Photographs: Courtesy: Amit Shah's Facebook page Sheela Bhatt
'The Congress will get exposed more and more. My case will not stand a judicial trial. I am confident that in any case against me, the charges will not be framed. All cases against me are baseless.' BJP leader Amit Shah, in an exclusive interview with Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt.
Don't miss the first part of the Exclusive Amit Shah interview: People are waiting to vote for Modi
Everybody thinks the more you get active in Uttar Pradesh, the more you will resort to Hindutva politics.
I will not do anything against the basic principles of my party. The Bharatiya Janata Party will function under its declared policy.
Narendra Modi has been declared your party's prime ministerial candidate. The party has senior leaders like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari -- well-established leaders and some of them have had long and successful careers. How come Modi defeated all of them?
It is not a question of defeat or success. When you relentlessly work, you gradually get accepted. Then, the party leaders took a collective decision. We are united today.
Sometimes, even the public sees the personality, the work and the vision of the leader and gives its approval to push the issue further.
Give me a few reasons that motivated the BJP to nominate Modi as its PM candidate.
As I told you before, there is huge anti-incumbency because of a few reasons. Modi is the fittest response to those issues. He imbibes in him the answers to the troubles created by the United Progressive Alliance. Because of the misrule of UPA-II, people had started believing that the multi-party system is unable to create welfare states.
But Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have proven that the multi-party system can create healthy welfare-oriented states and that has won the people's trust.
That trust will lead us to victory in 2014.
You have been with Modi for many years. Do you find a difference between Modi then and now?
I met him in the 1980s. While working for issues, everybody changes their working style, thoughts and behaviour. I am sure he must have changed, like everybody does.
It is said you are his confidant. What is so special about you that could win his trust?
This perception is a creation of the media. All BJP workers are his confidants.
His working style is considered authoritarian. He takes his own decisions. He does not have any political advisors. What kind of difficulty does someone like you experience while working with him?
I will answer in one line. His working style is the kind of style that is successful. His working system has been highly successful.
My role was assigned to me by the BJP. They have given me a mandate to take the party on the path of victory in Uttar Pradesh. I have to work hard in that direction.
What are your plans for the coming days? What else will Modi do?
Modi has to address public rallies -- what else will he do?
Our entire team is working for him. We are doing typical, traditional election work. Modi will address more than 100 rallies all over India.
Ajay Maken, the chief media manager for the Congress, has raised questions about the source of money for these high-cost rallies.
Maken should go to the Election Commission to verify. The party's expenses are submitted to them.
I don't have the exact estimate of how much each rally cost us, but our cost is much less than the Congress's rallies because they hire crowds, while people join Modi's rallies voluntarily. So, our actual expense is much less than you think.
'After the election the BJP will have the power to dictate terms. No outside party will be able to dictate terms'
Photographs: Courtesy: Amit Shah's Facebook page
How many seats do you expect to win in UP?
I won't give you a figure. But I can assure you that the BJP will be the number one party in UP. We will win the maximum number of seats.
Elections are still many months away. Many new issues may come up by then, and some issues may clear up. Many issues will acquire a new opinion. So better wait and watch.
What is your caste base in UP?
Anti-incumbency against the UP government and the UPA government has given birth to a new caste which has joined us. Those who will vote for change (parivartan-wale) are with us.
Why are you so confident about UP? What magic wand do you have?
I don't have any magic wand. The situation of the country is such that anybody in my place would have been able to get votes for the BJP. There was always potential in that state to exploit.
What kind of arrangement are you setting up in UP?
In the last three months, we have been busy setting up teams for each booth. We have set up teams in each taluka. There are around 100,000 booths in UP. We have managed to re-organise the system at some 70,000 booths.
Our work is decentralised. Everything is done at the village, town and district levels. The data slowly travels up. It will take time to get all the data at Lucknow's data centre. We are getting opinions from grassroots workers.
Who is your main rival there?
In western UP, we will fight the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress; in Awadh the Samajwadi Party is our main rival, and in and around Benaras the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. We will have different rivals in different areas.
How many seats are you likely to win in the 2014 Lok Sabha election?
I won't give you a figure. But, I am absolutely sure that under the leadership of the BJP, the National Democratic Alliance will form the next government with an absolute majority.
Will Modi become the prime minister?
The BJP has declared only Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. If the BJP gets the maximum seats in the NDA, Modi has to obviously be the prime minister.
It is possible that the BJP may get the maximum number of seats, but the NDA may be short of majority in Parliament. You may have to seek support outside the NDA.
It is possible that new allies may put up conditions that could force you to look for a BJP leader other than Modi for the top job.
After the election the BJP will have the power to dictate terms. No outside party will be able to dictate terms because we will get a respectable number of seats.
In case it does not happen, then do you think there is a possibility of a Third Front government under the leadership of leaders like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar?
I don't believe that. I am convinced that the BJP-led NDA will form the next government with Modi leading from the front. We will be successful.
It is argued that if you take a broader view of current affairs, surely the Congress faces heavy odds, but there is no atmosphere in favour of the BJP either. If you see the current strength of the regional parties you will know more.
I will repeat, the NDA will form the government under the BJP's leadership. The NDA itself will get a majority.
Do you mean that you will form the next government on the basis of middle class votes? How will you get the poor votes? Where are the poor who are talking about the BJP?
Madam, we have governments in many states. Does only the middle class stay in these states?
as our government formed at the Centre only with the help of the middle class?
Leave our job to us. We are surely moving towards victory.
You do believe that this election is being fought depending on Narendra Modi, right?
This election is fought under Modi's leadership, obviously. The party will be benefit from the plus points of the leader.
'The Congress can't get votes over the Food Security Bill'
By the same logic, Modi's negative points will affect the party too.
It is the party's job to think about it. We have thought through it and then made him our prime ministerial candidate.
But his image is not pro-poor; it's pro-middle class.
That is your understanding. In the last 12 years, Gujarat is on top in poverty eradication under the 20-point programme. This is a UPA project, but the Congress-run government is not getting awards for it.
Now, the central government has stopped the ranking because Gujarat was coming up tops.
You are wrong when you say Modi is not pro-poor. In Gujarat we are winning with huge margins from areas where the poor vote. They understand our government. They don't need the media to understand the problems of this country.
You know the history of the Congress very well. Don't you think the Congress has got the native political wisdom to take you on?
I have no doubt that the Congress is active in manipulative politics. None of us has any doubts that the Congress is working and scheming in that direction.
But in a democracy, the public takes the decision on the last day only, and this time, they are not with the Congress, so it won't help them.
See, when people vote, no tricks work. Tricks and devious methods work before voting takes place -- such as manipulating the media, in publicity and during the election set-up. But nothing will work this time because the people are with Modi.
While fighting the elections, you must have surely noted some strengths of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. Can you quote some?
I am not here to comment on an individual. But I will say that the prospects of the BJP are definitely very bright, and there is tremendous anti-incumbency against the Congress.
Do you agree that the 2014 election will reveal the views of Indian youth about secularism and that the election will be fought on the people's idea of development? It will show how desperate people are for development.
The issues of secularism and development will decide the fate of political parties. Right?
It has been already decided! You are unable to throw out the bhoot (ghost) of secularism from your mind, but the youth of India have already taken a decision.
There is tremendous anti-incumbency all over the country and Indian voters across the country will reject the Congress in the coming elections.
The voters are asking only one question -- who can bring in development? The answer is: Narendra Modi.
Will the people not think about who will take everybody along?
In Gujarat, everybody has been taken along on the path of development. Nobody has been left behind. We are all together.
What will be the core issues in the 2014 election?
The failed Congress government, corruption, price rise, border protection, internal insecurity, laggard administration, the slowed economic development, the decline of the rupee and many other issues which will be going against the Congress.
As far as the BJP is concerned, we will go to polls on the successful state governments ruled by the BJP, Modi's leadership and the NDA government that ran smoothly under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
If compared to the UPA, the NDA government in Delhi was much ahead. The solution to all the problems created by the UPA is found in Modi.
The UPA has given the Right To Information Act, it has given the Food Security Bill and the cash transfer scheme to the poor. Congress President Sonia Gandhi's image is still linked to the aam aadmi. GDP has been affected in the last few years only because of global depression.
The Congress also has the theme of secularism associated with it. Muslim and other minority votes can still go with the Congress.
Yes, in framing Acts, this government has been quite ahead. But there is no action on the ground. You can't change the system with the help of mere Acts. You can change the system with action on the ground.
The Aadhar card is not giving people more money. The poor were getting money before, but now they will get it through a different way.
Gas subsidy is already there. It will be given to people directly now. There are many other schemes under which the poor do get money today, but because of the new laws they won't get even five rupees more.
There will be no difference on the ground or in people's lives. It will be a propaganda point. But it won't bring in change.
As it is, a large part of our state governments are distributing money and subsidies to the poor for gas, food and other things. The Congress has brought the Food Bill at the end of their government's tenure, so that they don't have to implement it.
There are issues related to its (the Bill's) execution, which they don't want to address. They want to only collect votes on it.
Which they may very well do...
They can't get votes over the Food Security Bill. The Congress leadership may think that the voters are fools, but they are not.
'The BJP has nothing to do with Muzaffarnagar riots'
For the last five decades you are not seeking the votes of Muslims. What kind of party politics is this? You don't even pretend to be secular.
That's not true. We are secular. Appeasement is not secularism.
In a democracy, the majority has to take the minority along, with compassion.
There are no allegations against us. The Justice Sachar Commission (formed to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational condition of the Muslim community) was formed to defame us. There were no BJP sympathisers in it.
Under the commission's parameters, Gujarati Muslims are better off than the Muslims in the rest of India.
It means someone has been concerned about them. It means they have been treated fairly. It means that they have gotten an equal opportunity.
>Why is there a 'Hindu-Muslim' division in your mind?
There is no such division in our minds. In your mind, a dirty theory has been established against those who are against appeasement.
Whoever believes in that theory, which you disagree with, will vote for the Congress, right? Like, some 18 per cent Muslims, the secular voters who won't vote for you, and so on?
We have won elections in Muslim areas in Gujarat and even in UP many times. Similarly, we have won in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, UP and Bihar -- in Muslim-dominated areas.
Shahbhai, won't Muslims feel insecure if your government comes to power?
I was in the home ministry for some 10 years. In my tenure, not a single Muslim rickshaw-puller had any fear while cycling through Hindu-dominated areas like he had during the Congress rule.
Muslim girls never went to school during the Congress rule.
In old Ahmedabad, Muslim girls are regularly attending schools. You see hundreds of Muslims around the newly-built Vastrapur lake in Ahmedabad. It was impossible under the Congress rule to stroll in public places.
In the last 10 years, hundreds of Muslims have become small-scale and medium-scale entrepreneurs in Gujarat. That is unprecedented. The media projects much more fear of the Muslims than what it is in reality.
What is wrong if the media asks certain questions? The 2002 riots did happen. Modi was chief minister then. People did die. Law and order was not upheld.
What is the problem if you accept these facts? What is wrong if you say some mistake was done?
Why not publicly regret that people died because the administration failed?
Are the 2002 riots the only riots that happened?
Did you ask Madhavsinh Solanki (a four-time former Gujarat chief minister) to say sorry (for the 1985 riots in Ahmedabad)?
Did you go to Chimanbhai Patel (another former Gujarat chief minister) and ask him to apologise (for the 1992 riots in Surat)?
Has the Gandhi family said sorry for the 1984 Sikh riots? Why is the Congress president not saying sorry?
Modi has never given any such statement like 'When a big tree falls, the ground underneath shakes' (then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi said this the day after his mother Indira Gandhi was assassinated). Modi had issued an appeal for peace.
Why have there been no riots after 2002? The same Modi is leading the state.
Riots are happening in UP. What are you going to do about it? Let us know.
The riots in Muzaffarnagar happened after you become in-charge of UP. Some even charge that there is some covert understanding between the Samajwadi Party and the BJP.
After my appointment only the Muzaffarnagar riots occurred, but before that 89 riot cases have been registered in the last two years (in UP).
How can you say there is anything between us? Did we tell the Akhilesh Yadav government to not arrest the culprits of the murdered brothers of a woman who was sexually abused? Why was the (Jat) panchayat held?
The panchayat held was solely because the culprits were not arrested. It was a reaction to the inaction of the Akhilesh government. Why are you blaming only the panchayat (for the riots)?
The day before the panchayat, some 40,000 Muslims held a meeting. Why is the media not reporting that? Have you heard the tape of the speeches? This partiality creates riots.
You are not accepting any responsibility for the Muzaffarnagar riots.
The BJP has nothing to do with the Muzaffarnagar riots. They erupted because the administration was slow to react.
'The riots are not an issue of profit or loss'
But you will take political advantage of the post-riots sentiments.
Do you really think that such a big riot will not have any political repercussions? It will have, on both sides.
Not only the BJP, all other parties would have to give a public justification of their roles. Who can give a verdict other than the public in a democracy?
The riots are not an issue of profit or loss. The administration has to ensure order, which the Akhilesh government has been unable to do.
The people would have liked to hear this from you after the 2002 riots.
After I became a minister not a single riot happened, not a bullet has been fired, not even an hour's curfew was imposed in Gujarat.
Another most-talked about argument against the BJP is that it has its presence only in the Hindi-speaking belt, but in the south, east and in the north-east, the BJP's presence is pathetic.
The Congress is nowhere! They have been washed out everywhere. Good that you accept that we have a presence in Hindi-speaking areas.
If you win only two states out of Chhattisgarh, MP, Rajasthan and New Delhi, will it be termed as a setback to Modi?
There is no question of losing any states. We will win with a huge margin. Wherever we have held rallies we see a wave in our favour.
The wave resembles the one seen after the Emergency was lifted in 1977 and 1989 after the Bofors scandal broke out.
Many critics say Modi's rallies have manufactured euphoria. What is your estimate? Who has better resources? The BJP or the Congress?
Since the Congress is in power, obviously they have better resources. Still, they haven't been able to organise such a rally for Rahul.
Do you think it will be a match between Rahul and Modi soon?
I don't know who is their PM candidate. It is their internal matter. Since it is in power and they have not yet declared any candidate, we consider Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as their leader.
Suppose Rahul is declared their PM candidate, how do you see your strengths and weaknesses?
The fight will be between the Congress and BJP. We will get a magnificent victory. We will fight taking up issues such as administration, leadership and corruption.
'My case will not stand a judicial trial'
Photographs: Courtesy: Amit Shah's Facebook page
Another argument is that Modi will peak soon. The Lok Sabha election is still four, five months away.
Public support is not like the high-low tides of the sea. In political science, public support doesn't have a reverse gear. It always goes forward.
Once more I would like to argue that there is a huge section of Indian society that does not believe in your kind of secularism.
The kind of secularism that you dislike is believed in by huge number of Indians and it is possible that either they will defeat you or they will not help you win handsomely.
This is a belief held by people who live in ivory towers, but not by those who work at the grassroots level.
I have met people from UP at railway stations, bus stands, dhabas, in villages and at even airports.
Their quality of response, their intensity of enthusiasm and their body language tell me definitely that UP's public is sitting pretty after making up their mind.
Do you expect that the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) may take some fresh action against you before the election?
The party (the Congress) that can arrest 45,000 political workers in one single night (when the Emergency was declared in June 1975) it can do anything.
What will you do in such a case?
The people will respond. The Congress will get exposed more and more. My case will not stand a judicial trial.
I am confident that in any case against me, the charges will not be framed. All cases against me are baseless.
Even apolitical people say Modi will face difficulty in getting allies after election.
We will get the required number of allies. We may not need many new allies, I told you before.
On the issue of secularism...
The issue of secularism is created by the media. Let the results come out we will show that we will get more allies than we actually need.
If Modi fails to achieve his dream and the BJP fails to capture power in New Delhi, what will be Modi's fate? What will happen to him?
In politics, the leaders are supposed to work and work.
During the elections we don't worry about our future because all BJP leaders are accustomed to sit in the Opposition. We have spent our lives in the Opposition.
Rather, I think (with an amused expression) about the Congress. Imagine what will happen to Congress leaders and the Congress party as they are set to lose very badly!