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'We now have a prime minister who talks'

By Sheela Bhatt
June 02, 2015 12:44 IST
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'This is not a small change, it's a BIG change. People wanted to hear the voice of their PM. They can do so now. This is a big parivartan.'

'I don't see any change in him after he became PM. You cannot take up the responsibility of the country with anxiety. He is working silently, with an absolute calm mind and with maturity.'

The third and final part of Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah's interview with Sheela Bhatt/

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with children from Jammu and Kashmir, May 30. Photograph: Press Information BureauCurrently, you are the interim president of the BJP. After losing the Delhi elections and in view of the delicate prospects for the BJP in Bihar, many find your chances of getting a full term as president a little tough. How do you see the situation?

(Pauses) The BJP's decisions are never based on victory and defeat in elections. I have a track record of accepting my party's decisions. I do whatever work is given to me with determination. That's all.

Are you keen on getting appointed once more?

Whatever my party decides will be final for me.

Is it difficult to run the party?

It is always difficult to run the party. I am following the traditions of my party.

Lots of people are curious to know how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and you interact, and at what level.

It is working as well as it should between a prime minister and a party president. There is no special kind of relationship or role.

Do you find any change in Modi?

I have seen him working for many years. He is a workaholic. He is working as hard even now.

Even you may not have thought that one day he will become prime minister. Now that he is, do you find any change in him?

No. I don't see any change in him (after he has become prime minister).

Is he handling his responsibility as prime minister with anxiety? I mean, what is his approach to the job like?

(In a calm voice) You cannot take up the responsibility of the country with anxiety. He is working silently, with an absolute calm mind (swasth in Gujarati) and with maturity.

What is the problem this government is facing in picking up speed and direction?

I don't see any major problems. The only problem is what we have inherited is very weak.

I asked you at the very beginning of the interview, and I am asking you again. Achche din kab aayenge?

It depends on your perspective. I told you that for those farmers who have got 1.5 times the remuneration in NDA National Democratic Alliance) rule, achche din have already arrived.

Those who suffered losses due to natural calamities have got relief even if their loss is 33 per cent, not the 50 per cent which made them eligible for compensation in the previous government. For those farmers, achche din have already arrived.

But those farmers who voted for Modi after hearing his election speeches -- where he said your government will double the minimum support price of foodgrain -- are in tears now.

We never said we will double the minimum support price. We said we will make changes according to the Swaminathan Commission report (external link) Currently, the policy is being drafted on the basis of the commission's report.

Do you think the government may get crushed under the unbearable burden of the mountain of promises that Modi and your party made to the people during the election campaign?


But you have not been able to deliver what you promised.

You should understand a simple thing -- we have not completed five years. Also, we have delivered a lot. We have addressed the issue of price rise. We are facing no allegations of corruption.

In that case, bring in the Lokpal.

The Lokpal will definitely be in place. (In a conciliatory tone) The Lokpal and corruption are not inter-connected. To not indulge in corruption and to catch corrupt practices are two different things.

One criticism of the government's foreign policy is that Modi is engaged more in creating a global brand for himself rather than formulating a broad and long-term foreign policy.

I don't want to comment much on it. But I think any foreign visit of the PM, undertaken as part of India's international affairs, should not be linked with the PM's brand, but should be linked to Brand India.

The bad vibes for the new government started with reports of ghar wapsi, then came Sakshi Maharaj and Giriraj Singh's strident comments, the issue of 'Ramzadas and Haramzadas', then Sakshi Maharaj linked Rahul Gandhi's visit to Uttarakhand with a natural calamity. As party president, why are you not clamping down on such forces?

Which authority should follow up on those police cases which are filed against the people indulging in ghar wapsi? Who handles law and order in the state?

The Uttar Pradesh government.

Why are they not taking follow up action against those who arranged ghar wapsi?

Some action has been taken.

If they really do it, that is enough to stop ghar wapsi.

I have said it before that all the secularists should sit together and bring in a new law to stop forceful conversions by any Indian. Not a single secular leader has come forward to demand a law against forceful conversions.

You could bring it in.

We need a consensus on such matters, na. We have demanded this on the floor of Parliament, but not a single political party has come forward. Now, you should ask the secularists whether bringing in a law to stop forceful conversions is secularism or if continuing forceful conversions is secularism.

Amitbhai, what is the mindset behind the beef ban? Why such a thought in modern India? Hinduism explains so simply, let us live in harmony, doesn't it?

What kind of people made the Constitution of India? Were they not broad-minded? Were they not secular? Were they not noble people? Yes, they were. They have written in the Directive Principles that there should be a ban on cow slaughter in India.

I am just saying that was an another era. We had one kind of sanskriti then, when the cow was worshipped.

I don't believe that our sanskriti has gone away.

But, in this country there are many more people who eat meat, beef. There is a science and commerce behind the animal husbandry and beef ban issue. Some people eat beef and they want to continue doing so. Why don't you talk the language of consensus?

In no religion is beef eating a part of faith. In India many people are hurt by cow slaughter and beef eating. In view of it, if any elected government bans beef trade, why so much adversarial comments?

Because it limits one's choice. Those who eat beef are directly affected.

When someone eats beef, it directly hurts my religious sentiments too.

Maybe a few people are touched by it.

Not at all. There are only a few people who argue like you. There is a huge Indian population which believes in cows and worships cows.

What is your own personal belief on the beef ban?

I think let the country be run on the basis of Directive Principles given in the Constitution.

For that a consensus should first be formed.

In the Maharashtra assembly a consensus has been formed. You can't form a consensus on the streets.

At the end of the day, don't you think apprehensions are created in the minds of the minorities by the beef ban, by the utterances of Sakshi Maharaj, etc?

In this country nobody is scared of someone's talk or even actions. Under the Congress rule so many riots have taken place. What has happened?

This is a country of strong beliefs. Just because some two people say something, people don't bow down. It's okay, the media has to print all these things.

When President Barack Obama was leaving India he gave a speech in which he advised that India will succeed so long as it is not split along the lines of religious faith.

It is okay (theek che), even we believe that this country must not break due to religious differences! Obama did not give us advice, he just narrated a view which we too believe in.

In the last one year there has been no big factory put up, no huge investment is visible. During the PM's Japan and China visits big promises of billions of dollars were there, but nothing beyond it.

Even the Rafale deal announcement in Paris is an intent and not a done deal. In the coming two months, while fixing the terms and conditions for the Rafale, India may still not buy it if the price is too high.

What do you want to suggest? Should India buy it even if it is costly?

I am saying that nothing is concrete yet.

In 11 months, no big investment can happen, practically speaking. The government can create a conducive atmosphere for business in a year. Lots of things are in the pipeline.

We thought the government's rhythm will change.

It has changed. We now have a prime minister who talks. This is not a small change, it's a BIG change. Do not laugh. People wanted to hear the voice of their PM. They can do so now. This is a big parivartan. We have re-established the dignity of the Prime Minister's Office. We have put up definite efforts to take the country to its deserving place on the global stage.

The army's confidence is higher than before. We have prepared a final draft for equipping the Indian defence services and the method for purchases.

Don't you think the idea of smart cities is quite Brahminical? You are creating clusters of high-tech buildings and then inviting people to occupy them. And around that you are giving high-tech basic services.

But India has a 5,000-year-old civilisation and Nagar Sanskriti, where clusters grow into a village and it becomes a nagar and then it becomes a big city. In the centre of it is the human being.

(In a sarcastic tone) Yes, then you end up having no space to build gutters, no space to fit gas pipelines, no space to build roads. This is not what you call sanskriti.

So, will an American company do the planning and...

Who said that? Even Indians will do it. Chandigarh and Gandhinagar were planned by some company only, what's wrong in it?

What is a smart city in your understanding?

In a smart city the idea is to first build all the basic amenities, do complete planning and then inviting people to stay in it. Also, the idea is to remove the discomfort of the existing amenities of living cites. Low cost housing will be a part of it too.

The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) is influencing the government's decisions. Like, the human resource development ministry dropped German language study, then in the land acquisition bill some nine amendments were incorporated which was done largely under RSS pressure.

I got a lot of suggestions for the land bill. Some 650 suggestions had come, including some from RSS, and we selected nine. In the day to day running of the government the RSS's influence is not possible.

But the beef ban is supported by the RSS.

The beef ban is part of the Directive Principles of the Constitution. It's not only an RSS issue, it is the issue of the Indian people.

Are you so liberal that you don't accept the Constitution of India?

Why don't you keep aside the beef ban and ghar wapsi? Instead, follow the people's mandate and build roads, provide water and bijli. Bring back black money.

We are doing it. There should not be any doubt. We are building more than 11 km of roads per day. We are serious about the black money issue. We set up the SIT (Special Investigation Team) at the very first Cabinet meeting. The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) didn't do it for more than a year in spite of advice from the Supreme Court. We gave all the accounts details that the government had to the SIT.

Once we gave everything to the SIT we deliberated, what next? So, we brought in the new law against black money and made provisions for strong punishment. Now, the ball is in SIT's court. That is the what the Supreme Court wants under whose order the SIT was formed.

I am very hopeful the SIT will bring in results that people will appreciate. We have made the strongest law.

There are two parts to black money. One is to stop money going out of the country in an illegal manner. We have made a holistic system to stop it. Now nobody will dare to take even 25 paise out of the country.

The second aspect of the black money issue was to bring back money deposited abroad. The SIT is working on it. The Supreme Court has selected judges for it and they will surely bring in results.

Don't you think the land bill created an air of suspicion around the government?

Efforts were surely made to create suspicion among the people. But there is nothing basically wrong in the land bill. This opposition to it will not last long. But because of it my government can't delay the development of the country.

How are you placed in Bihar?

I am confident we will win in Bihar. We will fight on the issue that the government was elected five years back on the issue of development, but now everything is in a mess, like with development, law and order etc.

This country has a long history of the mergers of political parties. Political mergers are not done in New Delhi's drawing rooms, it's done at the level of constituencies. And we will have to see how much the proposed merger (of the Janata Dal-United and the Rashtriya Janata Dal) is effective in each constituency of Bihar. It is not enough for party workers to see their leaders in a photograph holding hands.

How is Rahul Gandhi's stock doing?

I am not the person to comment on him. (Food Processing Minister) Harsimrat Kaur will give you a response.

Prime Minister Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have come close and the BJP is not targeting the Trinamool Congress sharply. The NDA's lack of a majority in the Rajya Sabha seems to have forced you to go soft on her.

Your reading is incorrect. Even if the TMC helps us we can't have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress and Left parties, if both vote in our favour, only then can we manage it. The question does not arise of using the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) to manage numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

The media created a hot atmosphere over the (Saradha) chit scam and now they are not picking up much as the case is with the CBI. We don't run the CBI.

You took special interest in forming the coalition government in Kashmir. It seems you have two agendas: One, to give citizenship rights to refugees and, two, to arrange for the resettlement of Pandits in the Valley.

Let's see. We have the people's mandate to run the government jointly.

Do you really think the Pandits can go back to the Kashmir Valley?

For us it's not a question. We ask you, should the Kashmiri Pandits go back to Kashmir or not?


Then let them go.

But not at the risk of their lives.

That is the responsibility of the government. It is their worry.

Talking about the refugees from West Pakistan, our common minimum agenda says that refugees should be given access to land, jobs, health and education. The state already has formed a committee under the leadership of Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh. Its report will be submitted soon.

It will create conflict in the state.

How do they survive then? Already, there is a conflict in their lives. They are leading a sub-human life since 1947. What can be a bigger conflict than that?

How has been your experience of Bharat Darshan that you undertook after becoming party president?

Too exciting. From all angles ours is a beautiful country. When you go to all the states of India you feel that oh, so much remains to be done. Not just the BJP, but everybody needs to work hard.

While going into the nooks and corners of India, what did the common people tell you about the Modi Sarkar?

People are associating the BJP with hope. By and large, our beginning is fine and the people do believe so. Some misunderstandings have been spread, but we will work hard and remove it.

Images: Top: Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets students from Jammu and Kashmir, in New Delhi, May 30. Photograph: Press Information Bureau. Bottom: BJP President Amit Shah. Photograph: Courtesy Amit Shah's Facebook page.

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Sheela Bhatt / in New Delhi