'Don’t get trapped in Western definitions. There is nothing inflexible about pro-reform or anti-reform. Irrespective of economic theories we will take decisions in the larger interest of the poor people'
‘Will decisions be taken in my party on the wishes of Sonia Gandhi, then? Naturally Modi, who is our undisputed leader, will be influencing our processes. What is the issue here?’
‘Nobody has imposed anything on me. I take my decisions independently’
'Wait for a few months and you will know how independently the party works'
The third and final part of BJP president Amit Shah’s interview to Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com.
If we take a panoramic view of the government that was sworn in on May 26, one feels an era has dawned where the Bharatiya Janata Party is Modi and Modi is the BJP. It’s completely a one-man-show. Even you are considered his nominee.
I don’t know what makes you think so. All political parties will have a leader at the top. Let me know under whose leadership the BJP should move forward? Of course, Narendra Modi.
The party and the government are different and both are moving forward in harmony. But there is no dispute at all that Modi is our unanimously accepted leader.
The party is functioning in the normal fashion. In the natural way, Narendrabhai is the leader accepted by all party workers. After two-three months you will even stop asking this question. Wait and see.
The BJP is slowly turning into a one-man-show.
How many men should run the show, then?
All parties have one leader at the top who is the first among equals.
How is the relationship between the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?
Very sweet (ekdum madhur). Since years the BJP and the RSS have been maintaining cordial relations and we continue having beautiful linkages even now.
As before, the RSS is a social-cultural organisation and is not in politics.
It is said that you are Modi's nominee and you follow his dictates.
Not many people ask such questions anymore. Wait for a few months more and you will know how independently the party works.
But, naturally, all BJP workers consider Modi as their leader.
Among the public the perception has gone down, especially after the nomination of M L Khattar and Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister in Haryana and Maharashtra, that whoever is close to Modi at a personal level and who has old linkages with the RSS, will get plum postings.
What do you want to say about Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Vasundhara Raje? And if you talk about the latest developments of Fadnavis and Khattar, I would say that they are the most natural claimants to the post.
Modi is our top leader and he will be an inevitable part of such final decision-making processes. His influence will be there.
What is the essence of your question? Will decisions be taken in my party on the wishes of Sonia Gandhi, then? Naturally Modi, who is our undisputed leader, will be influencing our processes. What is the issue here?
Do you have the power to take decisions independently?
Nobody has imposed anything on me. I take my decisions independently. Wherever I need to discuss, I definitely discuss within the party and with our leader. I do get analysis done from multiple levels and then I take my own decision.
What is the mystery behind your strong relationship with Modi?
That is your job to find out.
The relationship between me and the prime minister is as normal as it should be. There is no mystery between us.
Is the youth of India attracted only by Modi or is it endorsing the BJP’s philosophy as well?
Modi is marching forward on the basis of the BJP’s philosophy. Obviously, if they are attracted to Modi, they are attracted to his philosophy too.
What is the central theme that attracts the youth to the BJP these days?
Politics of performance! In Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh etc we have made a difference. In Bihar too, when we were in government, we performed well.
How helpful is the Modi government’s proposed changes in economic policy and governance in running your party?
A lot of changes have not yet been done, so my comments will be a bit premature.
But the way the government has been run so far, it’s quite on the lines of our manifesto, our principles and agenda. We have got a tremendously positive response from the people to the government’s schemes.
But the proposed labour reforms affects the poor people…
(Gets excited) Which aspect of the labour reforms? Why are you getting impatient?
Rs 22,000 crore of provident fund money is stuck because salaried people shifts jobs. If the government takes a decision about it, is it not in the interest of the working class?
When we talk of Make in India and implement a plan to provide jobs to crores of people, will it not help the workers? These actions are for the poor.
We helped the poor open bank accounts. Does it help the poor or not? They got Rs 1.30 lakh as insurance, is it not as case of helping the poor?
Our government is efficient and the poor will get their part of the subsidy in their bank accounts. We will work hard and we are confident about our performance.
We have got the mandate and we will get a stronger mandate the second time. This mandate has been not just from the middle class, but even from the tribals and the poor.
Why did the government deregularise diesel?
It will help reduce the price.
Yes, but only for now, because the international crude price is low. From now on it’s left to the market forces, so the price may increase as well as there are now international linkages to the market price of diesel.
We are confident that we will be able to control it.
But you have left it at the mercy of the marketplace.
If the price has been reduced, do you want to pay more?
But what about the future, when the price goes up internationally?
We are confident that we will be able to manage.
But that will take time. You are pro-reform and pro-liberalisation and want to eventually merge the Indian economy with the global.
First of all, please understand that the BJP government is not associated with any of these terminologies. The policies are made, always, on the basis of the requirements of time and for a solution of the problem. These words will not be in any book, but without this wisdom the BJP can’t function.
Like, if the World Trade Organisation says don’t buy grains from your farmers at minimum support price, then we will just not agree with them. It’s the requirement of the country to have an MSP regime. But that does not make us anti-reforms, as well.
We deregularised diesel prices because it’s the requirement of the country. That step, in your eye, is pro-reform.
You can’t bracket us in any terminology. We make policy and we will take decisions that our country wants.
But basically are you pro-reforms?
Why do you want to remain trapped in words? For us all issues are different in nature.
I will ask you a question now. We didn’t sign the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. Was that decision anti-reform or pro-reform?
We deregularised diesel. What is it?
Now tell me, is the Modi government pro-reform or anti-reform?
It’s a debatable subject…
(Intervenes) We are pro-India. Don’t get trapped in Western definitions. There is nothing inflexible about pro-reform or anti-reform. Irrespective of economic theories we will take decisions in the larger interest of the poor people. I can give you five more examples to prove the point.
These pro-reform and anti-reform fixed definitions are mean. No government in any country can run on static definitions of economic thinking. The (last) government tried to run in an inflexible way, that’s why a mess was created.
There are some early signs to show that in some respects the National Democratic Alliance behaves like the United Progressive Alliance.
Like? Does our prime minister keep mum? Does our prime minister have a boss? Does our prime minister refuse to let the Indian Army fire at the border? Is our prime minister short-selling the rights of Indian farmers in the international market?
What is it that matches with the Congress government?
Is your government right-wing?
Define your definition of right-wing after reviewing all our decisions in 2019!
Like, when you make former chief justice P Sathasivam the governor of Kerala, it weakens the institution.
There have been instances before where judges were made governors.
We also suspect that the “threat” of Central Bureau of Investigation was held out to get the Dera Sacha Sauda support you in the Haryana assembly election.
You don’t have any information. The case against him is in the court and the CBI has no role to play now.
You told the Times of India recently that the coalition era would end.
No, I didn’t say so. I told them that the coalition era began because India didn’t have a leader who was accepted by all. Now the country has such a leader but we are still not against coalitions on the basis of ideology.
Image: BJP president Amit Shah. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters.