S enior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh accuses the Congress of trying to fool people with its minimum income scheme, and claims the downtrodden sections of society have benefited immensely from the Union government schemes such as Ujjwala and the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.
This election is being seen as a battle between ideologies, of two ideas of India. Do you agree with this?
This is not a clash of ideologies because I believe that there is only one party with an ideology, and that is the BJP.
What about the Congress?
What is the ideology of the Congress? They have only one job — to mislead the people and come to power somehow.
But the manifesto of the Congress is quite ambitious in scope and speaks of a minimum income scheme, among other things.
This minimum income scheme is an example of how the Congress tries to fool people. Outside, the party says that they will give ₹12,000 per household per month to 20 crore people. When you ask for a clarification, then they say its only a top-up, with no clarity on how it will be financed. As far as poverty is concerned, it’s not for the first time that they have espoused its removal, but have consistently failed to do so. A Brookings Institute survey showed, however, that in 2016, 12.5 crore people in India were suffering abject poverty but by 2019, that number had come down to five crores. The downtrodden sections of society have benefited immensely from the schemes of the Modi government like Ujjwala, or the Aawaas Yojana, the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, because there is a visionary thinking behind it.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has raised the issue of the BJP not respecting its elder leaders like L.K. Advani or Murli Manohar Joshi. Why were they denied ticket?
Whether it is Advani ji or Joshi ji , their contributions cannot be undermined by anyone. To be honest, it was under my presidentship of the party (the second term between 2012 and 2014) that I first mooted the idea that those over 75 years should not be given ticket. I felt we must decide on this issue. Issuing ticket to fight an election cannot be the only yardstick for conveying respect to senior leaders. We respect them and shall do so in the future too. We cannot forget their contribution to where the party is today.
Mr. Advani’s blog recently spoke of how it was not the BJP’s tradition to question the patriotism of all those who disagreed with it.
His statement is a welcome one and is a statement that reflects a mature political thinking.
But the Modi government has been accused of doing the same to opponents and politicising national security issues.
Where have we done that? The Congress has attempted to do this, along with other Opposition parties. We have only appreciated the valour of our armed forces, along with the rest of the country, and ask that others do so too. The Opposition parties ask for proof of this valour, put question marks on their bravery.
Opposition parties say, however, that the Prime Minister wants to walk away with the credit that should accrue to the armed forces or scientists in the case of the ASAT test.
I really don’t know why they ask that question and that, too, without any reference to what has happened in the past. In 1971, when under late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Pakistan was cleaved into two. At that time too, Atal ji (former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) stood up in Parliament and commended her political will and direction and the whole country applauded her. Why shouldn’t Prime Minister Modi be praised for similar political will? These people (Opposition) did not even observe common courtesy, that they congratulate the Prime Minister on political direction.
As far as the ASAT test is considered, we had the capability to do this under previous governments, but we were able to carry out the test under Prime Minister Modi because he signed off on it. There is no doubt that credit does accrue to the scientists, but the political decision has to be credited to the Prime Minister.
The Election Commission has referred to your Ministry the issue of Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh’s partisan remarks. Is there any forward movement?
I haven’t looked into it yet. I have been told it has been sent to the Home Ministry. I have been travelling for campaign lately, but I will look into it.
The Congress manifesto also speaks of abolition of the Act on sedition and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). What is your view?
I was astounded to learn that the Congress party, in its manifesto, has called for the abolition of the Act on sedition. That those who say or do anything to break the country, to hurt its integrity and security, should they not be punished? No calls for freedom of expression can abridge the offence of trying to break the country. Such a freedom of expression is not acceptable to me, and I cannot condone any scrapping of the law that allows for talking about, or conspiring to, breaking the country. As far as the AFSPA is concerned, the way our armed forces have managed to combat insurgency in various parts of the country, this Act is important. But wherever the situation has become normal, we have also withdrawn the AFSPA, as in Tripura, Meghalaya and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. There will be a periodic review for whether it is required in a particular place or not.
What is your view on the demand that the National Security Adviser be brought under parliamentary oversight.
The NSA is an adviser to the Prime Minister on security related issues, and the latter is answerable to Parliament in any case. The final decision is not taken by the NSA, but by Prime Minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security, etc, which is made up of Ministers who are anyway answerable to Parliament. I do not know who is advising such things to the Congress.