Ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections, BJP president Amit Shah on Friday distanced his party from Sangh affiliates and contentious issues like the Ram temple and uniform civil code raised by them, saying his party would fight the Assembly election on the development plank.
“Bajrang Dal is not BJP,” Shah said, referring to the Opposition criticism that Sangh affiliates like the Bajrang Dal and VHP were intensifying their campaign for construction of the Ram temple, a move that could polarise the electorate in the state. “You should only listen to the government” on issues raised by these outfits, he said.
Shah admitted that the Ram temple and uniform civil code were part of the BJP manifesto. “These are part of our manifesto and if you read it you will find that it mentions how we intend to work on them,” he said at a press conference called to publicise the NDA government’s achievements on its second anniversary.
The BJP maintains that it supports Ram temple construction but it should be done either with consensus or as per judicial decision.
When asked about arms training allegedly being given by Bajrang Dal to its activists in parts of UP, Shah said the state government should take action if it finds anything unlawful. Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of the RSS-led Sangh Parivar, had a key role in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that helped the BJP rise as a political party in the early 1990s. After a video surfaced purportedly showing activists of the group training with weapons, the UP police arrested some of its leaders there on charges of inciting hatred between religious groups.
At the press conference, Shah presented a report card of the Modi government, emphasising its “pro-poor” and “pro-farmer” initiatives. Crediting the BJP with giving a “decisive government that makes decisions, implements its programmes with political will”, Shah said it had replaced “scams, scandals and policy paralysis” of the previous UPA government.
“We are confident that after fulfilling all the promises made to people in the next three years, we will get a fresh mandate.” This would be the first government “that takes a new initiative every 15 days”, he added.
Upbeat after its spectacular performance in Assam, the BJP has shifted focus to Uttar Pradesh. Shah said the good performance in the recent Assembly polls indicated that people had rejected the controversies on the Rohith Vemula and JNU issues, on which the Congress and other opposition parties had attacked the government. “Those who raised these issues are nowhere,” he said, alluding to the Congress’s results in the Assembly elections.
Shah remained evasive on who would lead the BJP’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh. A day after Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to people in Saharanpur to end the BJP’s “14-year exile”, Shah was asked “who will be its Ram?” The BJP president replied: “Ram will be decided. The public will decide it.”