The party president also said that India’s self-confidence, pride and scale of ambition have grown manifold in three years.
Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah on Friday asserted his party would exceed its current tally of 282 in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, surmounting any challenge that it may face from the opposition which has been trying hard to forge a broad front against it.
Upbeat after BJP’s spectacular performance in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where it pulverized its rivals, Shah said he was confident about surpassing the party’s all-time high score in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, with improved performance in states like West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Kerala.
“Elections are still two years away and any (opposition) party can be a threat in the next elections. But I am sure we will substantially increase our numbers,” Shah, considered the architect of the saffron party’s electoral triumph in the last Lok Sabha and many subsequent state assembly elections, said.
He was asked whether he foresaw the Congress and regional political entities posing a challenge to the BJP in the next Lok Sabha election.
Shah’s remarks came on a day when leaders of 17 opposition parties, many of whom did not see eye to eye till recently, congregated in the national capital, apparently to discuss putting up a joint presidential candidate against the ruling National Democratic Alliance nominee.
Bitter foes in Uttar Pradesh -- Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati -- and hostile rivals in West Bengal -- the Left front and Trinamool Congress leaders broke bread together at a luncheon meeting hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The meeting came on the day the Narendra Modi government completed three years in office.
Shah said the BJP brought many changes in the national political landscape.
“We have succeeded in bringing several changes in the national politics. The UP elections have underlined it. We have virtually finished casteism, family rule and appeasement,” he asserted.
Shah, who is undertaking an extensive tour of the country -- from Telangana to Tripura -- as part of an exercise to expand BJP’s footprint ahead of the Lok Sabha election, sounded confident about its improved performance in states like West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Kerala where it did not do well last time.
BJP won just two seats in West Bengal, one each in Telangana and Odisha and drew a blank in Kerala in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll. It, however, pocketed 16.8 per cent voteshare in West Bengal. BJP has been engaged in aggressive politics against equally fiery Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in West Bengal.
In Odisha, the saffron party has emerged as the major opposition party in village panchayats, edging out the Congress earlier this year.
Though the party has not gained much ground in terms of seats in Kerala, the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers are locked in a bloody rivalry with the ruling Left Front, leading to several casualties on both sides, and giving the saffron brigade some political space there.
Ahead of the last year’s Kerala assembly election, the BJP had forged an alliance with SNDP Yogam, which represents the backward Hindu Ezhava community, and weaned a splinter group away from Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha, the largest Dalit organisation which traditionally backed the CPM. The BJP’s alliance also included Brahmin organisation Yogakshema Sabha and fishermen’s outfit Deevara Sabha.
Shah said he was confident about his party maintaining its overall sweep of northern and western India, while substantially boosting its numbers in the North-East and
southern states, besides West Bengal.
Drawing a contrast between the 10-year United Progressive Alliance rule and the Modi government, Shah said the former was marked by a scam almost every month, while even the rivals of the BJP-led dispensation have not been able to level a single charge of corruption against it.
Taking a swipe at the UPA, he said every minister was a prime minister in its government, while nobody took the real prime minister seriously.
Shah said the biggest asset of the BJP government was its decisiveness. “The authority of the prime minister’s office has been restored,” he said.
The BJP leader said India’s self-confidence, pride and scale of ambition have grown manifold in three years of the Modi government.
India, he said, became the fastest growing major economy in the world after the government took a slew of measures, including economic reform, which tamed inflation and boosted GDP.
Shah listed the enactment of ‘benami’ assets law, GST, enemy properties act, demonetisation of high-value currency notes, cross-LoC surgical strikes and the campaign against shell firms as among major successes of the Modi government.
“India’s borders were once violated daily. Such violation may be happening even now but India has demonstrated its strong political will to the world with surgical strikes,” he said.
Noting there was a paradigm shift in the “scale of thought” about how the country should be governed, Shah said the Modi government has decided no village will remain unelectrified, no house without a toilet and no home sans LPG connection by 2024.
Every family has now got a bank account, 13000 of 18000 villages, which were unelectrified, have now got electricity, and two crore families out of five crore have received LPG connection. The five-year target is of five crore families.
The central government has provided for toilets in 4.5 crore homes out of the five-year target of seven crore, he added.
Referring to the new law, which stipulates 26-week maternity leave against the earlier three months, and another act which provided more benefits for people with disabilities, Shah said these highlighted the “sensitive face” of the government.
Photograph: Subhav Shukla/PTI Photo