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Amit Shah interview: ‘There is no chance of a fractured verdict in Karnataka, we are well past the halfway mark’

Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018: BJP president Amit Shah explains why he is confident about Karnataka, discusses party strategies for 2019 and a range of other issues.

Written by Ravish Tiwari | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 9, 2018 7:32:07 am
Amit Shah interview: BJP will win Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 BJP President Amit shah during the Parliament on 5th Feb. 2018. Express Photo by Renuka Puri. 05.02.2018.

BJP president Amit Shah explains to The Indian Express why he is confident about Karnataka, discusses party strategies for 2019 and a range of other issues.

You have toured across Karnataka. The Amit Shah we know is known for announcing victory targets before the start of an election, but you have not done so this time.

I have been waiting for surveys. They have started pouring in now. I will say [seat numbers] tomorrow.

Surveys project a hung verdict.

That’s why I am saying, I will state a number tomorrow. Danke ki chot pe bataunga. Tomorrow I will tell everyone.

What is that figure?

We are well past the halfway mark. And we will form a government with a good majority.

Also read | Amit Shah rules out early Lok Sabha polls, says consensus is a must for joint elections

Siddaramaiah has made it a contest between Siddaramaiah and Modi.

That is not the case. It is Siddaramaiah versus the people of Karnataka. The entire election is between Siddaramaiah and the people of Karnataka.

So, what have you found that the people of Karnataka have made an issue this election?

The anti-farmer attitude of the last five years of the government has percolated down to the grassroots. The law and order issue, which I do not want to recount here, is hurting people. Bengaluru has virtually been given out to [Congress candidates] Harris, George and Roshan Baig by Siddaramaiah. No action was taken against them because it hurts their vote-bank consolidation. Now, the people of Karnataka are facing the most corrupt government. The entire election will revolve around these four issues. The issue that is in favour of the BJP is that the Narendra Modi government has given projects and funds worth about Rs 3 lakh crore. These include Bengaluru Metro, roads worth about Rs 27,000 crore, Mudra Bank loans worth Rs 49,000 crore, Ujjwala gas connections to about nine lakh women. Several such schemes have been delivered by the Narendra Modi government. These two factors put together show me a big wave in favour of the BJP.

Also Read | PM Modi’s speeches won’t give jobs, farmers’ relief: Sonia Gandhi

Unlike in Bihar, you were quick in announcing B S Yeddyurappa as CM candidate. But he didn’t seem to get much of a say in candidate selection, didn’t get a ticket for his son, hasn’t got much opportunity to share the stage with Prime Minister Modi either. On top of it, the PM praised JD(S)’s Dewe Gowda. The message around Yeddyurappa is confusing.

As far as Yeddyurappa’s attendance in Modiji’s rallies go, both Modiji and Yeddyurappa have independent, separate rallies. Both our leaders draw large crowds. This question was asked to me as well, as to why Yeddyurappa doesn’t come to my rallies. It is not a question of not sharing rallies. It is about holding more rallies. That’s why everyone is going ahead with their programmes. Yeddyurappa was there when I started the campaign. He was there when Modiji started the campaign as well. Afterwards, Yeddyurappa is doing eight rallies, Modiji is doing his rallies. I am campaigning too. All three campaigning together is not a good strategy. As for ticket distribution, neither are you aware about it nor does the Opposition know a thing. Tickets have been distributed in discussion with seven, eight of us. That he [Yeddyurappa] was not heard doesn’t hold water. As far as a ticket to Vijayendra [Yeddyurappa’s son] goes, we do not have this tradition since Yeddyurappa is a CM candidate. That’s why we didn’t give him the ticket.

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The Congress had begun saying that the JD(S) is a B-team of the BJP. The Prime Minister appears to have lent credence to this charge by praising Deve Gowda.

It seems you have not heard the PM in totality. The PM said that Deve Gowdaji is a senior politician and I respect him. Next, he pointed out that Rahul Gandhi disrespected him [Deve Gowda] despite being younger and wondered aloud about the future arrogance [of Rahul]. So, people are missing the point beyond the praise of Deve Gowdaji. Praising someone in public life doesn’t mean an electoral alliance. We do not have such a narrow view of politics.

But it also gave wind to suggestions that it was an attempt to humour a potential alliance partner in preparation for a fractured verdict.

There is no chance of a fractured verdict. The BJP will form a government with a full majority. We are well past the halfway mark.

Read | Three state Congress ministers tried to divide Lingayats, says PM Modi

For the BJP, the Karnataka elections are coming after a set of defeats in bypolls…

Ek minute, ek minute. The Karnataka elections have come after the formation of 15 successive BJP governments [in different states].

How do you see the Karnataka elections affecting national politics?

We will form our 21st government.

Amit Shah interview: BJP will win Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 BJP leader and CM candidate for the Karnataka elections B S Yeddyurappa with party president Amit Shah. (Express Photo/Amit Mehra/File)

Next is a set of Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Given how the BJP and the Prime Minister have been talking about simultaneous elections for the last two years or so, is there a thought of advancing Lok Sabha elections?

Ji, na.

So, simultaneous elections?

Arre, maine na bol diya hai.

Read | BS Yeddyurappa: ‘Decision (to bring back Reddy brothers) was cleared by Amit Shah’

So, will the 2019 elections be simultaneous?

The PM has put forth an idea before the country. And he has welcomed a public debate on this. This issue will progress further only after a law is enacted and all parties extend support. The Election Commission too will have to hear it. Only then can this thing move forward.

Do you see it feasible in 2019?

If all political parties unite tomorrow, it can be done tomorrow. It requires an amendment to the RP Act, and it can happen only in Parliament. It cannot be done secretively. Whenever something happens, you will come to know.

One thing weighing on the public mind in Karnataka is how the BJP had three chief ministers last time, during its five-year term.

That will not happen as the government at the Centre this time is not going to engage in breaking the government here. The government at the Centre is going to help the government in Karnataka. Last time, it was the Congress government at the Centre that conspired to break the Yeddyurappa government. This time it is the BJP government at the Centre, which will extend every support to the Yeddyurappa government to further the development of Karnataka.

Amit Shah interview: BJP will win Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 Amit Shah with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Express Photo/File)

But, there is a view that he may have to step aside for breaching the 75-year age limit in the party.

We will see to it that Yeddyurappaji works as the CM of Karnataka for the entire five years.

The Karnataka elections are taking place in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections. A political realignment has taken place against the BJP in UP, where the SP and the BSP have come together. Isn’t there a sense of fear within the BJP?

There is not an iota of fear. We are readying our organisation for 50% [vote share]. And we will contest this battle for 50% and we will win it too. Is bar bhi Delhi ka Rasta Lucknow hokar jayega.

But, the backwards calculation that is being done…

Leave that calculation to us. Why do you have to do it?

But…

We have to win. Hum pachaas pratishat ki ladai ladenge. There is no point arguing over it.

The point is, the BJP has already peaked in North India. It’s very natural to expect many incumbent MPs to lose. How are you going to bridge that?

We have 200 Lok Sabha seats that the BJP and its allies couldn’t win last time around. We have been working on those 200 seats since May 27, 2014. We will get good results from there.

In the run-up to the Karnataka elections has come the issue of a North-South divide in the context of the 15th Finance Commission. Don’t you think it’s unjust to prosperous states from southern India?

This is a judicial process, 15th Finance Commission. Every state is free to present its case before the 15th Finance Commission. What is unjustified in this? Every state has a right present its views. It is for the 15th Finance Commission to take a decision.

The Kathua incident has exposed a divide between the ruling allies in J&K. The BJP wants a CBI inquiry, but your alliance partner is against it. Then there are protests with the Tricolour being used..

We have courts for such disputes. The issue is now in courts. Let them do their job.

There was a nationwide protest by Dalits on April 2. The impression was that it was an unprecedented, spontaneous protest.

It is for state governments and local police to look at this as well as courts to look at it.

There have been two instances of collegium recommendations being returned for reconsideration in last four years of this government

Many governments have returned [collegium recommendations] in the past. This is a constitutional right of an elected government. The procedure as established by Supreme Court judgments states that a government is well within its rights to send back names.

But, the name in this case is that of a judge who gave a ruling against the BJP. So, the Congress says that the BJP has made it a prestige issue.

Hum logon ne toh naam waapas bheja hai. Inke [Congress] samay me toh istife hi ho gaye the teen Supreme Court ke judges ke, Indiraben [Indira Gandhi] ke samay me. You should ask this question to Rahul Gandhi. You may like to send this question in advance so that he comes prepared with answers. You should send it on paper.

Things have come to such a pass that some judges are now seen as getting support from the BJP and some judges from the Congress.

There is nothing like that. The judicial system is working its own way and the government is working its own way. And there is samanjasya (balance/coordination) between the two.

In a public function, the second most senior judge, Justice Chelameswar, voiced concern over whether there is chance of supersession of Justice Ranjan Gogoi in selection of the next CJI.

Yeh unka vyaktigat vichar hai. Sarkar ka vichar nahin hai.

Judicial circles are wondering whether the BJP government will get Justice Gogoi superseded.

Yeh unka vyaktigat vichar hai.

You won’t have him superseded?

Arre bhaiya, yeh unka vyaktigat vichaar hai. Why should I respond to it?

PM Modi pioneered the use of social media during his election campaign, forcing everyone else to learn to catch up with him. Suddenly, the BJP has gone against Cambridge Analytica and the Congress on social media usage. Is there more to it than meets the eye?

It’s better if you remained unaware of this. Everyone has their own way of functioning.

The one thing that we have not been able to figure out is Nitish Kumar’s affection for the BJP. The public explanation is that he could not tolerate the RJD beyond a point. But,..

On the issue of corruption, when cases were lodged, he wanted the deputy CM to resign. It’s not that they couldn’t work it out. Nitishji took a stand on moral grounds, over which the government fell.

The RJD was ready to keep him as CM.

But Nitish said that his deputy CM should have resigned, for which RJD was not ready. When an FIR was lodged, he had suggested resignation on moral grounds.

One of your alliance partners (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh kept asking for one thing and you could not deliver, forcing them to part ways.

The 14th Finance Commission constituted by the UPA abolished the provision of special status for states.

How do you see leaders of regional parties like Mamata Banerjee, K C Rao, Chandrababu Naidu etc talking to one another exploring how to come together ahead of Lok Sabha elections?

They should keep talking.

But, do you see their coming together as a challenge?

When they come together, we will see. Right now, I am busy with the Karnataka elections instead of trying to figure out what they are talking to one another about. It is a healthy practice that political parties keep talking to one another.

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