In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Union Minority Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi called Rahul Gandhi a‘Sapno Ka Saudagar’ (peddler of dreams) for promising Minimum Income Guarantee for 20% poorest Indians. He also said that BJP government will make significant advances in solving unemployment by 2022-‘23. The ruling party’s Muslim face said the Narendra Modi government has worked effectively to empower minorities, citing the school dropout rate of girls among them, which he said, had dropped drastically from 70% to less than 30%. Excerpts from his interview:
Surveys have shown unemployment to be the biggest poll issue in the country. BJP had promised to create 10 crore jobs in 2014 polls. The government has provided no data to prove that it met its target. Do you think that NDA is under greater pressure in polls this time?
Unemployment is not a new issue. It was highest in the ten years of UPA regime. Employment opportunities have increased in India in several sectors since 2014. But because the ratio of unemployment is huge, it has been a big challenge. The issue needs to be addressed further. We can assure people that BJP, after it returns to power, will make significant advances in solving the issue of unemployment by 2022-‘23.
Rahul Gandhi has tried to project his 'Nyay' scheme as a counter-strike to Balakot. Do you think it will be a significant influence on the polls given that their promise of loan waiver to farmers worked in assembly elections in Rajasthan, MP and Chhatisgarh?
Maximum corruption is Congress’s DNA and minimum income is just a dialogue for them. You mentioned the case of three states. In these states, people are asking Congress why did it fool them with these promises but did nothing. These lies get exposed. This minimum income guarantee scheme is completely false and fabricated. It is a big fraud. When they announced this, they said they consulted economists from abroad. They should have consulted economists in India too…they should have asked Manmohan Singh. He would have told them. Rahul Gandhi seeks votes by becoming 'Sapno ka Saudagar'. But now, Congress stands exposed after assembly polls in these states. Their lies will hurt them badly in the upcoming elections.
What do you have to say about Opposition's alliance in Bihar where Congress and RJD have managed to stitch a 'rainbow coalition' of castes?
This is ‘Gunaahon ka gathbandan’, ‘gunaahon ki gathri’ ( a bundle of crimes). In UP and Bihar, the opposition’s alliance is full of corruption—be it SP, BSP or RJD. It is a battle of existence for them. Congress has failed to come up with a grand alliance, so they have tied with allies in some states. None of the opposition’s leaders have mass acceptability. Congress does not want perfect PM, wants a contract PM. Congress wants to remote control the Prime Minister. Country wants a perfect prime minister.
Time and again, the Opposition has accused your government of neglecting rights of minorities. What has your government done to protect and uplift the minorities?
We set a goal of development with dignity for minorities. In every sector, the government worked for development of minorities. In these five years, no one can say the minorities were not empowered--educationally, socially or economically. The school dropout rate of girls belonging to minority community was more than 70% Now it is less than 30%. We worked effectively to make sure there is good infrastructure in minority dominated areas.
Time and again statements have been made about Congress' potential victories being a cause of celebration in Pakistan. Your take?
When surgical strikes were carried out in Pakistan, both Pakistan and Congress were questioning the strikes. Also, when our security forces carried out an air strike on the terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot, Pakistan was seeking proof and Congress was raising questions too. So, this duet (jugalbandi) of Pakistan and Congress does raise questions.
Some have viewed BJP's seat sharing formulas - in Bihar and Maharashtra for instance- as evidence of the party's falling popularity, in that it conceded more seats that it had won in 2014. Your response?
Not true. Alliance and stability is very important to us. We know how to respect our allies and how important it is to have a stable government. In 2014, when Narendra Modi ji formed the government, BJP had clear majority. We didn't need allies to make the government but we included allies to form the government. So, we like the big brother, gave even BJP's seats to allies. On the other hand, look at Congress, everywhere they are fighting with allies over seat distribution.
Do you think that the last the by polls held in UP - which interestingly have been held in West, Central and East UP- are any indicator of how the state may vote this time?
By polls are not indicators of General Elections. Just because two parties come together doesn't mean their vote share will also get clubbed. The voter is not a transferable community. We believe BJP will win more than 75 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
What can the minorities expect from BJP's Sankalp Patra this time?
We want to assure minorities that their socio-economic, educational and religious rights are safe under Narendra Modi's government. We believe in empowerment without appeasement and in the coming days, educational empowerment of minorities, especially of girls, will be our priority. Skill development of minorities will also be our priority.
A lot of popular leaders with some ground appeal, including some from BJP, have joined Congress and they are from different social backgrounds. Hardik Patel, Sukhram and Manish Khanduri have their mass base. Do you think campaign by these leaders is going to hurt BJP's poll prospects?
Every election includes a season of ‘Aaya Ram’ and ‘Gaya Ram’. Many effective leaders switch sides during elections. This has been happening since decades and only time will tell how these movements will impact election results. But in the case of these leaders, it dosen’t seem it will have much impact.