The Patidar agitation had “definitely succeeded” in creating an “illusion”, BJP president Amit Shah said Saturday, but added that the illusion lies shattered because the Congress’s formula is “constitutionally impossible”.
“This (Patidar) agitation has definitely succeeded in creating an illusion. But, as discussion on reservation progressed and finally the formula that emerged — a formula which is constitutionally impossible — there is a sea change among the Patidar community. I believe that it has become clear in the elections that the Congress’s promise is not possible on the issue of reservations. It has become clear to most of them,” Shah told The Sunday Express in an exclusive interview in Ahmedabad.
The BJP president, however, did not dismiss the sentiments behind the agitations of new-age caste leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani. All parties would have to put their heads together to find a solution to the underlying issues, he said. “It is not my point that the issues raised in those agitations are not an issue. But there is no constitutional solution visible to one of their demands,” Shah said. “Everybody will have to discuss to find a solution. This is likely to be a long process. It will take prolonged discussions.”
Shah, who has personally run the party’s election machine in Gujarat, remains unfazed by the crowds at Hardik Patel’s rallies. “The politics of caste has become a distant past for Gujarat,” he said. “Gujarat will not cast its votes on caste lines. Gujarat will vote along vikaswaad,” he said, adding that the BJP was confident of winning 150 out of the state’s 182 assembly seats. Voting is scheduled for December 9 and 14, and results will be declared on December 18. Shah accused the Congress of running a casteist campaign.
“What are the issues for the Congress? If you take out the mean of the Congress’s election issues, they have no other issue but casteism,” he said.
Hardik Patel’s public meetings are now virtually Congress meetings — only minus the Congress banner as the Patidar leader hasn’t formally joined that party, the BJP president said. “Now the crowd that is seen is nothing but public meetings of Congress. Just that it doesn’t have Congress banners. Muslims attending Hardik’s rallies mean that the Congress and Hardik have joined ranks,” Shah said. He rejected the suggestion that the crowds at Hardik Patel’s meetings reflect Patidar anger against the BJP.
The BJP government was sensitive to the fact that the slump in the commodity prices of groundnut and cotton, as well as the inconvenience caused by the Goods and Services Tax, was hurting a large section of the population in Gujarat, Shah said. He, however, rejected suggestions that the recent tweaking in the GST had anything to do with Gujarat elections.
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The BJP president refrained from describing the Gujarat elections a referendum on the GST, but asserted that if the opposition wanted to make it that, so be it. He drew a parallel with the UP Assembly elections, saying that even then, it was the opposition that had made it out to be a referendum on demonetisation.
“I never said UP was a referendum on demonetisation. The Opposition tried to make it (the election) a referendum on demonetisation. That’s why the media presented it like that. Now, you will ask about GST referendum. We have never said it (the Gujarat election) is a referendum on GST. But if the Opposition wants to make it so, we have no objections,” Shah said.