“With the wide-ranging development agenda we have, Narendra Modi-led BJP will improve its performance in 2019,” says BJP president Amit Shah with his usual candour and confidence, brushing aside all criticism including that of polarisation and “change in the air”.
“Polarisation on religious lines for political gains shall not be on the BJP’s agenda. There will be no attempt whatsoever from us that will communalise the political atmosphere,” Shah said, adding: “It’s the media, than anyone else, that is obsessed with it”.
In an exclusive interview to The Indian Express Group (detailed transcript to be published tomorrow in The Sunday Express), Shah spoke on key issues affecting the overall political atmosphere and particularly the BJP, including on vigilantism and lynching. He was dismissive of the talk of “change in political climate”.
Having visited each constituency in the country, Shah believes “there is an even more stronger wave in favour of the BJP”.
According to him: “Door door tak kahin challenge khada hua nahi dikhta (No challenger can be seen even at a distance).”
“The BJP’s supporter base has touched 11 crore. Meaning that many we have actually enrolled. The figure will go up even further, and they are spread all over. These are all obviously our voters. We will easily sail through even with more than half of them exercising their franchise,” Shah said.
He rubbished the idea of a Mahagathbandhan, a grand alliance of all parties opposing the BJP. “In which state can they pose challenge to us?” he asked. Voters of almost all states have discredited these parties, he said.
Asked if BJP was so sure of its strength, why some from the saffron camp were trying to vitiate the atmosphere, Shah said: “BJP leaders are not at all involved in any incident. It’s the media that’s creating such an impression. There will be no polarisation if the media doesn’t rake it up. Why should we be doing it (the polarisation) at all when we have so much positive agenda to our credit? BJP has transformed lives of 22 crore people across 19 states with its innovative welfare schemes. We have built toilets for 7.5 crore homes, 19,000 villages have been provided electricity, 12 crore individuals are beneficiaries of Mudra loans, 18 crore children have been vaccinated, 19 crore people have been brought under health insurance. Add to this road, rail development work undertaken during our regime. This all is enough for us to sail through in 2019,” Shah said.
The ruling party has been consistently receiving flak for its alleged communal way of handling various issues, including that of Jammu and Kashmir. Shah, however, doesn’t think so. Asked about this, he said that the BJP is trying to correct “historical wrongs” that have taken place in handling of J&K right since Independence. “Every good government’s duty is to do more for the regions that are underdeveloped. So in J&K, if lot of work is seen happening in Jammu and/or Ladakh, it’s because these regions have been left way behind due to faulty policies (of past governments). We are just correcting those,” he said.
The BJP president also rejected the criticism of the party being “alliance unfriendly”. He said there is not much to read in the Telugu Desam Party leaving the coalition and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s criticism of the BJP. He said that the BJP would not go to the TDP to revive the alliance. “And as far as the Shiv Sena is concerned, we believe they, as of now, are in alliance and with us in the government. Why should I take note of them as long as they continue to be with us?” he asked, avoiding any direct, indirect criticism of the Sena.
He, however, indicated the possibility of new alliances being forged ahead of 2019. “There are always pluses and minuses in alliances…Parties find new friends. It’s perfectly legitimate to have pre-poll alliances, even new, which give voters clear idea who is with whom”.
He smiled when he was asked whether the BJP is looking at the Sharad Pawar-led NCP as a prospective alliance partner. “As of now, we are in alliance with Shiv Sena” was his cryptic reply.
“See, no one should confuse Modiji’s personal rapport with leaders of different parties vis-a-vis BJP’s likely or unlikely alliances,” he said.