BJP’s nationalism is fake. It is not even skin-deep, says former Union minister and AICC spokesman Manish Tewari, in an exclusive with us.
Excerpts from the interview:
Is the nationalism narrative after the Balakot airstrike working to the advantage of the BJP? How is Congress countering this narrative?
This is BJP’s pseudo-nationalism, something which the people have seen in the past five years. If the PM was truly the nationalist he claims to be, he would have found five minutes to pay tributes at the memorial of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. His nationalism is fake. It’s not even skin-deep. The fact is, they want to use nationalism as a political prop but fortunately the roots of nationalist struggle run so deep in the DNA of the Indian people that they can identify imposters like the PM. We do not need to counter the PM. The more he tries to use armed forces and the operations executed by them for political purposes, the more would it disgust people.
The Congress claimed that six surgical strikes were carried out during its rule but PM Modi dismissed it. What do you have to say?
The PM thinks that the history of India started on May 26, 2014 when he came to power. It’s not correct. He is not the first PM to authorise cross border raids. The fact is that since 1998, border actions have been a constant. If PM Narendra Modi feels only he could conduct such strikes, it’s a measure of his intellectual bankruptcy as well as an insult to the armed forces.
Masood Azhar was declared a global terrorist and the BJP believes the Congress did nothing to get him tagged.
Who took Masood Azhar to Kandahar and released him? BJP is responsible for freeing him and for the creation of his Jaish-e-Mohammad, thereafter. Had the BJP handled the Air India hijack properly and prevented the aircraft from taking off from Amritsar, Azhar would not have been what he is. They could have also ensured some action in Dubai. It was the mishandling of BJP which created Masood Azhar. They should own responsibility.
The BJP is projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the strongman who alone had the courage to take on Pakistan, which Manmohan Singh could not do during his tenure. Do you agree?
The Pakistan policy of the NDA government in the past five years is a pathetic story of flip-flops, about turns, somersaults and back-flips. The PM has sold national interest in the bazaars of Lahore by going uninvited to Nawaz Sharif’s home and getting attacked in Pathankot in return. It was for the first time in our history that the ISI was called to examine its own handiwork after the Pathankot attack. PM Narendra Modi has messed up the entire neighbourhood. Messed up diplomatically in Nepal and little Maldives, both of which are now wishing away India. Sri Lanka has slowly and consistently drifted into the Chinese orbit and the Pakistan policy is in smithereens.
Why has the campaign for Lok Sabha seats turned so acrimonious?
This is not something unique to this campaign. The fact is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lowered the level of political discourse over the past five years. If you recall, the PM targeted leaders of the Opposition by racking up domestic political issues on his visits abroad as early as 2014, immediately after he became PM. When he uses every forum to take cheap shots on leaders of opposition, the level of discourse was bound to come down. For example, when the national war memorial was inaugurated, he used even that solemn occasion to hit out at Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
Congress has been claiming that during the NDA rule unemployment has increased with 5 crore jobless persons. If your party or alliance comes to power, what strategy would you have to tackle this problem?
Jobs are created as economy grows. Today, you have a Finance Minister who understands as much about economy as I understand animal husbandry. You have a PM who has bizarre and crazy ideas to run the fiscal and monetary policies of the country.
The Congress has tried to play the soft Hindutva card as it tried to change its pro-Muslim image. Rahul Gandhi had been visiting temples.
We were never pro-Muslim. We are a secular party and so we believe in visiting and paying obeisance at every place of worship which people hold in respect. So it is a manifestation of our belief in secularism.
If the Congress comes to power, Rahul Gandhi has promised each of India’s poorest 20% families would get a minimum yearly income of Rs 72,000? How do you propose to implement it?
It is a minimum guarantee scheme. We will find the Rs 3.50 lakh crore within the budget without raising taxes to fund it.