EXCLUSIVE | Strong Modi wave in country; NDA all set to cross 400 mark: Amit Shah

Shah claims Congress has a generational history of not fulfilling manifesto promises, adding, "it is only Congress that can divide even the poor between Hindus and Muslims; we will not let it happen."
 Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Raebareli in May 12.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Raebareli in May 12. Photo | PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also the BJP’s principal strategist, asserts that the NDA will reach its target of a bumper majority and form the next government at the Centre. He alleges the Congress wants to snatch away the reservation given to SCs, STs and OBCs and give it away to the Muslim community—without conducting any survey—citing Karnataka and Telangana as examples of its “appeasement” politics.

On the other hand, he claims, “the BJP has never ever wanted to amend Constitution for altering reservation provisions.” In the midst of hectic campaigning, Shah gave an in-depth interview to TNIE Editor Santwana Bhattacharya and Senior Assistant Editor Rajesh Kumar Thakur.

To buttress his point, he points out that the BJP/NDA has had the strength in Parliament to amend the Constitution for the past 10 years. “We never did, as that was never our intention. What we believe in, we always put out in our ‘sankalp patra’—like Article 370, Ram Mandir or UCC. We don’t work surreptitiously.”

Excerpts from the interview...

Three phases of elections are over, four more to go. What’s your view on the low turnout—heat or apathy? The Congress cites it to say it’s already winning. You say the NDA has already touched 190. What do you really feel? Is “400 paar” really possible?

This time, a cleaning up of the electoral rolls—removing those who have died, etc.—perhaps could not be done properly. It’s usually a routine exercise carried out between general elections. In my own colony in Gandhinagar, the names of over 14 voters who have died are still on the rolls. It seems to me that might account for the low polling to some extent. Secondly, in many constituencies, the people feel there is no contest. In the North, East, West and in parts of the South, this feeling of there being ‘no real contest’ is affecting turnouts. Anyway, we are leading in wherever voting has happened so far.

But crossing 400?

It is indeed possible. I can tell you about the states where we will increase numbers. In West Bengal, we will win around 30 seats. In Bihar, our position is likely to remain around the same as 2019. In Odisha, we can reach 16 or go a little further ahead. In Telangana, we can reach 10–12. In Andhra Pradesh, the NDA will be close to 17–18. Our accounts will be opened in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Even in the Northeast, we will do very well.

The Opposition is saying the NDA wants 400 seats so as to be in a position to change the Constitution and end reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs. How do you respond?

We had the power to amend the Constitution since 2014. But we never did it. We have been in the Centre for 10 years and have not touched reservation. On the contrary, the Congress has reduced the quota for SCs, STs and OBCs by giving reservation to Muslims in Karnataka and Telangana from the same quota. We’ve not done anything of that sort.

The PM did say there would be a ‘big decision’ and it was interpreted as…

…because of the Congress’s mentality. The Uniform Civil Code was a big decision; the removal of triple talaq was a big decision; and so was Article 370. To end constitutionally mandated reservation is neither on our agenda nor do we want to do it. If Congress sees only ‘reservation’, we do not have any cure for it.

Your government has turned Rahul Gandhi’s phrase—“X-ray of India”—to invoke a fear of Muslim takeover. But isn’t high poverty among Muslims a fact? You do place the historical blame for that on the Congress. Should that not be righted?

For them, an X-ray of Indian households does not mean (socio-economic) survey. What they actually mean is sampatti (property/assets). Rahul Gandhi wants an X-ray of sampatti to distribute it to those who don’t have it. Dr Manmohan Singh had already declared the Congress’s priority in his famous ‘right to resources’ remark. Their priority is Muslims for votes, not development.

There is no question of us creating a fear psychosis. It is in their thinking to create a miasma of fear. How can you divide the poor into Hindu/Muslim? Is that right? Modiji has said we are empowering the poor—it’s a holistic approach.

 Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Raebareli in May 12.
BJP will never allow reservations to end, will implement UCC in Modi's third term: Amit Shah

You accuse southern states of giving reservations to backward Muslims. But OBC Muslims are getting benefits even in Gujarat. If the BJP thinks it’s unconstitutional, why did you not adopt a legal path to abolish it?

Some Muslim castes are there in Gujarat. But in Karnataka, without any survey, they declared the entire Muslim community as backward, even those who are millionaires. How can a millionaire Muslim be treated as backward? They have done reservation on the basis of religion. Among Hindus too, only some castes are backwards. Can we put all Hindus in the backwards category? Will the Congress do it to Hindus too? What they have done is unconstitutional. Poverty or backwardness can be an index of consideration, not religion. Our constitution does not allow it.

To what extent is the Ram temple issue helping the BJP?

The Ram temple has always been a matter of faith for us, not an election issue. But people have understood that Congress had been hindering temple construction for so many years. They have seen how Modi ji solved this vexed issue harmoniously. However, for the Congress, it is an electoral issue. The Congress leadership did not come for the consecration, fearing it might upset their voter base. They harassed and expelled party leaders and members for visiting Ayodhya. All this is unlikely to go down well with Ram devotees.

You talk of the Uniform Civil Code and say the Congress is invoking religion-based personal laws…

Look, the UCC is not an agenda of the BJP only. It is an agenda of the Indian Constitution. Our Constitution-makers had kept it pending only to wait for the right time. We have initiated it in Uttarakhand. In our sankalp patra, we say we will try to bring it across India in the next five years. The UCC is a big social reform. I think there should be wider discussions as well as scrutiny on its social, religious and judicial points.

Uttarakhand has put up a model; naturally, it may be challenged and scrutinised. Many people, especially Muslim representatives, have problems with it. I think it must be implemented across the country.

Union Minister Amit Shah campaigns at a Lok Sabha election rally
Union Minister Amit Shah campaigns at a Lok Sabha election rally Photo | Express

Initially, the BJP campaign was focused on development and welfare. But gradually, words like Muslim, Pakistan, etc started figuring prominently. Why this shift? Don’t these issues polarise the electorate and divert from what could be the focus: the Modi government’s actions on the economic front?

Our achievements are visible to everyone, even without publicity. The commoners are living this change and benefiting from it. This success has been attained through immense hard work. In the last 10 years, India has jumped several notches to become the 5th largest economy in the world, up from 11th. By 2025, India is slated to become a $5 trillion economy.

Soon, we will become the world’s third-largest economy. FDI has doubled, from $305 billion to $600 billion. Exports have increased from $446 billion to $775 billion. Per capita income has increased from Rs 68,000 to Rs 2.14 lakh. GDP has grown from $1.86 trillion to $3.73 trillion. Inflation has dipped from 6.67 per cent to 5 per cent—a 25 per cent reduction. The biggest beneficiaries of this stupendous growth are the people, and they want the Modi government to return to office to fulfil their aspiration of making Bharat a developed nation by 2047.

In 2014, in his first speech, Modi ji promised “guaranteed welfare for the poor.” In the last 10 years, we have lifted 25 crore Indians out of poverty. And 60 crore people have been relieved from the burden of daily needs: rations, housing, water, sanitation and gas. Rs 34 lakh crore was transferred directly to people’s bank accounts from 52 ministries. We have built 4 crore homes, and 32 crore people have got health insurance under Ayushman Bharat. Piped drinking water has been provided in nearly 14 crore homes, with 74 percent coverage and 100 percent in 185 districts.

Under Ujjawala, 10 crore LPG connections have been given. As many as 12 crore toilets have been built. ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ benefited 80 crore beneficiaries. Free ration has been distributed to 80 crore poor people for two years. We have created nearly 1 crore, 41 lakh ‘lakhpati didis’. The PM Saubhagya scheme has eliminated darkness in over 6 lakh villages, providing electricity to 3 crore families. The PM Surya Ghar Free Electricity Yojana aims to illuminate 1 crore households free of cost.

A 10% reservation was given to economically weaker sections. The concept of Divyang-Sugamya Bharat was introduced. Under the SVANidhi Scheme, street vendors are given Rs 10,000 crore credit. A package of Rs 24,000 crore was given to 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups under the PM Jan Man Scheme. We have also distributed Rs 2 lakh crore amongst 12.33 crore beneficiaries under the PM Kisan Yojana and 4 crore farmers have benefited under PM Fasal Bima Yojana.

You refer to Rahul Gandhi’s guarantees as Chinese guarantees, and contrast it with Modi’s “Indian” guarantees. Could you elaborate?

The Congress has never delivered on its promises ever. Had Indira Gandhi fulfilled the Garib Hatao promise, Modi would not have had to work so hard for the poor. For farmers, we have increased the budget six-fold, from Rs 22,000 crore under the UPA to Rs 1.27 lakh crore in 2024-25. The agriculture households’ income has doubled from Rs 6,000 per month under the UPA to Rs 10,000 per month under us NDA.

The Congress guarantees are such as never to be fulfilled; that’s why we call them “Chinese guarantees.” We have delivered on our promises without minding whether it creates a controversy or not: Ram temple, removal of Article 370, triple talaq. We call our promises ‘sankalp’ (resolve) and they call it ‘manifesto’.

But they do have eye-catching promises: Rs 1 lakh per year to one woman in every poor family, 30 lakh jobs, apprenticeship, MSP law, minimum wages….

They can say anything. They should have done it in the four states in which they have a government.

You repeatedly say the government is increasing the MSP for crops. States like Haryana have indeed widened it beyond traditional crops. But how will you convince the farmers and the public in general in the absence of a legal guarantee?

Farmers have been our top priority. No legal guarantee is needed to empower farmers. Legal guarantees are needed by those who suffer from a bankruptcy of confidence. We are trusted by people and we will do whatever is needed for farmers. We have always done so. Under the PM Kisan Sampada Yojana, 38 lakh farmers have benefited and e-NAM has integrated 1,361 mandis. We have established 1,600 agriculture startups. Shree Anna farming is now carried out on 5.7 million hectares.

The Congress is also talking about a unified GST. This includes taking it away from farm input products.

GST is the big story of India’s reform and it was accomplished after merging 16 taxes. In April 2024 itself, GST saw Rs 2.10 lakh crore collections. Rahul Gandhi can say anything—he says what others ask him to say, he does not think before speaking. Does he want to impose the same quotient of tax on hawai slippers and branded shoes?

Electoral bonds have been declared unconstitutional. How are funds being gathered for election expenses now? Has the cash flow increased? Will you relook political funding if you’re back in power?

The Supreme Court is the one that should do a relook. Closing down a policy without giving a new alternative is not good.

How does the ‘One Nation One Election’ idea propose to change India’s scenario?

It only means all elections will be held together, all voting will be simultaneously. They are saying elections will never be held again. How can elections be closed? We are not Indira Gandhi. It was she who imposed Emergency. It was she who increased Parliament’s timeline. It was she who jailed 1.35 lakh people without any reason for 19 months. A single person had imposed Emergency: and it was Rahul Gandhi grandmother, who was also the Congress president. One Nation One Election will certainly be implemented if we are voted back. We don’t want to spend too much on frequent elections.

Arvind Kejriwal has now got bail. But the arrest of Opposition chief ministers before elections raised questions of timing and propriety. Do you think the arrests could have waited?

Kejriwal was served 19 summonses and he did not come. We moved court and that’s why his arrest happened before elections. Had he come on time, he would have been arrested a year before the elections. He did not cooperate and the agency had to go to court to seek his arrest.

Is the NIA taking over a case against him? What is this new allegation of ‘illegal funding’?

It’s not like that. A complaint has been received by the agency and it has simply been forwarded. No in-depth investigation has been started as such.

Is the success the Modi government claims in diplomacy a factor? Does it influence voting?

Under PM Modi’s leadership, India’s stature has increased on global platforms. Today, India is seen as a bright spot on the global map. Modi ji is today one of the most powerful leaders in the world. Global leaders look up to his opinions. We have extended our helping hand to countries in their time of need, whether it is during the pandemic or war. The Russia-Ukraine war is one of the brilliant examples of our successful global outreach. We also sent vaccines to different countries during the pandemic.

Today, we are seen as the voice of the Global South. After Modi’s arrival, India has emerged as a soft power. Indian culture has gained global prominence, and there has been a boost in strategic investments. During the pandemic, India assisted the world. Modi ji has turned India into a preferred hub for trade and investment. Today we are setting an example of global unity through the tradition of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The massive support India enjoys on foreign soil has enhanced the pride of being an Indian.

Certain killings on foreign soil have hit the headlines, including in Canada. Do you thing such things will impact bilateral relations?

It has been sorted out. We have not done it. If they ask anything through diplomatic channels, a reply will be given to them.

 Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Raebareli in May 12.
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 Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Raebareli in May 12.
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