BJP backed by all sects due to issue-based support, PM’s welfare policies: Shah

There is a formidable alliance that the BJP is up against in Uttar Pradesh.
BJP backed by all sections due to issue-based support and PM Modi’s welfare policies: Amit Shah
BJP backed by all sections due to issue-based support and PM Modi’s welfare policies: Amit Shah
Updated on Feb 14, 2022 01:18 AM IST
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By, Shashi Shekhar

There is a formidable alliance that the BJP is up against in Uttar Pradesh. What is the party’s expectation after the first phase of polling in western UP?

In 2019, there was an alliance of the Congress, RLD, BSP and SP… they were all together. This time, there are two fewer, so the alliance is weaker. In 2019, we swept the elections and this time too we will sweep the polls.

There is the factor of Jat alienation on account of the now-repealed farm laws. Do you think the community will vote for the BJP like it did before?

We will get more or less the same votes as before.

You started the campaign in Kairana, where there was this report of Hindu families fleeing before 2014. Do you think the situation that emerged there after the 2013 riots is still prevalent?

Kairana is not about just winning an election; a lot of media people make that mistake. It is a movement for Jan Jagruti (people’s awakening) by the Bharatiya Janata Party. To create a situation on the ground that forces a particular community to flee, according to me, is against the tenets of democracy. Our struggle is against it. If anyone has to leave a region, it has to be opposed. I don’t think this issue should be seen from a political prism or linked to electoral outcome. And this issue is still important. After the BJP came to power, chief minister Yogi Adityanath made significant improvement in the law and order of the state, because of which migration from Kairana stopped and this is a reality.

You are accused of using Kairana to polarise the electorate.

I feel not acknowledging the fact that migration happened is polarisation. Why should we not raise this issue? A particular community is forced to leave a place, is that not a social and electoral issue? Not raising the issue is the policy and politics of appeasement because you aren’t raising an issue with an eye on a specific vote bank. We are only putting out the truth.

But what about specific references to Jinnah being made by BJP leaders and it being an election of ‘80 vs 20’, as the CM said?

There are many references that people make, some call it an election of 80:20, some say it’s an election of 85:15. These are things that people say; these statements don’t make a difference to the electoral outcome in a state as big as Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that Muslim women voting for the BJP upsets some parties. We’ve seen in Bihar more than 59% of the women voted for the BJP. If there is polarisation in UP and a particular community chooses not to vote for the BJP, do you think the women of that community will still vote for the BJP?

The PM said the BJP empowering Muslim women upsets people. The BJP gets support from all sections of society. However, I have questions in my mind about the accuracy of percentages; I don’t believe people come out and speak the truth about their voting preferences. Many people don’t want to get exposed; some convey it cleverly. But it is a fact that the BJP gets votes from all sections because of issue-based support and the welfare policies of the Modi government. In UP alone, there are more than 150 million people who have benefited from government schemes. Our government has provided toilets and power in households, 14.2 million people have got houses, medical benefits up to 5 lakh have been provided, we are giving free ration for the last two years to economically marginalised families and free vaccines have been provided. For the first time in 70 years — in the 7.5 years of Modi government and 5 years of the Yogi government — concerted efforts to improve the standard of living of the poor were made. This has brought about a change.

Do you think these beneficiaries have emerged as a constituency for the BJP?

These beneficiaries are not a constituency for us. These are people who have been deprived of their rightful dues and we are making efforts to correct that.

There is a perception that people in UP particularly vote on the basis of caste. Do you think this pattern of voting preference based on caste will change and people will vote for parties on the basis of issues?

If you analyse the outcome of the 2019 elections, you will see that had there been a caste-based election and if the Yadavs, Dalits and Muslims had come together in UP, what chances would the BJP have had. I have said this before, elections are not like physics, where “a+b=c”. In elections, when “a” and “b” come together, it leads to the formation of the third entity. It is chemistry.

What do you think is the reason for some senior leaders, including ministers, quitting the party recently?

Our party cannot change because of the people who join. When they join a party, they have to mould themselves according to the party and its principles. If they cannot do so, then they have to look for other avenues, seek a mandate under a different banner and symbol. There are many people who joined our party and have fit in perfectly. Each party has its own methodology; we are an organisation-based party. If someone cannot adjust, then they have the right to leave.

What will be the impact of such exits?

When someone leaves, many who oppose them join us. There is never a 100% loss or gain. There is a strange equation, which no psephologist can pen on paper.

Law and order is a big issue in Uttar Pradesh; while the BJP claims to have vastly improved the situation, the Opposition still cites examples of Unnao and Hathras. The Congress has given a ticket to the mother of one of the victims.

All those who do an analysis of the security situation in Uttar Pradesh admit that there is improvement on the ground. There are no riots, serious crimes such as rape and murder have come down, and there is a 30-70% reduction in crime. Is there any state where crimes don’t happen? But there is selective reporting of crime.

Will Yogi Adityanath be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh if the party returns to power?

We are contesting the election under the leadership of Yogi ji. And we have announced his leadership.

You are considered the chief architect of the BJP’s rise in UP. What changes do you see between 2014 and 2022?

I want to say that in the last 7.5 years, we have made Jaatiwad, Parivarvaad and Tushtikaran (caste, dynasty and the policy of appeasement) political issues. And the people of Uttar Pradesh have given their sanction that politics should be free of all these. When I went to UP in 2013, there were two problems that stood out when I analysed the politics of the state — the complete criminalisation of politics and the complete politicisation of administration. Today, the state is free of both. There is no politicisation of administration and no criminalisation of politics and this is very good for the state, for us and for democracy in UP.

Is Uttarakhand a tough challenge for the BJP?

A) It is a good contest and we are in a good situation. Local issues dominate and take centre stage every now and then; sometimes there is a situation that before a government can address the issues it is already time for elections. It is a bipolar contest between the BJP and the Congress and we are ahead by a good margin.

Goa politics seems to resemble a revolving-door. How is the BJP poised in the state?

We are confident of forming the government in Goa with a decisive mandate and winning at least 22 (of the 40) seats.

What are the party’s prospects in Punjab where, for the first time, the BJP is contesting polls without being in partnership with the Shiromani Akali Dal?

For the first time, the BJP will contest even in rural areas in Punjab. When we were in an alliance with the SAD, we were restricted to just the urban seats. The coalition of the BJP, Captain Amarinder Singh’s party and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s party is a strong alliance. Our main issues are the drug problem and security. All three parties are on the same page as far as the issues are concerned; we have the support of the people and will benefit from PM Modi’s popularity. There is a five-cornered fight; there is the Congress, the farmers have their party, then there are the AAP and the SAD, but the BJP will show a huge improvement in its performance.

What is your take on the security breach that occurred during the PM’s visit to Punjab?

I don’t want to comment on it because the Supreme Court has already appointed a committee to probe the incident. But I do want to say that the SC would have formed the committee only if it found the issue to be serious, because normally such a committee headed by a retired judge is not set up.

Do you think an alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal proved to be an impediment in the expansion of the BJP in Punjab?

It is obvious; we used to contest only 22 seats. In the rural areas, there were only two options, the SAD and the Congress for anyone who wanted to make a foray into politics. Why would they come to us… the road was closed. So, our development couldn’t happen. Now we will speed up the process of expanding the reach of the party even in rural areas.

Do you agree with the perception that the 2022 elections in UP are a precursor to the 2024 general elections? You recently said that UP elections will impact the country’s future.

There is no such thing as a semi-final or a final; every election has its own dynamics and dimensions. What I meant was that UP has 80 Lok Sabha seats and any party that wants a thumping mandate, will have to win a majority of the seats in UP. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow. I did not refer to the impact with an eye on the (2024) outcome.

On the internal security front, what is being done to clamp down on Maoist attacks? There was an attack in Jharkhand on Saturday.

When there is a war, losses are suffered on both sides. However, in the last 30 years, the least number of cases of Naxal violence happened in 2021. This is a record. The number of civilian casualties came down and more Naxalites were killed and captured.

What is the status of the Naga accord? It still seems stuck.

A) It is not tangled but it is not yet resolved. We are still discussing issues and, on some aspects, both sides are yet to reach an agreement. But we have made progress in getting many insurgent groups to lay down arms. We have found a solution to the problems faced by the Bru refugees, 4,900 insurgents have given up arms and joined the mainstream. There is a sharp dip in violence in the North-East.

There is a renewed demand for repealing of AFSPA in the North-east and in Jammu & Kashmir. Is a review of the law on the cards in the foreseeable future?

We have asked all states to send their views. It is true that the situation has changed and on the basis of this, we need to review the implementation of the law and not the law itself.

What changes do you see on the ground in Jammu & Kashmir?

There is a lot of change on the ground. There are many laws that are necessary for ensuring democracy, such as the anticorruption law, reservation for SCs and STs, women’s welfare policies, but these were missing from there. Now, all this is ensured and the changes are visible. Secondly, through panchayat elections that were conducted, 36,000 people have become involved in the democratic process and are strengthening the roots of democracy. This has never happened before. Earlier, democracy meant six MPs, 90 MLAs and three families; today, it means 36,000 people in various positions. There are no middlemen and the money for the welfare of the people goes straight into the bank accounts of the local elected representative and beneficiaries. Third, there is a lot of change in the situation of terrorism and the Hurriyat. Now, there is no stone pelting and no protests. The Tricolour can be seen fluttering on January 26 and August 15, and this is good for the nation.

Cross-border terrorism from Pakistan still continues.

Till the time Pakistan decides to stop sending people across, infiltration will continue. They will try to come here and we will catch them and kill them… this process will go on. India can only take decisive action; it cannot take the decision of not sending people across.

Drones have emerged as a security concern.

I think in the next six months, our security agencies, our engineers and DRDO will have found a way to counter this problem. Work is at an advanced stage now.

You recently said about 50,000 crore worth of investment will come to the UT. Do you think captains of Indian industry are ready to take the risk of investing when Pakistan has changed its terror tactic to lower casualty, targeted killings.

Till Friday, 32,000 crore of investment has already come. It is in various stages; land has been brought, so investment will keep coming in. Of this, 47% is in the Valley.

There is unrest among political parties in J&K about the delimitation process.

Delimitation is an administrative process and I don’t think anyone should have a problem with it.

But in the Jammu region, your own party people have a problem with the redrawing of constituencies.

The election commission does not belong to the government or any party. It is a constitutional entity, a neutral body. They have made a software for the delimitation of the whole country; which takes into consideration the topography of the land and there are laid down rules for population and geographical aspects.

Has the government formulated a policy to ensure there is no recurrence of targeted killings that happened in Jammu & Kashmir in recent times?

The Jammu & Kashmir police have neutralised all those who were behind these targeted killings.

The police force itself has suffered heavy casualties in recent times.

Earlier, they could not fight; now they are fighting on the forefront. Earlier, the government would not allow them to fight; only central agencies would fight. Today, the Jammu & Kashmir police are doing a very good job and the casualties are fewer compared to terrorists.

Is the government going to bring a new legislation for small farmers?

The government has decided to formulate a committee and we informed the election commission about it. However, elections were due in the states where the impact of the farmers’ protest was felt the most, so the election commission said the committee should not be formed because it could impact the elections. After the elections are over, the government will not need to take permission from the election commission and after discussions with all, the committee can be formed.

The farmers allege that the government has not fulfilled the promises that were made to them?

I don’t think we can go against the wishes of the election commission. The government is bound by many issues.

Regional parties are making efforts to come together as a coalition to counter the BJP at the Centre. How does this Opposition combine augur for the BJP?

In a democracy, nobody can oppose any party’s decision to contest an election. Everyone goes to the polls based on their ideology, just as we do. The ones who win, win and the ones who lose, lose. We also form coalitions, we have an alliance with so many parties; everyone has the right to form coalitions. This should not be seen as some kind of a political calculation.

It’s been two years since the citizenship amendment law was passed, but the rules are yet to be formulated.

Work for framing the CAA rules and conducting the Census involves mass contact. We are not yet clear of the pandemic; once the country emerges from the pandemic, we will immediately start the process.

There are many, including you, who called for banning the PFI. Some have linked their student’s wing with the controversy that has erupted over wearing the hijab.

These decisions are done based on the assessment of security agencies. When I was the party president, I had said so too. Political parties should give their views on such issues but decisions have to be made on the basis of the report by the security agencies. The government will look at the issue at the right time.

Pakistan has recently unveiled a new foreign policy which says it wishes to improve its relationship with India, but refers to ‘a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute’ being at the core of bilateral ties.

A) Kashmir is an integral part of India and there is no scope for negotiation here.

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    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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