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HomeNationAmit Shah interview: ‘BJP will break all records in Gujarat’

Amit Shah interview: ‘BJP will break all records in Gujarat’


Union Home Minister Amit Shah is confident that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will retain power in Gujarat with an unprecedented mandate and that its governance model, which he dubbed as all inclusive and pervasive, will blunt anti-incumbency in the state. Shah, who has been steering the election campaign in the state, said the Narendra Modi government has no tolerance for radicalisation and terrorism and has ensured that India’s views on international issues are heard and considered.

Shah spoke to Smriti Kak Ramachandran about the BJP’s pan-India expansion plans, the opposition it faces from other political parties, issues related to national security, and the reasons why he is all for education being imparted in the mother tongue. Edited excerpts:

Since the 1990s the BJP has had a good run in Gujarat. This time it has said it is confident of setting a new record. Why do you think that the people of Gujarat will give the BJP such a decisive mandate?

With time, we have recognised the requirements and aspirations of the people and moulded both the party as well as the government to meet those in a holistic manner. If you keep changing and keep pace with time, you meet the expectations of people and I feel we have done this very well here in Gujarat. Secondly, no matter which government is in power, we normally see there is a limited area of thrust, but the BJP government in the state, under the [national] leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created a development model which covers a wide variety of areas. Our development model is sarvasparshi (touching all) and sarvasamaveshi (all-inclusive) that spans all the areas. Whether it was in the area of education, irrigation, infrastructure, urban and rural development, or welfare of the Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and Scheduled Castes, we could improve things everywhere. And people of the state could tell the difference and feel the improvement on the ground. All sections of society, irrespective of caste, support the BJP and have representation in the party.

This is the reason why we have been able to both earn and accumulate the people’s confidence for such a long time. We have also been successful in providing a transparent government and showing zero-tolerance for issues that threaten security. Because Gujarat is a border area, people here are touchy about security issues and have higher expectations. I feel we have been able to meet these expectations.

Will you break your own 127 seat win record of 2002…

It is obvious that we will get more seats. It is not advisable to comment on the numbers because it can come across as arrogant and neither the people nor the party cadre approves of that… The BJP will break all its previous records of seat share and vote share this time and win with the best margin

The 2017 elections were high decibel and keenly fought, but this time the Opposition, particularly the Congress, seems missing from the electoral contest.

The Opposition here is the Congress party. Not just in Gujarat but across the country it is going through an unstable phase and trying to establish its existence and the outcome of this can be seen in Gujarat as well….

The political narrative is dominated by the BJP and the AAP. Do you think the Congress has ceded space and a new entity is ready to take its place?

The AAP has no resonance on the ground; and the people of Gujarat have no interest in the party. It is quite possible that their candidates will find no mention in the list of winners.

There is a generation that has only been acquainted with the BJP. Do you think there is an appetite for change among the young?

There is no desire for a change among the younger generation because their representatives are here as well. The BJP has been making concerted effort to meet the expectations of the younger lot. There was a time when the state got power for four hours a day… today Gujarat accounts for the most number of start-ups and micro, medium and small scale industries; we have the maximum number of unique universities here whether it is for studies in the petroleum sector or shipping or technology. We have addressed their expectations, requirements, and their future.

The PM is the BJP’s most popular leader. You have been steering all poll related meetings and both of you have been campaigning extensively too. The Opposition, however, says this shows that the BJP is dependent on central leaders and leadership in the states is still floundering.

Both Prime Minister Modi and I are from the state. Even otherwise, no matter in which state elections are being held, all BJP leaders go to canvass. We feel it is very important for us to maximise the reach of our ideology, principles, work, and agenda for the future. Concerted campaigning does not mean that it is a difficult election or appears so;the idea is to campaign as much as possible.The PM is our most popular leader and it is also his mandate to make the party win. Why should the party not fight election with him in the lead?

The manifesto in Gujarat refers to the setting up of an anti-radicalisation cell that will identify and eliminate potential threats, and sleeper cells of the terrorist organisations. Why does the party feel the need to announce such a step in Gujarat and will this be done pan India?

What is the harm in doing so? If there is any good beginning being made from anywhere it should be welcomed. There should be a check on radicalisation not only in Gujarat but across the country. While it is a good thing that the BJP in Gujarat has raised the issue, I feel there should be similar provisions across the country. To control radicalisation should be everyone’s aim. As for the pan-India replication, first the contours will be drawn, a model will be readied and then the rest of the details will be completed and it’s obvious that there can be discussions on other states following suit or the cell being replicated at the national level.The BJP’s manifesto promises Uniform Civil Code. Of late, all election-bound states have declared intent to set up committees for UCC. Why leave it to the states? Why not a central law?

This is an issue that is a joint area for the Centre and the states. There is a grey area, but states can go ahead with it.

Good governance and development have been your main poll planks in Gujarat. So, why bring up the riots and surgical strikes and other ideological issues such as the abrogation of Article 370 in election speeches?

Isn’t the security of Gujarat linked to that of the nation? If that’s not so then, we should not raise these issues. We have to ensure safety of the country and its people. Even a single lapse makes the country’s safety vulnerable.

But do people vote on security issues or do issues such as inflation affect voter choice?

My job is to put forth our views. We make efforts to do that, you can see the results to ascertain if people accept the issues [we raise] or not.

What about poll promises of freebies?

People of this country are aware, they know providing for what is bigger than the allocated budget is not possible.

A few senior leaders in Gujarat opted out of the electoral race; this was seen as a generational shift. Will this be replicated in other states ?

Each state as its own political situation. It also depends on the leaders themselves wishing to step away, the party’s role in this is minimal. There is no connection between picking candidates and a generational shift, it is a natural process. There is a generational change in the BJP’s party structure as well as in the government. This should not be read as a pattern.

But changing the entire cabinet in Gujarat was unprecedented.

A number of those people who were changed then are now involved in the electioneering process.

The BJP is a cadre-based party with a mechanism to check internal feuds. Why was it hard for the party to convince rebels to withdraw in Himachal and now in Gujarat?

This is not unprecedented. Himachal is a small state and the rebels contesting polls is common to both the Congress and the BJP. In smaller states, there is a political drawback since the constituencies are smaller, people think they can win easily. Besides, as compared to the previous election there were fewer rebel candidates in both the states. In Gujarat there were more such candidates last time… People tend to forget.Are you confident that the BJP will buck the trend and retain power in Himachal Pradesh ?

Absolutely, the BJP will form government in the state and with a decisive mandate.

Do you have specific inputs on radicalisation in the state or any particular sect being involved?

Radicalisation is not good for society, no matter where it emanates from. We all know who are the powers that are fuelling radicalisation, and the whole world not just India is concerned by this.

Recently we had an international conference on no money for terror and ministers from several countries raised the issue of growing radicalisation and the need to control it.

Pakistan was recently taken off the FATF grey list. Is India worried about a possible rise in terror activities?

What I said there is that such kind of sanctions have to be above geopolitical interests and should be based on merit. We have placed our opposition on record in clear terms.

What is your view of the opposition trying to cobble together a Coalition against the BJP?

The way in which PM Modi has helped India scale heights internationally and taken our economy to greater heights in a short span of time has made our country an attractive destination for manufacturing. Also, the PM’s opinions and our country’s views on international issues have acquired certain heft. I don’t think any coalition would have made a difference to all this.

Each of these parties are regional entities and we have been contesting against them. But their coalition will not have impact… for instance if Samajwadi Party is an ally of the Congress (in Uttar Pradesh) that does not help the latter in Gujarat and the former does not benefit in UP, we will have a bipolar contest. These coalitions exist only on paper and are formed for the sake of headlines.

The National Democratic Alliance is shrinking. Can we say this is beginning of the end of coalition politics?

No, this is not true. A lot of parties are still with the NDA. There is an alliance government at the centre even today, this when we are in a majority. We have given ministerial positions to our allies. We had representatives (in the union council of ministers) from the JDU and the Akali Dal when they were part of the NDA.

The opposition accuses the government of misusing agencies. The AAP for instance says cases against its leaders are in response to the threat the BJP faces from the party’s popularity. TRS also said the same. As far as the accusation of misusing the agencies is concerned, there is legal recourse available in our country. We have a legal system that is neutral and if they feel there is misuse, they should approach the courts.

There has been a lot of concern about the activities of the PFI, and there was a growing clamour for banning the organisation. You mentioned the PFI without naming it at the No Money for terror conference as well.

The Modi government’s decision to ban PFI was based on a long list of anti national activities by the organisation. Their efforts to radicalise the youth and push them towards terror activities clearly shows their intent and their designs and our attention was drawn to this. We also have evidence and a number of states had pushed for banning the organisation. This government will not show tolerance for any organisation undertaking similar activities. The PM has a zero-tolerance policy towards radicalisation and terrorism.

There was a record number of tourists in J&K this year, yet targeted attacks on civilians and Pandits in the Valley continue. How do you see this. Also, are assembly elections on the horizon?

Targeted killings have come down. The number has fallen drastically in recent times. Earlier the numbers used to be in three digits and now it’s substantially lower.

Assembly elections will be conducted after the electoral rolls are ready and it depends on the election commission to announce the schedule.

Will the government review the contours of the PM package as demanded by the employees who got jobs in the Valley under the initiative ?

No firm decision has as yet been taken by the union government; it is under consideration.

The MHA recently sought a report from the Delhi chief secretary on the alleged special treatment given to AAP leader Satyendar Jain inside Tihar jail.Have you received any report on the issue and do you think this underlines the need for prison reforms.

When the minister in charge of prisons is himself in prison and is not resigning from his position and no media is asking questions, this is what will happen. The issue is not jail reform here.

While the rules for CAA are yet to be framed you have asked states to identify 100 illegal immigrants.

It (framing the rules) will take some more time.

You refer to yourself as a student of history and have spoken about the need to revisit what is taught in schools.

What I said was that we need students of history to research and document 300 such national leaders and 30 dynasties that ruled for over 150 years and presented a model of governance but were overlooked by historians. Students need to research and their professors need to encourage them.

You often tread into the realm of controversy over the use of Hindi and other Regional languages for imparting education.

There was no controversy, it was created. What I said was medical and technical education and law should be taught in regional languages. I feel all governments should initiate the process of translating books and reading material (in these streams) into regional languages so that talent is encouraged. Currently we use only about 5% of the talent in the country. Once we start imparting education in regional languages we will use 100% of our talent. Research and basic thinking are linked and these are best done in the mother tongue.

The BJP had formulated a Coromandel project to expand its footprint in the southern states. How far has the party’s outreach yielded results?

No party can reach the position of being able to form government in a state in a short span of one or two elections. Our vote share was 3% and with an increase in our Lok Sabha seats (18), it increased to 40% in West Bengal. In Odisha, our vote share has gone up. In Telangana, we are the main opposition. Our performance will be good in Andhra Pradesh. And the party is growing in Tamil Nadu. The expansion of an ideology-based party does not happen overnight. Today we have four MPs from Telangana and eight from Odisha. This is a big number.

What about the status of pending issues in the North-East such as the Naga accord?

The problems in the region have been solved to a great extent. We can say there’s been a decline of about 80% in all kinds of violence. Prime Minister Modi has accelerated the process of connecting each state (with the mainland) through air and rail network. An airport in Arunachal Pradesh was recently inaugurated and people can feel the development in the region. In the last eight years, the Prime Minister has made 42 trips to the region which is the most done by any Prime Minister. All insurgent groups are slowly joining the mainstream, this is a positive development and we will soon solve the remaining problems including those of boundary disputes between states.

The party has recently flagged the issue of demographic changes in some states?

The changes in the Seemanchal area should be a cause of concern for the whole country. Which is why I was there for three days. I am keenly watching the developments and I think the changes in the demography along the borders need more attention.

How equipped is the government to tackle economic slowdown and inflation.

After Covid, there was economic slowdown globally and the supply chains were also impacted. But India managed a V-shaped economic recovery. I am confident that we will be able to tackle inflation too. Compared to the rest of the world we have felt the impact of inflation the least.

Your candidate from Naroda, Payal Kukrani was a controversial choice. Many felt she should not have been given a ticket given her father’s background.

Why should she not have been given the ticket? How can her father’s case be held against her? She is a doctor, an educated woman, and will her career be over because of her father? I thought you stood for women’s empowerment.

Will the women’s reservation bill come up for passage in near future?

There is a need to have political consensus on the issue. We are all for it, we have passed a resolution supporting it, but all other political parties have to be on board.

What do you think will be the political outcome of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra ?

I have always supported putting in efforts in the political sphere. I think it’s good when someone strives to work hard. But in politics only sustained efforts show results. Let’s see what happens.




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