BJP president Amit Shah seems little tired after holding dozens of election rallies, roadshows and meetings across the country in the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, but he looks more determined and confident than ever. This election, the BJP president is contesting from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, a party stronghold which had elected Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1996) and LK Advani (1991, 1998-2014).
In an exclusive interview with News Nation, Shah exudes confidence that his party will win the 2019 General Elections with bigger mandate than 2014. He also targeted Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the Ram Temple issue, slammed Digvijaya Singh for coining the term 'Hindu terrorism' and explained why he gets aggressive when addresses rallies in West Bengal.
Excerpts | Here’s what Amit Shah told News Nation in the interview
Did you expect such a massive turnout during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent roadshow in Varanasi?
Amit Shah: So far, I have been to 259 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country in the last four months. Wherever I have gone for campaigning, I witnessed such a massive response and heard chants of “Modi, Modi”. The people of this country have already decided to vote for the NDA this Lok Sabha polls as well, and re-elect Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Varanasi was no exception.
For Uttar Pradesh, you have claimed that the BJP will win at least 73 seats. The party could even win more than 74 seats. Why are you so confident?
Amit Shah: In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the 2017 assembly polls in the state, the BJP performed exceptionally well. Both state and central governments have performed beyond people’s expectations. Secondly, the BJP as a unit wasn’t that strong in 2014, but in 2017 and 2019, the party has emerged a very strong force. PM Modi’s popularity has also increased in the state. Also, I saw casteism is almost finished in the state in the 2017 polls. That’s why I am confident that the BJP will get bigger mandate than the last polls. Also, there is no comparism between the Congress and the BJP, which did much better than its rivals.
Do you think the ‘Modi wave’ has demolished casteism in Bihar?
Amit Shah: This election, the national security is an issue, change in the lifestyle of 50 crore people of the country is an issue, improving country’s economy is an issue and along with this, Modi’s popularity is also an issue.
Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have questioned the BJP over the malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during first three phases of Lok Sabha elections. Is EVM actually an issue?
Amit Shah: Every time, the Opposition loses an election, it raises the EVM issue. This time, it raised the issue even before the polls were held. It showed it has already accepted its defeat. I want to ask one thing, in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, (where the Congress defeated the BJP in the assembly elections last year) were the elections held on ballot papers or EVM? Why don’t Mayawati and Akhilesh say anything on this?
In West Bengal, your election rallies have been quite aggressive. Is it because BJP workers face difficulties there?
Amit Shah: It’s not about aggression. The reign of terror that is undertaking by Trinamool Congress government in Bengal is not good for democracy. In the Panchayat elections, 60 of our workers were killed. Thirty-seven per cent of the voters could not cast their votes. There has been a dictatorship in the state. For example, Durga puja is not allowed to organise, ban on Saraswati Puja, prohibition on Ram Navami march. The democracy is being suppressed in West Bengal... Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s chopper was not allowed to land there. I am the president of the BJP, but even my helicopter was not permitted to land there. Besides, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had to land in Jharkhand to reach Bengal for rallies. What kind of democracy is this?
The Opposition alleges that the BJP supports far-right Hinduism, after how you and PM Modi defended Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s candidature from Bhopal in the Lok Sabha polls. Does the BJP really promote far-right Hinduism?
Amit Shah: The defence of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur is in no way promotion of the far-right Hinduism. The Congress is doing vote-bank politics by coining the term ‘Hindu-terrorism’. There is nothing called Hindu-terrorism. Even two courts have said that there is nothing called Hindu-terrorism or ‘saffron-terrorism’. The Congress tries to insult Hinduism. The Congress had arrested wrong people for the Samjhauta Express blast and released the actual terrorists involved in the attack. Rahul Gandhi should apologise for this.
Is it the reason why the BJP fielded Sadhvi Pragya Thakur against Digvijaya Singh?
Amit Shah: Yes, of course. One of the minds who had coined the term Hindu terrorism was Digvijaya Singh. He had himself said this publicly… We didn’t forget that.
Do you think the Congress can ever protest the Ram Temple issue?
Amit Shah: The Congress never supported either. Rahul Gandhi and Digvijaya Singh should clear their stand on the Ram Temple issue… The Ram Temple will be constructed there only.
Do you think the construction of the Ram Temple will begin post the Lok Sabha elections, if the BJP gets the mandate?
Amit Shah: See, the hearing has already begun. The court has given us eight-week mediation time which is ending in June. I have full faith that the case will go on smoothly now.
In Kashmir, the PDP and the National Conference have alleged that the BJP has further complicated issues such as Article 370 and Section 35-A. What do you want to say?
Amit Shah: See, there was a terror attack in Kashmir. And if we retaliate, does it mean we have complicated the issue? If this is their understanding, then I don’t endorse their views. In Kashmir, the Modi has taken tough steps against terrorism. Most number of terrorists were eliminated in the last five years. The NIA took actions against foreign terror-funding, we banned the Jamaat-e-Islami and the JKLF, arrested their leaders, and importantly, conducted surgical and air strikes. We believe that Article 370 and Section 35-A are hurdles for development in Kashmir and they should be abolished.