‘It’s an easy contest in U.P., BJP will win absolute majority’

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We are getting tremendous support. It’s unexpected. We have fulfilled expectations and will match it with 2014 performance, says Minister

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has addressed over 100 public meetings, largely in Uttar Pradesh, as the Assembly polls reach their last and final stretch. In Delhi to clear files, Mr. Singh took time out to speak to The Hindu at his 17 Akbar Road residence. Excerpts:

How easy or difficult are elections in Uttar Pradesh for the BJP this time?

It’s easy, not difficult at all because BJP will not only get a majority but an absolute majority.

On what basis are you saying it’s an easy contest? People say it’s a difficult one.

We are getting tremendous support. According to me, it’s unexpected. I wasn’t expecting this kind of support. We have fulfilled expectations and will match it with 2014 performance. Whether it’s the Prime Minister or the Central government, there has been no credibility loss. Nobody has put a question mark on the intentions of this government. Big decisions were taken and demonetisation was one of them. The Opposition was up in arms against demonetisation and they expected it will benefit them, but common people have supported us. For some time, people were troubled. You must have seen the television interviews of people standing in queues outside the ATMs, but they never questioned the intention of the PM or the government. Nobody put a question mark on it.

What kind of response did you get for demonetisation in the public meetings you addressed?

I will tell you, during huge meetings, when I asked the public about their response to demonetisation during my public meetings, people raised their hands in support.

If demonetisation is not an issue according to BJP, then why did you raise this matter during your public meetings?

No, no I didn’t raise it. We seldom raised the issue of notebandi among public only when someone in Opposition created a furore. It was not required.

Do you think the government should have been better prepared for notebandi?

You must have seen the CSO’s [Central Statistical Organisation’s] data; they have pegged the GDP growth at 7% and it projected a growth of 7.1%. First, there was an apprehension that GDP will come down, it didn’t happen. I was reading the statement of World Bank CEO; she has also said the same thing.

Economists have raised concerns about the quality of the data.

There could be a difference of opinion; it’s natural. I saw Mr. [P] Chidambaram’s statement; Congress should oppose it.

What are the other issues in the election?

The main issues are good governance and development.

The BJP has a proven track record of development and good governance. Had it not been so then BJP would have lost its credibility.

Is it the strength of the government or the weakness of the Opposition?

No it’s the strength of the government.

But the Opposition is fragmented…

The Congress used to be a national opposition party, not any more. For a healthy democracy, there should be a strong Opposition.

How do you view the Congress challenge in U.P.?

Congress has lost its credibility among the masses. They have ruled for a long period and they couldn’t fulfil the basic needs of people. Even today, the percentage of literacy in Congress-ruled States is quite low, poverty has increased, and infrastructure like roads, electricity, water is not there.

What is your view of the role of ‘dynasty’ in politics?

I don’t think dynasty is a big issue, but it is true that members of one family keep replacing each other in the hierarchy. I believe that a politician’s son should work for the party for at least 10 years, if not more, and then if he wants to come [into politics], he can. You cannot stop anyone.

Why do you oppose Rahul Gandhi on the dynasty front then?

Me, then my son, after that his son, this is what dynasty politics is about.

Who is your main opponent in U.P.?

It’s difficult to decide this. BJP is contesting all seats. Some places it’s the Samajwadi Party, in around 10 seats some small parties are there. I think BJP has moved towards absolute majority.

Will the family feud in the SP benefit Akhilesh Yadav?

I don’t want to get into family politics; it’s their personal matter. I don’t become happy if there is a rift in any family. I don’t even want to know the reasons [behind the feud]. But it is also true that within two years of coming to power, SP started losing its credibility. The expectations people had from SP were not fulfilled.

Bharat jaise desh ka temperament, log chahhte hain politician seasoned hona chahiye, mature hona chahiye, well experienced hona chahiye. (As far as I know of India’s temperament, people want a seasoned, mature and experienced chief minister).

What about the BSP challenge?

The BSP is not a challenge. The BSP and the SP-Congress are fighting a losing battle.

Are the BJP’s references to shamshaan (cremation ground) and kabristan (graveyard) an attempt to consolidate Hindu votes?

The Prime Minister’s statement has been misinterpreted. His purpose was to highlight the discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and religion. That is why we believe in sabka saath sabka vikaas. And if you think that our political ideology is cultural nationalism, then it is the culture of India as espoused by sages and saints; Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, the whole world is a family.

How does that sit with your development plank?

Development is obstructed when you discriminate on the basis of caste, creed and religion. In a diverse country like India, you have to take everyone along.

Doesn’t the PM’s statement on kabristans have a communal undertone?

It’s a wrong perception; the PM is entirely secular.

But your party did not give the ticket to a single Muslim candidate.

In Manipur, we have given ticket to several candidates, including Muslims and Christians. Actually, they would have decided this on the basis of ‘winnability’. We didn’t deliberately not give the [party] ticket to Muslim candidates; Muslims are citizens of this country, so are Christians.

But all political parties do give preference to caste…

We also look at ‘winnability’; we do consider social equations. If a person belonging to any caste doesn’t win, then what is the point?

BJP has written to the EC to check women in burqas at polling booths?

I am not aware of the letter.

You are considered the BJP’s tallest leader in U.P. In case the BJP wins, will you become the Chief Minister?

I already have a responsibility; I should not speak on this as I am a member of the Central Parliamentary Board, which has to take the decision on the process to be adopted to elect the leader of the legislature party.

If not you, then who?

The Parliamentary board will decide this.

Is there a shortlist?

Everything is done there [at the Parliamentary board]. We have not projected any CM candidate; there are many leaders.

Has not having a CM face affected your prospects?

I don’t think so. You must have seen this in Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Maharashtra — we did not project anyone. There is no particular formula.

There are reports of clashes between RSS and Left parties in Kerala. Does this concern you as Home Minister?

It is natural that I am concerned. I have requested the Kerala CM several times to stop this violence and he should put an end to it. I have spoken to him in person as well. He has assured me that he will do his best.

Why don’t you make the Naga accord public?

Whatever is there in the accord, let me assure you that it will not affect the territorial integrity of any State. We want to wipe out insurgency from the North-East.

Gurmehar Kaur, a 20-year-old student, had to leave Delhi as she spoke against the ABVP…

Gurmehar should not have left, she should come back. There is no danger to her.

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