The BJP president says the Congress and other parties have created fear in their minds

Amid hectic electioneering, Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh took time out to speak exclusively to The Hindu on Saturday at his residence. In a wide-ranging interview with Vinay Kumar, he said the BJP would instil a sense of confidence and affection in minorities, and asserted that its prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi, was secular. He said the BJP, if it came to power, would not be revengeful. Excerpts:

The Hindu: You have campaigned extensively in all States. What is your assessment of the BJP’s chances after seven phases of polling?

Rajnath Singh: I am confident that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will get 300 seats in this election. We are in a much better position than ever before.

How would you rate the party’s chances in the southern States?

We are in a much better position. We will do well in Karnataka and win 15 to 18 seats. In Tamil Nadu, the BJP-led alliance is expected to come up with good results and bag a good number of seats, but I shall not get into the numbers game. We will open our account in Kerala. In Andhra Pradesh, we have an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party, and it is but natural that our numbers will go up. We feel that the Congress has not done justice to Seemandhra. Our party supported carving out a new State of Telangana, but we also wanted that justice should be done to both the States — Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

If a BJP-led government comes to power after the elections, will you look into this issue?

We have always said that justice should be done to both the States, and this has been our demand. Most certainly, we will ensure that this happens. The Congress should have done it much earlier. After all, it had been on the cards for the past 10 years, but they waited till the election and took this step in haste.

How will the BJP do in Uttar Pradesh?

Our target is 60 and beyond. I am confident.

There have been reports that you would not like to be part of the government if the BJP comes of power. What are your views on this?

Much has been made about this. I am already president of the party, and my two-year term is still remaining. This responsibility is already there, and I will fulfil it.

Are you open about post-election alliances? What will your stand be on old friends such as the Trinamool Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party?

I feel there will not be any need for this. The BJP-led NDA combine will get a clear majority. If someone wants to give support in the national interest, we will welcome such support. There is nothing specific on the table right now.

The BJP has often charged the Congress with having a dual-power centre?

We have not charged, [Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s former media adviser] Sanjaya Baru has charged. We expected the Congress leadership to respond [to the charge]; it has not. This means that what Sanjaya Baru has said in his book The Accidental Prime Minister is correct. Only Dr. Manmohan Singh’s daughter has reacted, the Congress leadership has not. And what Baru has written, if it is true, then the Congress leadership has caused immense damage and hurt to the nation. Not only the Prime Minister’s, its [PMO’s] dignity as a high institution has also been lowered. Remote control of the government, as pointed out by Baru, has hurt the nation to a great extent. That is why it has been a non-functional government; that is why all this talk about policy paralysis. Even now, I would like the Congress leadership to react to the contents of Baru’s book. After all, the nation wants to know all the facts.

BJP patriarch L.K. Advani has described Manmohan Singh as the “weakest PM.” What is your view?

The government was indeed weak and if what Baru says in his book is correct, then the government was weakened by 10 Janpath [official residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi]. Advaniji made the “weakest PM” remark some years ago, but I want the Congress’s clarification on, and reaction to, the contents of Baru’s book.

But the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, also has “remote control” over the party?

The nation has only one remote control and it is in 10 Janpath; Baru has said it in his book, I am not saying it. The country cannot have many remote controls. Where does the RSS figure? When we talk about our relationship with the RSS, we are all RSS volunteers.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and other eminent secular liberals have expressed their apprehension about Mr. Modi, saying minorities do not feel secure about his coming to power and they have not been given enough reassurance.

The Congress and the so-called pseudo-secular parties have created a sense of fear in the minds of minorities in order to get their votes. But we will replace this sense of fear with a sense of confidence and we will create a sense of affection among them. All citizens are equal, this is our ideology and Modiji has been reiterating this.

The blot of the 2002 Gujarat riots has not been cleared convincingly.

The probe has been done under the Supreme Court’s supervision, if there is an international agency like this it can also look into it. But is there a bigger agency than the country’s Supreme Court? Mr. Modi has got a clean chit in every way. I fail to understand why there is a question mark over his intention and his integrity. I know that Narendra Modi is by nature secular.

But he is dubbed a polarising figure?

Actually, those who want to polarise politics, they level such allegations. They want to divert the attention of the common masses from issues of good governance, development. That’s why our political opponents indulge in this discussion.

The Congress has said it will appoint a judge to investigate Snoopgate. It also wants to go ahead with some key appointments.

I ask them: Is it a healthy tradition? Already a commission of inquiry is working, and you are talking of appointing another commission. This approach of the Congress-led government is unhealthy and, I will say, it is unethical as well. How can two agencies work simultaneously? The government should steer clear of all such controversies. It should follow healthy traditions and not insist on breaking them.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has alleged a vilification campaign against her husband.

We have not levelled personal allegations. The Wall Street Journal has made some allegations; people want clarifications on it and they want to know the truth.

If a BJP-led government comes to power, what will be its stand on issues such as an investigation into her husband Robert Vadra’s assets?

It will be treated like any other matter. We will not have a revengeful attitude.