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Exclusive interview with Amit Shah

BJP president Amit Shah speaks to The Hindu inNew Delhi on Sunday. Photo: R. V. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah says he has conducted 41 elections in his political life and not lost a single one. In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, he talks about a wide range of issues related to the party and its policy, U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments about religious freedom in India and his style of functioning.

By bringing in Kiran Bedi, a rank outsider, as chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, are you setting a precedent in the party?

We have been doing it for some time now. Some examples of people who became members of the BJP the day they got ticket to contest elections are Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Chetan Chauhan, Navjot Singh Siddhu, Jaswant Singh, General Khanduri. All of them got responsible positions soon after joining the party.

But there is heartburn in the party after Kiran Bedi’s entry?

I think the heartburn is more in the media (laughs).

What is the position on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir? (The BJP and PDP are reportedly in talks to form a government in the hung assembly where no party has a majority)

Nothing is decided yet. Talks are in advance stage. Within two weeks something result-oriented will emerge.

There are some controversial issues such as Uniform Civil Code and AFSPA….

That is why it is getting delayed. There is an effort to have a Common Minimum Programme on controversial issues. Negotiations are on.

Are you confident issues will be settled?

I think so.

Is there an agreement on Chief Minister’s post?

Nothing is decided yet. That issue will come up for discussions at the end. If issues are not settled `in principle’ then what is the point of talking about Chief Minister’s post. At present attempts are being made to reach an agreement on issues of differences.

As you are trying to build new leaders in Delhi will you do the same in Tamil Nadu? Will you give platform to outside leadership in your party?

Forget Delhi and Tamil Nadu, the BJP is always ready to give platform to people doing good work in all sections of the society be it Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna or Navjot Singh Siddhu. They were not traditionally BJP workers. We gave them space. There are several people with good credentials who we have brought into the party such as IAS officer Alphons (Kannamthanam) in Kerala. This is nothing new.

Have you had any talk with >Jayanthi Natarajan who has just quit the Congress party?

I have never had any talk with Jayanthiji either on phone or in person.

Will the BJP take her if there is such a proposal?

Let the proposal come. There is no such proposal. What should I comment?

What is your reaction to President Obama’s comment in his farewell speech wherein he said that India divided on religious lines cannot progress?

Everybody says that. Even we say it. Our Constitution says so. What is new in it?

He made a pointed reference.

He did not say such things are happening in our country.

Several statements coming from BJP MPs have threatened communal harmony…..?

No, there is no threat to communal harmony. Communal harmony will be maintained. There will not be any disturbance.

You had to caution your MPs against making controversial statements?

Yes. That is public. I have served notice.

You have moved away from your development agenda and caught on to ghar wapsi, a divisive social agenda?

Development agenda and ghar wapsi have nothing to do with one another. The way of thinking should be changed. Conversion is a problem. We believe that there should be a law on forcible conversion. Not a single so-called secular party has come forward on this. Should forcible conversion be stopped or not? I believe they should be. So those who want to stop forcible conversion should come with us. [But] no one comes forward. Not even you.

So you want a debate on it?

No I don’t want debate. I want support.

You want a law?

Yes. There have been enough debates since 1950 that forcible conversions should be stopped in the country. Enough is enough.

There us another controversy now on whether the words secular and socialist should be in the Preamble of the Constitution or not?

This debate too is meaningless. BJP believes that the Preamble as it stands today is fine. There is no need to change it.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has been saying that India is a ‘Hindu rashtra’. What is the party’s view?

I do not want to comment on Mohanji’s statement.

There is a view that India-Pakistan’s stalled dialogue will take place after government formation in Jammu and Kashmir?

If it is so, will I tell?

India’s relations have improved with a lot of countries but with Pakistan there is a setback. Would the ruling BJP want that there is forward movement in this direction too?

Definitely, Indian government had taken the initiative to talk with Pakistan but when their High Commissioner here talks to separatists…Pakistan should talk to India. It cannot talk with separatists.

That is what is holding up talks.

India is maintaining that position?

Maintaining or not, the government of India has to tell. I am only informing you why dialogue is held up.

Earlier also Pakistan High Commissioners used to meet separatists?

This is our government’s stand. That time this government was not in power.

Anna Hazare has said that he will soon launch an agitation against the Modi government on land Bill, black money and Lokpal Bill?

Yes I have read that statement. Everybody is free to do what they feel like.

Personality and style of working

A question on your style of functioning. It is said that you are unilateral and do everything the way you want it. Is it true?

So should I do what you want to me do? I do what I want. Everybody does what he likes. What is so unique about it?

When you and Modiji took over the BJP in Gujarat you demolished all old structures gave way to a new BJP in the State. Are you doing the same thing at a national-level?

Who told you? That is not correct.

How different is the BJP under your leadership?

I do not see much difference.

But it is said that you are very demanding, very disciplinarian?

Whatever is necessary is being done. There is no drastic change.

What has changed under you?

I repeat, whatever is necessary is being done.

Delhi elections

The BJP campaign in Delhi is about both Modiji and [Kiran] Bediji? Who is you face — Bediji or Modiji?

BJP’s campaign cannot be a compartmentalised one. BJP’s campaign has contribution from Narendra Modiji and Kiranji’s has been projected by the party as its ‘face’. Lakhs of workers who are working till booth level are also BJP’s face with the electorate.

Despite Kiran Bedi you are projecting Modiji.

What is there to project — Modiji is our Prime Minister, our leader, our party’s face.

The manner in which you have mounted a massive campaign in Delhi shows the BJP is on the defensive?

Defensive or on the offensive? I like to be offensive and the BJP will contest this election on the offensive.

You had to change your strategy frequently in Delhi? First your MP Niranjan Jyoti made those controversial comments, then you brought in MPs to hold meetings. There was Mr. Modi’s first rally, which was not such a success and then you brought in Kiran Bedi?

No, we did not change our strategy. The MPs were in Delhi so they held meetings. Sadhvi Niranjan went to campaign as part of that strategy itself and is canvassing even now. Modiji’s rally has happened again. MPs went during winter session. In every election we form our strategy and decide as per requirement.

What is the focus of your Delhi campaign? Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s weaknesses your strengths?


What is your USP in Delhi?

We are going to the people with the achievements in the last eight months of the BJP government at the Centre and are naturally highlighting the weaknesses of opposition parties.

Winning elections in Delhi will take you one step closer to Congress-mukth (Congress-free) India?

Delhi is already free of Congress (laughs).

Why do you want Congress-mukth Bharat?

We talk of India free of Congress ideology…not of Congress as a party.

Is the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama also a campaign issue in Delhi?

Every good work of the Central Government is our campaign issue.

But you are not coming out with a manifesto but a vision document?

What difference does it make?

What is the thrust of your vision documents?

You will get to know when it is released.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 5:23:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bjp-agrees-with-obama-on-religious-freedom-amit-shah/article6845532.ece

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