BJP National President Amit Shah sat down with Network18 Group Editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi for an exclusive interview, his first as five states including Uttar Pradesh enters the election season. In a freewheeling conversation that went on for an hour, Shah talked about his party’s strategy for the assembly polls, the likely impact of demonetization on the electorate, his party’s stand on reservations and gave some clues into his political future.
Taking head on the Opposition allegations about demonetization, Shah said the Uttar Pradesh polls will not exactly be a referendum on the demonetization drive of the Narendra Modi Government but if the Opposition wants to play it that way then the BJP is game for it.
“There are so many anti-incumbency issues in UP. Still, if the Opposition wants to do a referendum on demonetisation, we are ready for it. People of UP are with BJP on the issue of demonetization,” Shah told Network 18 Group Editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi.
The BJP president claimed his party would capture power in the politically crucial state with a 2/3rd majority in the assembly polls slated to begin next month. He accused the ruling Samajwadi Party and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav of playing up their family feud so as to brush under the carpet what he called serious issues of law and order collapse and rampant corruption.
Shah also played down recent comments made by RSS spokesperson Manohan Vaidya on reservations and said the remarks were taken out of context. “Both BJP and RSS have made it amply clear that in the prevailing situation the current system of reservation must continue. There is no question of revisiting the issue,” he said. Vaidya was answering a query on reservation based on religion, which BJP is also against, he said.
When asked why the Ram Temple issue suddenly cropped up in the BJP poll manifesto even when the party has clarified it is fighting the polls on developmental issues, Shah said BJP is “very clear” about building the Ram temple. “It can only be done under the Constitutional provisions: either through dialogue or through court order. Yes, we are definitely committed to building a Ram temple, but within the Constitutional provisions,” he said.
The BJP chief took strong exception to allegations that his party was practicing the politics of polarization. “There is a lot of anger in UP. If a leader questions the politics of appeasement and casteism being practiced in UP, you can’t call that polarization,” he said. Shah also said his party was of the firm view that Triple Talaq curtails fundamental rights of women guaranteed by the Constitution.
He made it evident that the BJP campaign in UP will veer around the “collapse” of law and order under the Akhilesh Yadav government, and stressed on issues like women’s security and increasing migration.
As for the other elections happening along with UP, Shah said his party will win Uttarakhand easily while in Punjab it was a triangular fight. As for sending defence minister Manohar Parrikar back to Goa as CM if the party comes back to power, Shah had this to say: “The party has not yet decided to send Manohar Parrikar back to Goa as CM. What we have said is that if people of Goa and the elected MLAs want, both the options are open.”
The BJP chief also broached on the issue of triple talaq. Shah told CNN-News18 that the constitutional framework empowering women must be applicable to all. “Triple talaq is an assault on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Muslim women.”
The interview will be broadcast live at 8 pm Sunday night on ETV UP and at 9 pm on CNN-News18. Full transcript of the interview will be available on News18.com at 9 pm.