. Borders were not safe. The country’s standing before the world had come down. There was policy paralysis in the government. There was no chain of command.
In the six years of the last government, there were eight occasions when the growth rate fell to 5.7% or below. There was a time when India was made part of a new group in the global economy. It was not like G-7, G-8 or G-20. The new group’s name was Fragile Five. After three-and-a-half years, the entire world is looking at India with hope beca- use of Modiji.
All economic figures under Modiji’s leadership of the government and Arunji’s leadership of the department of finance are on track, whether it’s fiscal deficit or trade deficit, inflation… the Sensex is touching the sky. Today we are one of the two or three fastest growing economies of the world. India has become a good destination for investment. When UPA II left, in 2013-14, foreign exchange reserve was $294.4 billion, which has crossed $402 billion now. The UPA government built 69 km roads every day in 2013-14; in 2016-17, 130 km roads are being constructed every day. In 2014, the aam aadmi was getting a home loan at 10-12% interest rate; it’s available at 8-9% now. This is a sensitive and transparent government. Be it GST or demonetisation or surgical strike, be it one rank one pension, we took decisions without fear. That’s why the mood has changed.
We have replied in every election that, after the court verdict, a grand Ram temple will be built there (Ayodhya).
Looking at the Gujarat elections, it was evident that there was farm distress — groundnut, cotton – particularly in Saurashtra, where your seat share came down. There is a similar situation at many other places.
As far as Gujarat is concerned, every second vote has gone to the BJP. It’s a big achievement. As you say, there is some resentment among farmers, and that’s because the production has increased manifold. I find it positive. It’s our achievement that in Saurashtra, where there could be just one crop, there are three crops today. Increasing production may be a small problem but adjusting production is not a problem.
The issue is the absence of market linkage...
We understand that and will do what is required. Increasing production was the first priority.
You must be doing your own threat assessment — from the Opposition — or from where the problems are coming. In the past 12-18 months, there has been increasing Dalit mobilisation.
Let me correct it a bit... it’s being tried.
Okay, there is an attempt. How do you look at it? In the past, it was fragmented.
Your analysis is not correct. It’s a political attempt, not an attempt for Dalit welfare. The Congress has always abused Ambedkar… didn’t give him respect even after death… didn’t give him a Bharat Ratna… didn’t allow his photo in Parliament. How are they talking about it now? Dalits also understand. Democracy has matured.
The Supreme Court is going to hear Ayodhya title case. You have been asked questions about your promise of Ram temple in every election.
We have replied in every election that, after the court verdict, a grand Ram temple will be built there.
After the government’s move on triple talaq, there are renewed talks on the uniform civil code.
We haven’t taken any decision on this. What we have decided on triple talaq is also stalled in the Rajya Sabha due to the Congress’s objection. Our endeavour will be that it becomes a law in the next session. The Congress doesn’t want the triple talaq law to be passed. Earlier also, the Congress brought a law to negate the apex court’s judgement in the Shah Bano case.
I believe we will form the government in Tripura. We are already in Nagaland. The Congress will be ousted from Meghalaya.
How long will this apprehension among Muslims against the BJP continue? How will you remove such apprehension?
We have not tried to remove any apprehension. We have tried to work. Sooner or later, it will end. We never looked at voters on the basis of religion. We are the ones who are opposing appeasement.
In the economy, job creation has been a problem for a long time. What’s being done on this front?
I am not an economist but I have an appeal to make. All economists have to understand one thing that India is not Yugoslavia, Romania, England or Italy. It’s a country of 125 crore people, and if you want to give jobs to 60 crore people, the government can do nothing else. We will have to look for different ways in consonance with our country’s problems. For this, we have prepared the youth through skill development, following which many people got jobs. We have taken it forward through the Startup and Stand Up schemes. Through the Mudra bank scheme, almost 95 million people have got jobs in the unorganised sector. No other government made such efforts; these people got loans of Rs 10,000 to Rs 10 lakh without any guarantee, without any guarantor, at low interest rates.
But your former finance minister is not convinced!
There is democracy in our party.
Politically, is your focus on the north-east right now?
Naturally, it is on the north-east. These three states are important to us. In all three states, our main aim is to register the BJP’s presence, to form our governments.
What are your prospects?
I believe we will form the government in Tripura. We are already in Nagaland. The Congress will be ousted from Meghalaya.
Nobody knows the details of the Naga framework agreement yet. How big an issue will that be in the election?
I think it’s better than having nothing. At least we can say that the positive impact has been an end to bloodshed. When there is time for giving details of the agreement, the government will do it because, ultimately, it has to be implemented in Nagaland and in the adjoining states.
Will you go for an alliance in Karnataka?
No, we will go alone in Karnataka. The BJP will contest every seat.
Is the Karnataka election going to be tough?
No election is easy. I think we will certainly form the government under Yeddyurappaji and with a better majority.
Yeddyurappa is a very controversial figure in Karnataka, also because of the corruption cases against him. Looking at BJP, people say it may be corruption-free but that’s not the case in Karnataka.
Whatever charges were levelled against Yeddyurappaji were quashed by the apex court. Even after this, if someone raises the issue, we will respond.
You have three-term anti-incumbency in MP and Chhattisgarh and one term in Rajasthan. Are elections in these states going to be your toughest electoral tests ahead of 2019?
Every election is a challenge. In other elections, people would say two-term incumbency, and we won the third time. Now that you are asking me about three-term, we will win the fourth time. Reserve this question for the fifth time.
In the local bodies elections in Rajasthan and MP, the BJP lost some ground. Is it a matter of concern?
A defeat, even in the smallest units, is a matter of concern. But it doesn’t mean that we are anxious. We are comfortable in the three states. Our governments have done very well on all parameters. Opposition parties have been creating so much uproar. Let one of them stand up and say the agriculture growth rate in their state is 15 per cent. I have seven such states.
There is speculation that you might advance the Lok Sabha elections to club them with elections in these three states...
Kuchh hai bhi toh main thode hi bata doonga. (If there is something, will I tell you?). It doesn’t work like that.
There have been some controversies of late. First, there was a case related to your son, then there is the Loya case.
Both matters are in the court. As far as Jay (Shah) is concerned, we have gone to the court. Our stand is dispose it of immediately. People should know before the 2019 elections what the truth is. As for the Loya case, I don’t want to comment because I have nothing to do with this case and it is pending in the Supreme Court.
What are your thoughts about the disruptions over Padmaavat movie?
The Supreme Court has given its verdict. Governments have to comply with it and they are accepting it. Those who think the verdict is not right, they should appeal. After the SC ruling, all governments have said they will implement it. The party has nothing to do with it.
How do you look at the turmoil in the top judiciary?
I think we should leave it to the judiciary to resolve this. Only then can the judiciary be independent. People in the judiciary should meet and find a way out.
How prepared are you for the Delhi bypolls? You still have to wait for what the court decides, but it is a big possibility.
Look, we are not quite ready because this has happened. By being ready, I mean for elections. Organisationally, we are always ready. The last elections in Delhi were for the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) in which we had good success.
Has the planning started?
Not yet. It’s an urban election. But the state unit was already preparing because the case was on for a long time.
There was a time when the AAP was being considered a possible third force (in Indian politics)...
Nobody except the media said that.