Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani tells Richa Sharma that the recent bypoll results do not mirror the mood of the country and that the people will bring Narendra Modi back in 2019 despite the coming together of rival parties with different ideologies
As a united Opposition gears up to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani expresses doubts on its longevity, pointing out that parties with ideological differences have come together and several of its leaders appear to be harbouring ambitions to become Prime Minister. Not just that, the Opposition is scared of Prime Minister Narendra Modi because he is so powerful, he claims.
According to him, the recent by-election results do not reflect the mood of the country. He is confident that the people will vote for Modi, good governance and people-friendly policies once again next year.
As for the Congress revival in Gujarat and a possible threat from it in 2019, Rupani is sanguine that the BJP will win the general elections, and pull off a clean sweep in the state where it has been in power for 22 years.
How do you see Opposition parties joining hands to take on the BJP in 2019?
Narendra Modi is so powerful that the Opposition is scared of him and parties have put behind their ideological differences to join hands. We are saying that eradicating poverty and corruption is the most important thing, but they say ‘Modi hatao’ (remove Modi) is most important. Let us see what the people of India decide.
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Everyone thinks that in Election 2019, it will be Modi versus Rahul. Even Rahul has declared that he is interested in becoming Prime Minister, but neither from his party and nor from the Opposition has there been any support for his announcement. After the JD(S)-Congress coalition in Karnataka, H D Deve Gowda is also dreaming of becoming PM for the second time. Many others in the Opposition have aspirations to become PM. But Modiji’s stature and fame are increasing day by day across the country and people will vote for him.
The Congress gave a tough fight to the BJP in Gujarat. Do you feel there is a threat in 2019?
There has been a trend in the last four years of the BJP government under PM Modi. In all elections except Gujarat, the mandate was against the incumbent government as people decided to change the existing government. It was seen in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Maharashtra and Tripura. It is only in Gujarat that the same party formed the government.
Even in Karnataka, the mandate is against the JD(S)-Congress government but they have made a coalition government. Congress seats have come down from 122 to 77 in the state, which means the mandate is against them.
How many seats do you think the BJP will win in Gujarat in 2019?
We will win all 26 Lok Sabha seats from Gujarat in 2019. In Gujarat, the mandate was clear that the Congress should not make the government, and by giving them 77 seats, people made them a strong Opposition. But the BJP got 101 seats as people felt that the BJP should only run the government. It has been 22 years of BJP rule in the state and this mandate extends it to 27 years. The party’s vote share is 49.4 per cent, one in every two persons voted for BJP.
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They openly contested with the Congress and have all been exposed. It was a conspiracy by the Congress and they all openly supported the Congress. Despite that, the BJP was able to form the government and they all failed. So, it was never a factor and will never be.
There is Dalit anger in the state due to recent incidents. Has the BJP been able to iron out differences with the community, keeping in mind the 2019 elections?
We have always been ready to take decisions that are for the benefit of the people, but we do not work keeping the elections in mind. Elections keep happening, but we might not have been able to achieve so much if we worked according to elections. Our responsibility is towards the 6.5 crore people of Gujarat, be it Dalits or any other community. We have always advocated and worked with the spirit of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.’ No doubt, there have been a few incidents but we have taken quick action against the culprits.
There is a perception that all is not well in the Gujarat BJP and that Nitin Patel and you are not on good terms. How do you respond to that?
All such news is fabricated and there is no truth in it. Shri Nitinbhai is among our senior leaders, we have always been together. Shri Nitin Patel brings with him extensive experience of public life and governance. During tough deliberations on issues of public policy-making, we are immensely benefited by his observations and suggestions. Being expressive shouldn’t be construed as being critical, as critical thinking and analysis are crucial for effective policy-making.
The state has been a hub of industry but according to the 2011 Census, the poverty rate in Gujarat is higher than those of Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Jammu & Kashmir. How do you tackle this?
Below Poverty Line is an outdated concept for measuring poverty. Socio Economic caste census was conducted in 2011 and there is a huge difference between the Gujarat of 2011 and the Gujarat of 2018. As far as I understand, Shri Narendra Modi brought many commendable socio-economic changes in Gujarat till 2011 whose results are being reflected today. Gujarat is working in a much-focused manner to handle these families by convergence of state and central schemes for the poor.