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There is a view that Congress is posing a fight. After winning polls in many states, did you expect strong resistance in your home state?
Such presumptions are floated in all elections but BJP has emerged victorious with a three-fourths majority in the past. People of Gujarat have supported BJP since 1995. I urge people of the state to reaffirm faith in the party to help us carry forward the agenda of development.
Hardik Patel has been campaigning with tenacity and the Patel community seems attracted to his leadership. Do you think his rallies will dent BJP’s prospects as he can poach BJP’s base vote?
The Patel community’s support to BJP is intact. After one-and-a-half years, it is evident that the entire agitation (for quotas) was Congress sponsored. Nobody is talking about reservation any more. Even Congress evades reference to quota, which is self explanatory that there is no issue. Even Patel community has realised that the entire campaign was orchestrated at Congress’s behest to divide society.
Patels are said to be unhappy in rural areas and there are farmers’ issues like MSP for crops. In urban areas, there are issues of GST and demonetisation. Don’t you think BJP is headed for a tough fight?
I don’t think so. Congress has tried to impose caste politics in Gujarat and they had done in the past too. The KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) theory was introduced by Congress due to which people of the state suffered for years. Several caste clashes happened, curfew was imposed for several months, many lives were lost and development came to a standstill.
I think people of Gujarat have rejected caste politics and will vote for BJP’s development agenda. As far as GST is concerned, Modiji’s government held discussions with all stakeholders and resolved pending issues. In a nutshell, I can say people have faith in our intentions and government is committed to make GST people friendly.
PM Narendra Modi led the state for several years. Do you think his absence will affect BJP?
There are positive and favourable changes after Modiji took over as PM. He has taken a number of initiatives for the development of Gujarat. He was chief minister but the Centre treated Gujarat badly. Now Modiji is PM and Vijaybhai is chief minister. The speed of Gujarat’s development has gone up manifold.
There are several issues like the Narmada dam height, which was resolved in 14 days. There were issues about oil royalty, which was resolved leading to profit of Rs 8,000 crore. New roads of 1,200 km have been sanctioned. In the 13th Finance Commission, central allocation was Rs 63,000 crore, which has gone up to Rs 1,58,000 crore. So, after several years, people of Gujarat have both the Centre and the state government working for them. Personally, I feel it’s a great opportunity for people of Gujarat.
Long years of incumbency often result in fatigue and exhaustion. How well is BJP prepared to ward off such factors?
I don’t deny anti-incumbency, which often happens after years of being in office. But if you deliver what you have promised and live up to people’s expectations, you carve a vote bank on the development model, which BJP has succeeded in doing. There is 24-hour power supply, roads are best in the country, no one can question success of welfare schemes. BJP has developed a vote bank of positivity. Today, Gujarat is curfew and tanker free. The success of the state government will fetch us around 150 seats.
People have started questioning your development plank. Rahul Gandhi says ‘Vikas has gone crazy’. Your comment?
Let me correct you… he (Rahul) precisely said ‘Vikas gando chhe’. He doesn’t speak of this any more. He went to places in Gujarat and saw the roads, 24-hour power supply, so he doesn’t refer to development in the state.
Several caste leaders have aligned with Congress. How will BJP survive the changing caste permutations?
The caste leaders you are talking about were always part of Congress. All three movements were supported and sponsored by Congress. KHAM formula was introduced by Congress due to which the state suffered for several years. Congress has imposed caste politics once again on the state but they will not succeed. BJP is contesting on development agenda and we are confident of people’s support.
BJP contested polls under PM Narendra Modi showcasing development model of Gujarat. But your Gujarat model is being questioned.
There is no valid reason to question the Gujarat development model. Rahul Gandhi talks about closure of schools in Gujarat, I challenge him to name one school which has been closed. There might be that one school was closed for technical reasons but allegations about closure of thousands of schools are a farce. Enrolment in schools under Congress was 65 per cent, which has increased to 99 per cent under BJP. Dropout rate under Congress was 38 per cent, which is now 3 per cent.
Two months ago, I did bhoomi pujan for the collector’s office in Amethi. Will Rahul Gandhi answer why there is no collector’s office in Amethi even after 70 years of Independence? There are villages in Amethi where there are no electricity poles and… what to speak of power supply. It sounds ironic if Rahul Gandhi questions our development model.
As party chief, are you satisfied with efforts of the organisation?
Our organisation is rooted in every village. We have strong booth committees with active members. I have travelled to all districts and visited most of the assembly constituencies. Our workers are strongly placed and seeking votes from people of Gujarat with humility on development agenda.
Soon after results of Uttar Pradesh municipal polls, you claimed ‘Congress gayo chhe’.
Naturally, UP mandate reflects the mood of the country. People are happy with development agenda of PM Modi. In UP, Yogi Adityanath government has done well. When Rahul Gandhi talks about development in Gujarat, his defeat in Amethi and victory of BJP is politically quite significant. Because, for 50 years, his family has held the Lok Sabha constituency but if he cannot convince people of his own constituency, how can he assure development in Gujarat?
BJP has floated the slogan of ‘abki baar 150 paar’. Your opponents term it arrogance and over confidence.
Please understand that after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP’s vote percentage has not gone down. It has retained its support base, be it Maharashtra, Punjab, Jharkhand, J&K and even Delhi. If we calculate on the basis of 2014 Lok Sabha polls, then we are winning around 165 seats, so the target of 150 is a conservative estimate and most realistic.
Unlike previous polls, BJP has retained most sitting MLAs. Is it that the party was in no position to take any risk in view of possible rebels?
Please correct yourself, you have wrong information. We have dropped 36 sitting MLAs, which is higher than last time when 32 were not repeated.
Don’t you think ‘anamat’ agitation could have been handled in a better way and police action could have been averted?
I don’t think there was a lapse. But yes, whenever any agitation starts, issues crop up and there was a state of confusion among people. But once the leaders of the agitation were exposed, people realised their actual agenda as no one is talking about the core issue of reservation.
Political observers say the Gujarat outcome will determine the 2019 general elections. Your take?
I don’t think so as there are several state polls before 2019. Every election is important for us and we take all of them with the same seriousness.
There were media reports about you being personally in touch with Alpesh Thakore. Don’t you think his move to join Congress will affect BJP?
It was all media creation. The fact is that all three agitations were creations of Congress that is why all of them have joined them. Congress had no real issues against the government so it has imposed its old tactics of caste politics.