Claiming that the BJP would get a clear majority in the ongoing elections, Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh told Sana Shakil his party would repeat its 2014 performance in UP while gaining ground in other states. He called the Congress' promise of Nyay a fraud and blamed it for politicising the Balakot airstrikes.
BJP chief Amit Shah has said the party will make big gains in Odisha, West Bengal and the east to offset the possible losses in big states such as Uttar Pradesh.
There won’t be any loss in UP but Amit Shah is correct, we will do very well in West Bengal and Odisha. We will do well across the country, in many other states. Our performance will be excellent in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and the Northeast too.
Your party recently lost the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. Will the farmers’ anger and the Assembly poll setback impact your prospects in the Lok Sabha battle?
During the assembly elections, the public sentiment was clear that whatever the result in the Vidhan Sabha (Assembly), they would vote for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys huge credibility and the people trust him. As for the anger among farmers, there may have been some displeasure with the government but farm distress was not the reason why we lost the three states.
Congress leaders like Rajeev Gowda have alleged that the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi is a cash-for-votes scam. How do you respond to that and what do you have to say about the Nyay scheme?
The PM Kisan is an income support scheme, not a dole. It is meant to double their income. On the other hand, there is no clarity on Nyay. Nyay is a lie, a fraud. Congress knows they will not be able to form the government so they are talking in the air.
What do you think are the BJP’s prospects in UP? What are the challenges from the SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan?
People know that the alliance won’t work. To win elections it is important for a political party or an alliance to have credibility. The BJP has a lot of credibilities which the gathbandhan lacks. The SP-BSP-RLD alliance is not credible and the public will never accept them.
They have always spoken about sending each other to jail. They are rivals. They have come together just to defeat the BJP. The people can see through all this and they will not vote for the alliance. This alliance will not have any impact on our votes. It is not necessary that their traditional vote-bank will get combined because they have come together. We are dead sure that even 70% of their votes will not get transferred. We will get the same number of seats in UP as the last time.
Some armed forces veterans have written a letter to the President objecting to slogans like ‘Modiji ki sena’. What do you have to say to that?
This is a politically-motivated letter. Our party is not doing this but if our armed forces are doing great work, should we not highlight it or appreciate them? The (Balakot) airstrikes were politicised by the Congress and some other political parties, which kept asking how many terrorists were killed. In 1971, Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan because of our armed forces and Indira Gandhi won accolades for that. Similarly, Modiji is being praised for the airstrikes. What’s the issue?
The Congress has promised to scrap the sedition law, what are your views on this?
No one can be allowed to break the country. We will not allow this. We will strengthen the law but at the same time we will ensure that the people who misuse the law are punished.
Opposition leaders claim that the situation is going from bad to worse in Kashmir. While more terrorists are being killed, more security personnel have also lost their lives compared to 2009-2014.
Our security forces, paramilitary and intelligence agencies are doing very well in Kashmir and this is why we have been able to eliminate a record number of terrorists. To our bravehearts who have lost their lives while fighting terrorists, I assure you that their martyrdom will not go in vain. I would like to ask the people who are questioning our government what did they do about curbing terrorism? They did not do anything.
It is alleged that the appointment of interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma has not yielded the desired results.
We tried everything to resolve the Kashmir issue but what do we do if no one is interested in talks? From giving amnesty to first-time stone-throwers to declaring a ceasefire during Ramzan, we tried everything. I even said we are ready to talk to all stakeholders.
You had not taken any explicit position on Articles 370 and 35A. Yet the abrogation of Article 370 and the annulment of Article 35A were included in the BJP manifesto. What changed?
My stand cannot be different from my party’s stand. If some leader says Kashmir should have a separate Prime Minister, why should we not have a clear stand on these issues? We have been left with no option but to declare that these Articles should be done away with. Yes, the situation has changed. Articles 370 and 35A were not given to promote statements like these or call for a separate Prime Minister for Kashmir.
Also, the local politicians who are outraged with our stand should spell out how Articles 35A and 370 have helped and benefited the people of Kashmir. Has it solved the problem of unemployment? Local leaders need to answer as they are the ones who have been ruling Kashmir for so many years. The central government has always given maximum assistance to Jammu & Kashmir but where does all that money go? Local political parties need to introspect.
The Naga framework agreement announced with much fanfare is yet to reach its logical conclusion. Why do you think it’s taking this long?
These things take time but things are moving in the right direction. These problems are old, from the pre-independence era. We have been able to reach a consensus on most of the issues.
You claimed to have reduced the influence of Maoists to small pockets but they still managed to carry out multiple attacks before and during elections. Most recently your own MLA was killed. What are your views?
Earlier, more security personnel used to get killed in Naxal areas as compared to Naxals. Now, this has reversed. The situation has improved to a great extent. The number of districts affected by left-wing extremism has come down. The number of incidents has also come down. This incident (the MLA’s killing) is very unfortunate but even in this case, intelligence agencies had warned the state government that there could be a big incident.
On Sabarimala, your party says the bar on entry of women is a matter of faith which should not be tinkered with. If that is so, why is a Uniform Civil Code being promised? Is that not interfering with the personal laws of some communities? What about instant triple talaq?
I personally believe no one should interfere with faith and traditions. As for a Uniform Civil Code, Goa has a common civil code. Who is facing problems there? Muslims and Christians in Goa are fine with it. We will make all efforts to build a consensus on the Uniform Civil Code. We will take all precautions to ensure no one’s faith, beliefs and traditions are interfered with while bringing it in. Instant triple talaq is not about faith, that cannot be compared with the Sabarimala issue.
Do you think your party could have a post-poll-alliance with YS Jaganmohan Reddy and K Chandrashekhar Rao?
This is a hypothetical question. The BJP will attain a clear majority but still the government that we will form will include our alliance partners.
At the end of five years as the Home Minister, what will you count as your achievements in Kashmir and the Northeast? What were the biggest challenges?
Kashmir issue is an old problem. It needs to be resolved. It will take time but we are confident that we will be able to resolve it. We might change the policy. We may take more steps, new steps if required. We will do whatever it takes to resolve the problem. It is the separatists who are creating problems in Kashmir, not the Kashmiris. I am not talking about leaders but I am talking about separatists who toe Pakistan’s line. Coming to the Northeast, after 1997 these five years have been the best for the Northeastern states. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act was removed from several parts in the Northeast.
But your government has faced a lot of opposition on the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Bill. What will you do with foreigners staying illegally?
Every country should know the number of citizens and foreigners on its soil. Something will have to be done. After the NRC list is finalised, we will talk to our neighbouring countries and then decide what needs to be done. We will not have an inhuman approach.
What do you make of Imran Khan’s statement that peace has a better chance if the BJP returns to power?
He need not say all this. He need not to talk on Indian politics. Pakistan should deal with terrorists first. They should not let terrorism grow on their soil. Everything else can be discussed later.