reiterated the promise of a grand Ram temple
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BJP won many seats after you took over as party chief. But your party seems to be struggling to defeat the challenge of incumbency in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Is the prospect of a setback unsettling you?
That is your perception. I know it is shared by others but I don’t agree. BJP will retain power in all three states and the outcome on December 11 will enhance PM Narendra Modi’s stature as a strong and popular leader who will return as PM in 2019 with bigger numbers.
It is fact that rising expectations have increased the vulnerability of incumbents. A long spell in power did impact your performance in Gujarat polls. You have been in power in MP and Chhattisgarh for 15 years now, whereas in Rajasthan you are up against the pattern of politics where the ruling party has invariably lost polls for two decades. Your party is obviously facing a challenge.
There are two terms in political science — anti-incumbency and pro-incumbency. Unfortunately, our media friends focus on just one of them, that is anti-incumbency. We are contesting assembly polls on the agenda of good governance and development. There is pro-incumbency in the three states as people recognise the good work of our governments and want them to continue. We have implemented 129 welfare schemes in these states through which BJP governments have developed a strong constituency and support base. Anti-incumbency is being talked now just as it was invoked to claim that we would lose Gujarat polls badly. But we formed a full majority government. It is time people talked about performers too.
Do you think the outcome, whichever way it goes, will have an impact on next year’s Lok Sabha elections?
Each election has its own dynamic and logic. Local issues and personalities matter a lot in state elections. However, ours is a federal polity and elections are not completely divorced from each other. They even influence each other. These elections will certainly have an influence on voters across the country and of course on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Our federal structure is a factor in governance as well. For example, if you talk about Madhya Pradesh, the speed of growth and development in the first two terms of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government was not as fast as it was in the last five years as central assistance increased manifold after BJP formed government at the Centre. The result of 2014 elections created headwind for BJP in state polls as we scored victories in UP, Maharashtra, Haryana and many more. Therefore, I feel the elections in five states are important for us.
In Chhattisgarh, Congress’s promise of a farm loan waiver appears to have helped them. But BJP did not move to match the promise in MP. Was it too late for you to make a similar announcement? After all, you promised and implemented loan waivers in both UP and Maharashtra.
There is already a loan waiver in MP. Congress government under Digvijay Singh used to give loan to farmers at 18% interest but Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been giving at 5%. Loan of over Rs 13,000 crore in MP has been distributed on 0% interest. Our government has done a lot for farmers. Huge quantities of wheat and rice being purchased at MSP and now soyabean has also been included in the price support scheme. What Chouhan and Raman Singh have delivered in the past 15 years, none has done that much. In UP and Maharashtra, the situation was different as farmers were distressed after years of misrule.
Demand for temple construction in Ayodhya is gaining momentum. RSS and VHP want construction to start and now Shiv Sena is seeking to outpace you on that front. Even Congress’s C P Joshi has claimed only they can construct the temple. What is the problem in bringing a legislation to clear the way for temple construction as has been demanded by RSS and VHP?
Let me reiterate that our commitment to construct a grand temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya is non-negotiable. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court and let’s wait until it is heard in January. However, it should be borne in mind that the case was pending in the SC for nine years and still Congress leader Kapil Sibal went on to demand that the hearing should be taken up after 2019 polls. Lawyers of Akhara, Ram Lalla all have insisted on hearing the case on priority but Congress wanted to postpone it. We are expecting a favourable judgment and let us wait. However, no one can doubt our intentions. Congress should also stop making false claims. About Shiv Sena, we are two different parties although we are in alliance. There is no rift among us on the issue.
How do you see Congress’s promises of gaushala, promotion of cow urine products, and Ram van gaman path. Congress has in the past accused BJP of Hindu polarisation by using these themes. Do you think they will use soft Hindutva from now on?
After 2014, people of the country rejected 21 out of 22 poll manifestos of the Congress. Their manifesto will be rejected again. As far as their embrace of Hindutva is concerned, they are welcome. We have been talking gaushala and all such issues since 1950. We wish all political parties talk about these issues, but not for political gain and only during election season.
But at the same time, Congress leader Kamal Nath was seen in a video asking Muslim groups to ensure 90% turnout of the community?
Not just Kamal Nath wooed a particular community, even C P Joshi (senior Congress leader in Rajasthan) was seen talking about PM’s caste and that shows the party’s mindset. Congress is desperately trying to reintroduce the politics of appeasement, which has been rejected. People of the country have already suffered a lot but they have seen the true colours of Congress leaders, who were divisive in the past and are again trying to divide society on caste, communal lines. Leaders like Kamal Nath are hell bent on communal politics and appeasement and I am sure they will face the consequences.
BJP quickly pounced upon remarks by Joshi about the non-upper caste backgrounds of Prime Minister and Uma Bharati, and Raj Babbar who brought in PM’s mother. It seems you have too many friends in Congress.
We don’t need Congress leaders’ cheap gimmicks to boost party morale and our campaign. However, the levels to which Congress leaders are stooping is certainly a matter of serious concern. BJP has pledged to eradicate influence of dynasty, caste and appeasement from the country’s politics. However, Congress is hell bent on reviving them and making them central to the country’s politics. As far as language used by Congress leaders against Modiji’s mother, it is most unfortunate and highly condemnable.
You have on several occasions said that illegal immigrants like Rohingyas will be deported but home ministry is planning to give them work permits although they will be disenfranchised?
I have insisted on deportation of illegal immigrants settled in the country and I am firm on my commitment. However, there is a process for detection, disenfranchisement and deportation which is time consuming. We also have to abide by international conventions and laws. But we are clear that illegal foreigners are a threat to national security and they must not be allowed to enter. As far as reported work permits from MHA is concerned, I don’t think any such initiative has been taken so far.
There were reports about anger in upper castes over changes in SC/ST Act. Don’t you think it will hurt the party in the three states?
I don’t deny outburst of emotions when issues related to caste come to the forefront. However, BJP’s main poll plank is inclusive development of all castes and communities. There are schemes of the Centre helping people of all sections. After several days of campaigning, I can say with confidence that BJP is getting support of all castes for its development oriented agenda.
In Telangana, BJP is suddenly very aggressive against TRS although there was speculation of a friendly fight between the two parties as TRS supported you in Parliament. What is the party strategy in the state?
There is no question of a friendly fight. We are contesting Telangana assembly polls with full force. In Parliament, TRS had only two options — either to support us or stand with the opposition. They supported us but that does not mean that we are together even in the state.
Rahul Gandhi has used his campaign against the purchase of Rafale fighter jets to attack the PM’s image of honesty?
Whether allegations carry conviction or not depend on the image and track record of the person they are levelled against. In case of Narendra Modi, I can say with full conviction that such false allegations will not work as people won’t believe it. I challenge Rahul to substantiate the allegations. The Centre has given details of the deal in a sealed envelope in the Supreme Court but Rahul has not done so because his allegations are blatant lies. In MP, they were talking about Vyapam but dropped the matter after the involvement of their own leaders came to light. Congress has no issues against the Centre, therefore, its president is trying to distract attention from core issues like development.
The opposition has alleged misuse of central agencies and Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal CMs have withdrawn CBI’s general consent. Isn’t it a threat to the federal structure of the country?
What they (Naidu, Mamata) have done is most unfortunate. On CBI, two senior most officers of the agency were up against each other with allegations and counter allegations leaving no option for the Centre but to intervene. Complying with CBI bylaws, the matter related to the director was handed over to the CVC. Where is the scope for allegations against the BJP government. Even in case of RBI, the discussion happened as per the RBI Act, which doesn’t amount to interference in independent functioning of the central bank.
How do you justify dissolution of the J&K assembly? The opposition is alleging that if BJP won’t rule, it won’t let others rule.
The decision was the prerogative of the state governor, who rightly dissolved the assembly as horse trading was going on for three days. Even I learnt about the decision through media. The PDP letter for government formation was merely a desperate bid as the letter had no mention of support of the other parties. There was no letter of any group supporting the PDP to form government.