While pollsters have projected a tough fight for the BJP in the Gujarat election, Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the most prominent Muslim face of the party, feels the BJP will sail through comfortably.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, Naqvi dismissed charges of the BJP playing divisive and communal politics through measures such as modernising madrasas and forcing people to sing the national anthem.
He parried questions about the Central government’s unkept promises, especially on job creation. He claimed that the government, which has less than one-and-a-half years to fulfill its promise of providing 1 crore jobs, would come good on its promise. He also dismissed opposition charges that Parliament’s winter session had been deliberately delayed because of the Gujarat elections.
Excerpts from the interview:
The UP government has made it compulsory to teach mathematics and science in madrasas along with religious texts. Your views?
Madrasas which get public money cannot be assisted by governments just to impart religious education. Madrasas funded by state and central governments should impart formal education. Mainstream education is good for the community. Madrasa education does not empower people, it only gives them knowledge about religion. But for competition in today’s world, for employment, formal education is a must.
Will the Centre consider implementing such a policy nationwide?
See, in South India, madrasas are already linked to mainstream education. In Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and even Telangana, madrasas do not only impart religious education but also provide good mainstream education. If you (madrasas) want funds from the central government or state governments, it is necessary that you also impart formal education. The centre funds madrasas on the basis of reports from states. We are considering a nationwide policy in the matter.
You have said that there should be a consensus on the Babri Masjid issue. How can a wider consensus be reached on the issue?
There are various parties in the Ayodhya issue. There should be a consensus among them. Different organisations are free to give their suggestions on the issue but the matter is in the courts. Therefore, it would be best if a consensus is reached among the genuine parties in the case. However, this is not a Shia-Sunni issue.
The latest economic survey suggested that job growth has been sluggish. Your party came to power in 2014 with a promise of providing one crore jobs. With less than one and a half years left, do you think the target will be met?
When we came to power the economic situation of the country was very bad. We tried to provide employment opportunities with Make in India, Stand Up India, Mudra and Jan Dhan Yojana. And we have been successful in providing jobs and creating employment to lots of people. If you see the road sector, housing, job opportunities have increased there. To critics, I would like to point out that there is an economic slowdown in the whole world. So employment opportunities are getting cut globally. The IT sectors in Britain and America are being demolished. People are losing jobs there but the situation of our IT sector is much better. In the days to come, you will see a big boom in jobs and employment opportunities. We believe that the coming year will be a golden period for employment opportunities. And the target of generating one crore jobs will surely be met.
In the aftermath of demonetisation and GST, do you think the Gujarat election will be a referendum on Narendra Modi’s economic reforms?
One single election cannot be a referendum on the government’s economic reforms. When we won the elections in UP and Uttarakhand — and that was just after demonetisation — we did not call it a referendum on demonetisation. We believe that the results of one assembly election cannot be a referendum on a national issue. But we have been successful in both demonetisation as well as GST. We are confident of winning the Gujarat election.
The Opposition is claiming that Parliament’s winter session was delayed because of the Gujarat polls. Parliament sessions have been delayed several times in the past during crucial state elections. It is not happening for the first time. Leaders of every political party are busy in the Gujarat elections. Most MPs are involved in the election process. Of course, the delay is because of the Gujarat election.
What are the major Bills likely to be tabled during the session?
The Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs will discuss the matter and then decide what bills should be tabled. I believe there is going to be a very short gap between the winter session and the budget session. And the budget session will have a lot of bills. So for the winter session the government will table only high priority bills.
PM Modi has both the mandate and commitment for the women’s reservation bill. Can we expect the Bill to be passed in the upcoming session?
As far as the women’s reservation bill is concerned, we are fully committed to it. But everyone knows it’s a Constitution amendment bill and for passing of any such bill, everybody has to be brought together, whether it is a small political party comprising just two people or a big political party. This kind of bill requires a special majority. We need consensus for this bill and we will try to build a consensus.
When can we expect the new Haj policy? What will be its key features?
Next year’s Haj will be performed according to the new Haj policy. It will be announced soon after we sign the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia in January.