BJP party president Amit Shah set the political agenda for the 2019 elections while speaking to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Day 2 of the Republic Summit in Mumbai on Wednesday, answering on a wide range of issues.
On the recent election results in five states and especially the losses in the three Hindi Heartland states:
'It's true that the results for BJP weren't good. But to link this to 2019 wouldn't be completely right. If we accept this theory, before 2004 we had won the same states, yet we lost the general elections. In 2013 we had won, and we won in Lok Sabha in 2014 as well.'
'We must fight on the basis of the change that has come in the country since 2014.'
On direct competition with the Congress in those states:
'The competition isn't just against Congress. In terms of votes it's about others also -- we must remember that they have also voted against the Congress.'
'In 2014 BJP had governments in 6 states, now it has in 16. Why keep the discussion limited to these three states?'
'In M.P, there's a 7-seat gap between us, and there's only 3500 votes cumulatively differentiating us and Congress in 7 seats.'
On whether there will be a U.P spillover following Hindi Heartland results:
'In UP and MP, the political issues on the ground needn't be the same. It's not possible to undermine PM Modi's work in these states.'
'We will win the Hindi Heartland in 2019'
He also added, 'West Bengal, North-East and Odisha are states where we will gain in 2019.'
What is your situation with allies to counter the Mahagathbandhan?
'The way the Mahagathbandhan is being presented in the country, its reality is different. In the nationwide scenario, there's no Mahagathbandhan. If Deve Gowda comes to Maharashtra, how much difference will it make? Same for Mamata in Gujarat or Chandrababu Naidu elsewhere? These Mahagathbandhans are in states, it has no impact on the national platform. They aren't in a position to help each other. You must remember that we beat them all in 2014.'
'In terms of U.P - the bypolls there weren't to determine Prime Minister. I know U.P well. We lost bypolls where we had the least chance of winning. The U.P government has done very well. And we will be even stronger there than we were.'
On what will be the key topics for re-election, he said:
'Election topics will be the change in corruption, in terms of national security, and the poor having an increase in standard of living which they didn't have for 70 years. Scooters replacing cycles, gas connections replacing fire pits, setting up of toilets...This is happening 70 years after independence. The BJP government is making a lot of change.'
On the BJP's footprint and the reach of its government's schemes:
'Keep this figure in mind - 17.5 crore votes we had in 2014 and we formed a government with full majority. Then we had 2 crore karyakartas, now we have 9.4 crore. 22 crore families are there that the NDA government has improved the standard of living of. It's not doles. Look at healthcare -- 50 crore people have been given access.'
On critics not believing his numbers, especially on karyakartas and healthcare:
'It says online on the Indian government's website how many people have reaped the benefits of government's healthcare schemes. 6 lakh people in 3 months. We're not running a government like the Congress.'
On the government's political will, vis-a-vis the opposition:
'In this country, ISRO scientists wouldn't envision setting records. It's the political will that is behind this.'
'We have done it and shown. Look at Surgical Strike. We've shown firmness. Mayawati said we don't want Majboot sarkar, they want Majboor sarkar, so that they can do corruption. And let them decide their leader!'
What does the Shiv Sena want?
'Sena gives headlines. Truth is that they are with us in both governments.'
'They (Sena) will be with us. Devendra Fadnavis has held talks at his level. Until it's sorted, I wouldn't speak, but at both my level and Devendra ji's level, we've held talks with Uddhav ji.'
(On the Sena challenging the BJP on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue) 'They're not challenging us in Ayodhya. We both believe that the Mandir should be built quickly in Ayodhya.'
On LJP,s Chirag Paswan's tweet - These things happen all the time. And in the end, they all fight together with us.
Is there a 'super-NDA' possible before 2019 as a pre-poll alliance?
'We have 31 parties. We can still have talks with others and we will form alliances, but until it's done, I shouldn't speak. But look at North-East. We've come together with a number of small parties. In the South and in UP, we can have alliances. We will go as NDA into 2019, with pre-poll alliances. But the nucleus of the NDA is the BJP and PM Modi
'We are going to fight the elections on the strength of Narendra Modi. This government isn't fighting to remain in power. It's contesting to change the country. All previous governments have landed in some form of trouble. This government hasn't fallen into any distress -- agriculture and industry, bureaucracy and leadership, cities and villages, reforms and raising of standard of living -- all of it has happened. The government takes decisions based on whether it'll benefit people, not for votebank.'
'Can you imagine, despite the US President being there, the Indian Prime Minister will inaugurate WEF at Davos?'
On Casteism, Dynasty, Appeasement:
'Three things - casteism, dynasty, appeasement -- all these three factors that held the country back, we've not done. We have controlled castism, tried to eliminate dynasty and not done any votebank appeasement.'
'First there were Maharajas, then the British, then we were independence. In Maharajas time, the prince would rule, hence there wasn't democracy. After Independence, they made parties such that even they had Maharajas and princes. For some it means that if someone comes from a particular family, they will become party president and PM candidate.'
On farm loan waivers and other hyper-populist measures:
(In the context of the Congress making farm loan waivers a promise in its pre-election pitches)' We have taken numerous measures for farmers. On these populist measures, I believe our democracy is very mature. '
'Wherever Congress has promised farm loan waivers, look at the history of those states. Karnataka, Punjab and M.P. In M.P, everyone knows that cooperative agriculture finance -- 70% of agriculture finance -- means that on 31 March, all farmers have to clear loans, and in M.P, 90% have cleared. They're promising to waive all loans after March. Let the farmer loan figures and waived loans figures come out -- the average farmer loans and the amount they are waiving. Let them explain.'
'For example, say farmer loan is 10,000... how much will they waive -- 1k, 2k, 3k? Let them reveal the figure, else we'll reveal it then we'll see.'
On justice finally coming to be delivered for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims:
'There's anger for so long because the process of justice was derailed. After PM Modi formed SIT, judgments have begun to come in. Everyone should go before SIT and place their contentions.'
On Rafale, what's the significance of 70 press conferences?
'Till SC verdict didn't come, we didn't speak. They made allegations upon allegations. We kept our silence because the court proceedings were ongoing. The apex court ruled that there's no commercial favouritism, if you read between the lines. And there was no commercial favouritism to Anil Ambani, that was also established. Congress repeatedly alleged things that were not real -- now we will go before the country and tell the people that their lies have been exposed. They must apologise. There's not one paisa of corruption on Rafale.'
'The country looks at the credentials of the person against whom the allegations are being made. Where did their information come from?'
If you accept Supreme Court verdict on Rafale, why not on Sabarimala?
'The SC verdict on Rafale was in response to a matter of corruption. Sabarimala is a verdict on a religious matter. If you go to a Gurudwara, will you not cover your head? What if a verdict opposes this?
'These are religious issues. It's not about gender equality. Many pro-women verdicts have come, all have been accepted. Other religious verdicts have also come -- look at Jallikattu and others. What happened after that? My personal belief is that matters of religion can't be put to judicial review.'
In the context of this, on the fact that the Ayodhya dispute is being put as a title suit:
'Government's counsel had sought that the matter be brought expeditiously. Congress lawyer Kapil Sibal said to bring it after 2019. Supreme Court should rule on it quickly. It is important to a lot of people.'
'I believe that in January the hearings will begin. If heard day-to-day it can be done in 10 days.'
'Crores of people believe that the Mandir should be built there.'
On Triple Talaq:
'The time has some that Muslim women should get justice. It's not a religious matter, it's a social matter. We brought an ordinance. When it comes to Parliament, other parties will have to decide whether they want equality and justice for Muslim women or not.'
On retaining the support of middle-class:
'We will win 2019 with the support of middle class. We have done work for them. And Arun Jaitley has given numerous peripheral benefits for them as well.'
On being blocked from holding a rally in West Bengal:
'We've been blocked. PM has been blocked from rallying. Will they not allow a political party to campaign? We've approached Supreme Court. The Mamata government has worked to worsen the state of West Bengal. We will win 23 seats in West Bengal'
'We have our partners in place. Whether it be Sabarimala or the killing of our workers, or the attempt to throttle democracy. We will fight with all our strength.'
On his 2019 seat projection for the BJP on its own, NDA on its own and on rumours of him fixing a voteshare target for the BJP:
'On seats, I can only say once alliances are formed. But I can say that with the existing seats, the NDA and BJP, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, will make an even bigger gain and come back into power with full majority.'
'We are the fastest growing major economy. We have strengthened national security. Standard of living that wasn't raised for 70 years has been done.'
'Many things have been done that are transformational, and most importantly, the scale of thinking has changed under PM Modi. Before, we used to concentrate on small gains... Under PM Modi, we focus on eliminating problems entirely. Look at Electricity and Toilets.'
'This will continue beyond 2019. There's been no case of corruption, and the PM hasn't taken a single day off. He's worked as a visionary. Under his leadership, India has become a leader at the global level.'
'I believe that the 2019 elections will be fought on these lines. The BJP believes that the country needs a strong government.'
'Both NDA and BJP will return with full majority.'
'We are all fortunate that a popular leader like Narendra Modi is leading us.'