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'Opposition to Modi has created a sympathy wave'
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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October 22, 2007

Minister of State for Home Amit Shah is a representative politician of the Gujarat government. Shah is development-oriented, and a die-hard Hindutva practitioner. He is a member of the coterie working relentlessly for Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Shah ridicules the criticism regarding Modi walking out during a TV interview when the anchor quizzed him about the communal riots of 2002 and insists that any debate on the riots actually helps his party and Modi. In an exclusive interview to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt Shah speaks on the Gujarat riots and the forthcoming Gujarat assembly election.

Why did Modi refuse to face questions on the communal riots of 2002?

Why should one reply to stupid questions?

Why are you avoiding the discussion?

Because, there is no relevance for it now.

For many people it is a significant issue.

Look, one day you will have to accept us. So many non-government organisations hounded us, but they could not harm us. Tell me, have they been successful in hurting us?

Can you answer me candidly the most frequently asked question in New Delhi these days? How is the Bharatiya Janata Party poised in the coming election?

We will get anything between 135 and 142 seats.

On what basis are you painting such a rosy picture?

I have travelled to all the districts for 72 days. People are not even ready to listen any other name but Modi's.

What issues will your party carry to the people?

Modi! The opposition to Modi has been so stunning that it has created a sympathy wave for him among voters. They are saying� koi Modi ne jampva j nathi detun (nobody is leaving him in peace). None of you -- I mean critics, the Congress party, rebels of our party -- can gauge this fact. Let me ask you, what is the agenda of the Congress?

You tell us.

Modi hatao (remove Modi)! Can this be an agenda of the national party? Okay, let us agree and remove Modi. Then what? What will you do if Modi is removed? Nobody seems to know.

In the coming election what will be your election plank?

First, we have been successful in our war against terrorism. Sixteen terrorist acts took place, but not a single citizen in Gujarat has died. All the attacks have been unsuccessful. Two, largely we have been following financial discipline. Since the last three years, we have been giving a zero deficit Budget. We are not resorting to overdraft facilities. Three, Modi has been successful in implementing a holistic package for village development. We have given electricity supply round the clock. We have put in place water conservation projects, and the agricultural income of farmers has increased.

What are your failures?

We haven't been able explain to you that we are gentlemen!

Why have you not been able to convince us?

Because your eyes are closed. You do not want to see the truth.

Why is Modi refusing to say sorry to Muslim victims?

Why are you not asking the maulvis to say sorry who burnt the train in Godhra?

But the Muslims died because the government failed to maintain law and order.

It was not at all a systemic failure. The law and order situation went beyond our control only because of the Godhra incident and the circumstances that were created after that.

Truth about Godhra still elusive

It isn't yet been proved that maulvis or Muslims burnt that train.

It is also not proved yet that the failure of law and order was the sole factor behind the violence.

What are your worries as you enter the decisive pre-poll phase? 

We were worried that our workers were overconfident, but thanks to the media and the dissidents' campaign against Modi our party people are determined to ensure Modi's success.

What will be the impact of dissidence? The BJP rebels will surely harm you.

The election is still a few weeks away. Nothing can be said with finality.

Almost everyone agrees that Modi's working style is like that of a dictator.

So many people are alleging so many things without evidence against Modi. That itself is proof that he is not a dictator.

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