Union Home Minister Amit Shah has downplayed AAP's challenge in Gujarat polls, claiming Arvind Kejriwal's party may not even open its account, and said the BJP state unit's announcement of setting up anti-radicalisation cell is a good initiative that can be considered by other States and the Centre.
In an interview to PTI, Mr. Shah described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, all-round development of Gujarat during his tenure as the State chief minister and the implementation of zero appeasement policy as the main reasons for people repeatedly reposing faith in the BJP over the last 27 years.
“The BJP will register an unprecedented victory in Gujarat. People have full faith in our party and our leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Mr. Shah, who has been crisscrossing the state and addressing five rallies a day in the run-up to the two-phase polls on December 1 and 5.
On the question of AAP entering Gujarat assembly elections, the BJP leader said, ”Every party has a right to contest elections, but it is up to people whether they accept the party or not.
"AAP is nowhere in the mind of the people of Gujarat. Wait for election results, maybe AAP’s name would not figure in the list of successful candidates,” Mr. Shah said.
While the Congress has been the BJP's principal rival in Gujarat, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has undertaken an aggressive campaign in PM Modi's home state.
On Congress, Mr. Shah said, “It is still the main opposition party, but the party is going through a crisis, and its impact is visible in Gujarat as well.” Asked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra, Mr. Shah said sustained efforts are a must in politics.
"I have always been of the view that politicians need to be hard working and it is good when someone works hard. But in politics only sustained efforts show results. So let's wait and see," Mr. Shah said.
Mr. Shah, who has been talking about issues of national security in the campaign for the State election, said they are important in every assembly poll.
The Opposition has accused the BJP of raising national issues like terrorism in state elections to divert the people's attention from governance-related concerns.
“Is the security of Gujarat associated with national security or not? “Security of Gujarat and national security are not different issues. And if the country is not secure, how can Gujarat be secure? Therefore, national security is a major issue in all State assembly polls.
"Being a border State, the people of Gujarat are sensitive about national security. We cannot afford to have national security impacted at any one location in the country,” Mr. Shah said while replying to a question.
With the Opposition often accusing the government of misusing investigative agencies against its political rivals, Mr. Shah said there is an independent and neutral judiciary in the country, and "if there is any misuse of investigative agencies, then they can approach the judiciary".
Mr. Shah, who has been raising law and order issues in his campaign speeches, described ending lawlessness as one of the achievements of the BJP government in Gujarat.
The former BJP president described the party’s poll promise to set up an anti-radicalisation cell as a good initiative and said any organisation like PFI that pushes youths towards terrorism will not be tolerated.
Mr. Shah said the Popular Front of India (PFI) was banned after due diligence and several states had demanded it.
“The Modi government decided to ban PFI after gathering a lot of information and proof related to their anti-national activities, especially their activities to push youth towards terrorism by radicalising them.
"And several States have demanded to ban PFI. Such activities of any organisation will not be tolerated in the Modi government,” Mr. Shah told PTI.
On whether BJP’s announcement in manifesto for setting up an anti-radicalisation cell in Gujarat will be implemented in other states also, Mr. Shah said, “It is a good initiative. Let it be implemented (here) first. It will be given a legal shape and its working mechanism will be decided.” Mr. Shah said radicalisation should be checked not only in Gujarat but in the entire country.
“And it (anti-radicalisation cell) can be considered at the national level and other states. Radicalisation has nothing to do with any sect, but we all know which forces are promoting radicalisation. And the entire world is concerned about it,” Mr. Shah said.
Asked about issues such as inflation impacting the election, the Union Home Minister said countries across the world are facing this problem, and India is the least affected among them.
“Slowdown was a global challenge after Covid but still the Indian economy witnessed a V-shaped recovery. Similarly, I also believe India will very effectively tackle inflation, which is a challenge for countries across the globe. And today, the country’s social life is least impacted by inflation,” Mr. Shah said.
On whether Bhupendra Patel will continue as chief minister if the BJP wins again, Mr. Shah said he has been doing “good work and taking forward all the initiatives started by Prime Minister Modi as Gujarat chief minister”.
To a question on all regional parties coming together along with national parties to counter the BJP, Mr. Shah suggested that they stand nowhere in front of Prime Minister Modi’s popularity.
“If you look at the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government he gave in the last eight years, I do not think such alliances will have any impact. And these regional parties do not have anything outside their respective states.
"One regional party has nothing in another state. Eventually, it will be a one-on-one fight. And such alliances exist only on paper and are good for headlines.”
Discussing the BJP’s expansion in southern and eastern states, Mr. Shah said the party’s vote share jumped to 40% in West Bengal and it won 18 Lok Sabha seats. Mr. Shah claimed the BJP will further improve its tally in West Bengal in the next Lok Sabha polls.
In Telangana, the BJP has ''become the main opposition party''. The party is doing well in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Shah said, adding that the expansion of cadre-based parties is not possible overnight. "It takes time, but we are doing well in these states," Mr. Shah said.