Maharashtra Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis speaks with Shubhangi Khapre about the apparent absence of Modi wave, and that there is a “silent wave” in favour of Modi across the state this time around. Excerpts:
Is the Narendra Modi wave of 2014 missing in 2019?
There are two factors which determine the Modi index. If we look at the polling percentage in the first two phases it is almost at par with 2014. Second, the euphoria evident in 2014 was because of the vocal middle class. This time, we see a paradigm shift, with the lower strata of the society strongly backing Modi. The poor and the lower-middle class are (less) vocal – they don’t appear on any forum or exit polls. There is a very strong, silent wave in favour of Modi across Maharashtra.
Across the country, including Maharashtra, it appears the BJP has been rewriting its campaign script as the election process wears on – from development to nationalism to hard Hindutva. Why the need for mid-course corrections?
We have maintained absolute consistency in our campaign. There was no question of course correction. Take the latest speech of the Prime Minister in Nandurbar (on Monday). He spoke for 15 minutes on development and five minutes on nationalism.
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If ‘Moditva’ was working, why the need to emphasise nationalism?
Nationalism has been a constant (in BJP campaigns) in every Lok Sabha elections. And it is not confined to Indian elections alone. Look at US elections – they speak about sealing the border. Nationalism finds a mention in Germany, France…. If the Congress manifesto talks about undermining AFSPA in J&K with withdrawal of Article 124(A) [sedition], then the BJP will speak about it in public.
If the Opposition talks about a separate Prime Minister for J&K, or two Prime Ministers in India, it is going to be countered in (BJP’s) campaigns.
The BJP has fielded (Malegaon blast accused) Pragya Singh Thakur. Is that not a ploy to push the agenda of hard Hindutva?
I think the Prime Minister has already explained that the decision to field her was symbolic; (it was meant) to convey a message to those who had tried to paint an ancient and rich civilization (India) with the “Hindu terror” tag.
Does “Hindu terror” exist?
There is no such thing as Hindu terror. It was a term coined during the (Congress-led) UPA government. Terror activities were at their peak in 2007-08, (when) there were blasts in Pune, Hyderabad, resulting in series of arrests and preventive detentions. Most of those arrested belonged to the minority community, which invited a backlash against the UPA. To defuse the anger amongst the minorities, Congress-NCP created a new narrative of Hindu terror.
But there is evidence to suggest right-wing elements are advocating what they call is a “Hindu rashtra (nation)”.
If we look globally, India is among the only Hindu-majority countries. In that sense, it is a Hindu rashtra. What the BJP means by Hindu rashtra is about retaining its rich legacy of ancient civilisation and culture. It talks about inclusiveness and accommodating people across culture and region. There is no question of making any compromise on the Indian Constitution. The nation will be guided by the Constitution written by B R Ambedkar.
Special prosecutor Rohini Salian had claimed that she was asked to go slow in Pragya Thakur’s case…
I don’t want to comment against her. But in general, some quarters were working in a definite line to create the Hindu terror theory. All I can say is that the NIA is a national investigating agency, which has probed the matter and found no proof (against Thakur).
Does the BJP endorse Thakur’s remark against Hemant Karkare?
I would like to reiterate that late Hemant Karkare was our finest police officer who sacrificed his life for the country. We don’t endorse her remarks, (and) seniors in the party have taken note. Irrespective of an individual’s trauma and experience, there is no question of justifying the comments. My suggestion is, individuals in public life should be mindful and refrain from making such remarks.
How does the BJP bridge the expected loss of 40 to 50 seats this time, mainly in UP and Maharashtra?
I don’t agree we will lose so many seats. The ground reality in Maharashtra shows we will win more than 42 seats out of 48 seats. We will (also) make huge gains in West Bengal and Odisha, and parts of the Northeast.
From PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to CM Fadnavis, why is everyone targetting NCP chief Sharad Pawar?
It was natural, as he is our political rival who proclaimed to be the architect of the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance of the Opposition). The BJP’s political rivals are the Congress-NCP. So it is just Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar. The Congress has become the B-team (of NCP) in this election.
Shiv Sena is facing anti-incumbency. Do you justify your decision of pre-poll alliance?
Absolutely. The Sena and BJP are working together in all constituencies. I have campaigned in every single Lok Sabha seat.
How do you look at MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s anti-Modi rallies?
The MNS had to adopt an anti-Modi rhetoric to keep its presence (intact). It will not have any impact. It is clear that the MNS will align with the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra Assembly elections. The MNS has been completed wiped out in Maharashtra in successive polls between 2014 and 2018.
How will caste polarisation impact BJP’s prospects?
There was a concerted attempt by the Congress-NCP combine to play the caste card to counter BJP-Sena’s development plank. It was seen in parts of Vidarbha, and replicated in other parts of the state, but it will boomerang on them.