It’s the BJP’s effort to make sure that party workers are present in every booth, and it’s working for that in Tamil Nadu and Kerala as well; the party may not be far ahead as it is in Karnataka and Telangana in these States, but efforts are on, Home Minister Amit Shah says about the BJP’s southern push. In Kerala, the BJP is trying to reach out to the Christian community because the BJP reaches out to every Indian, and Christians in Kerala are part of that effort, he says. With the BJP’s reach increasing, the party will be able to crack down on corruption in the southern States, especially in Telangana, he adds. Edited excerpts:
Karnataka is the only southern State where the BJP is in power. How important are these polls for you in terms of a footprint in the South and what are the party’s prospects?
This is an important election for the BJP, and we will form the government with a full majority in Karnataka. This will be on the back of the work done by both Prime Minister Modi’s government and the State government. The basis for my optimism is the support of the beneficiaries of the 4.1 lakh houses constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana, of 43 lakh tap water connections under Jal Jeevan Mission, four crore people benefiting under the Anna Yojana, 54 lakh farmers being given over Rs. 15 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. As for its effect on the rest of the South, I believe the BJP is well placed in Telangana as well. I also firmly believe that along with BJP’s reach increasing in the South, the party will be able to crackdown on corruption in the southern States, especially in Telangana.
You mention Karnataka and Telangana as places where the BJP will win polls, what about the efforts being made in Tamil Nadu and Kerala?
It’s our effort to make sure that BJP workers are present in every booth, and we are working for that in Tamil Nadu and Kerala as well; maybe we are not as far ahead as we are in Karnataka and Telangana in these States, but efforts are on.
In Kerala, the BJP is trying to reach out to the Christian community, particularly...
BJP reaches out to every Indian, and Christians in Kerala are also part of that effort.
Was the removal of Mr. Yediyurappa in 2021 a misstep, looking at the chain of events like rebellion by Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi?
Yediyurappa ji himself took the decision that he should give way to another Chief Minister. In our party, we have an age criterion, and he had said that whenever the party wants to operationalise that criteria, it could. He stood down eight months after that conversation. It’s a part of a natural generational change. As for Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi, it’s not a rebellion. They left over individual “moh” [attachment] to getting tickets. There was a clear logic of the party behind denial of tickets to both of them. In the case of Jagadish Shettar, he had made it clear that he would not serve as Minister under Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, so we felt why should he continue as a mere MLA then, would that have been acceptable to him? As far as Laxman Savadi is concerned, his MLC term was to run to mid-2028, which is longer than the term of the Assembly to be elected in the next week, so why shouldn’t the party have looked for a candidate? Nobody has left with them, and we don’t look at this as a rebellion. Let me declare right now that Shettar’s margin of loss will be more than his margin of victory ever was, since the people of Huballi have voted for the Lotus, not an individual.
There is talk that the reservation policy cleared by the Bommai government is not being defended adequately in court.
The case is over scrapping of reservation for Muslims, and as far as that is concerned, the BJP believes as a matter of principle that reservation should be as per the Constitution which has no provisions for reservation on the basis of religion. I have publicly said that we may have acted late on scrapping reservation for Muslims, we should have acted earlier.
Prime Minister Modi has spoken repeatedly over the undesirability of revadi (freebie) culture yet the BJP manifesto has free gas cylinders in it.
Please understand the definition of what is revadi culture. We have provided housing for three crore people, and will give to five crore more, we have provided fluoride-free tap water, we have given gas connections, health insurance of up to Rs. 5 lakh to people, free foodgrains which help fight malnutrition, all these are not freebies, these are benefits to the people to improve long-term quality of life and health. What is a freebie? If you promise to send Rs. 3,000 per month to the account of every woman, such kind of cash transfer is a revadi .
But under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, the government is distributing income support.
It is not a freebie. For a long time, there was a trend that various political parties would promise loan write-offs to small and marginal farmers, basically those with less than a hectare of land. We got a study done on how much loan was required for such a farmer to raise two crops on his holding, that figure for the average land holding of 2.5 acres, for seeds, irrigation and fertilizer plus pesticide would come to Rs. 6,000. So we decided that this amount should be given to farmers as a measure to make him/her self-sufficient, atmanirbhar , so that he doesn’t have to take loans for the short-term. This is not revadi . Government has, under a scientific approach, devised this programme to save small farmers from indebtedness and the banking system from dealing with fiscal indiscipline.
What was the basis for offering a National Register of Citizens for Karnataka?
The NRC is not the correct word here. What’s been promised is a kind of survey, every State government has the right to conduct a social survey. The right to maintain the National Register of Citizens is only with the Centre.
What do you think of the allegation that the BJP is a largely Hindi party and pushing that agenda.
This issue of Hindi imposition is a political allegation often made against the BJP whereas the party is working to strengthen all local languages.
Most of the Central services exams can now be taken in local languages. Earlier, someone who has studied, say, in Kannada medium would have found it difficult to take many of these exams. We made it so that most of these exams can be taken in several languages. NEET can be taken in several Indian languages, so also exams for recruitment of constables, with SSC as the basic qualification. So our work is to encourage local languages, Kannada, Tamil or Malayalam... including in engineering and medicine studies. This is also a part of the New Education Policy, and the Congress in Karnataka is opposing this, thereby also opposing studies in Kannada.
The Congress has spoken of banning the Bajrang Dal in its manifesto. As Home Minister, what is your reaction?
This is part of the Congress’ appeasement policy. For many years, out of fear of dispute, they had locked up the Ram Temple, and now they are talking of banning the Bajrang Dal. The Popular Front of India (PFI) ban and banning Bajrang Dal cannot be compared. The PFI was banned for anti-national and terror-related activities, after gathering primary stage evidence of the same. And the board that is constituted to consider reviewing the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) , under a High Court judge, consulted 12 State governments and declared that the ban on PFI was justified. The Congress cannot talk of lifting the ban on PFI so they are drawing a false equivalence between the PFI and the Bajrang Dal, as part of its appeasement policy.