About a year ago, when Amit Shah was airlifted from Gujarat to be paradropped as the BJP’s charge d’affaires in Uttar Pradesh, the man was seen as an eyesore, not only by his teeming critics, but even by party insiders who felt neglected and ignored by the party high command. The 50-year-old confidant of the party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi was seen as an ‘intruder’ by several BJP leaders while others saw in him the alleged ‘villain’ of the 2002 riots and fake encounters in Gujarat.
Thirteen months down the line, the scenario appears to have changed drastically. It is this controversial Shah who calls the shots for BJP in UP, the state that has become the key battleground, where victory is crucial for Modi’s dream of becoming the country’s next prime minister to come true.
Not only was his role visible in the selection of candidates for the poll, he also physically sits over a core team that mans the special war room created at the state BJP headquarters in Lucknow. And with the help of his multiple cellphones, he not only keeps track of handpicked volunteers spread across the state’s 80 Lok Sabha constituencies 24x7, but also maintains his liaison with the wide network of RSS activists in every nook and corner of the state.
In an exclusive interview to Sharat Pradhan, Shah insists on flatly denying that he was there to supplement Modi’s development agenda with the desired dose of ‘Hindutva’—his recent utterances spiced with ‘badla’ (revenge) assertions emerging as a glaring example of how old habits die hard. Excerpts:
While your leader Narendra Modi shuns even a mention of Ayodhya and instead of toeing the BJP’s typical Hindutva line, prefers to talk ‘development’, you seem to be keeping that flame alive through your provocative talk of ‘badla’?
That is a totally baseless charge manufactured by the media. I never meant that. It was a total misinterpretation of what I had said.
The common perception is that you said all that to polarise the Hindu ‘votebank’ further on communal lines, even as Modi is steadfastly projecting himself as the ‘development man’.
But since your party always emphasises its ‘ek Bharat’ theory, one is bound to interpret it as your refusal to accept India’s plurality.
That is simply because of the Congress party’s wrong interpretation of secularism. If you want to know what will happen to Muslims if Narendra Modiji were to become prime minister, then let me clarify that we are talking about each one of the 125 crore citizens of India. And Modiji has proved it by ensuring the overall and comprehensive development of Gujarat where there is no discrimination against anyone. If you do not believe me, look at the Sachar Committee report which clearly spells out how Muslims in Gujarat were better off than Muslims in other parts of the country.
But there are apprehensions in the minds of all secular outfits considering your government’s controversial role in the 2002 riots.
The law of the land has cleared every doubt. But the media only wants to continue harping over false perceptions created by it and by some self-styled secular groups. I can only say one thing—we will not do any such thing that would give rise to any cause for worry to any Muslim. There is no need for any Muslim to worry.
What about all the talk of a uniform civil code?
Well, that is not Modi’s concept. It has been our party’s stand. It is a purely secular concept. I am sure there would not have been any hue or cry over it if Pandit Nehru had not brought in the Hindu Code Bill.
Everyone knows that the road to Modi’s success lies only through Hindu polarisation....
That is a false allegation and a false notion. We firmly believe that a voter has no religion. It is an insult to the voter to classify him in terms of Hindu or Muslim or for that matter any other religion. This simply reflects your own mindset and your insistence on viewing things through your own coloured glasses.
What is your concept of secularism?
Your prime ministerial nominee refused to wear a skull cap even as he was busy trying to woo Muslims?
Modi has already stated that such a cap was never worn by Mahatma Gandhi or even by Pandit Nehru or Sardar Patel. Can’t you see that those who tried to make it a big issue were only making political capital out of it? Let me tell you that the kurta pyjama that Modi wears is originally a Mughal outfit.
Do you mean to say that you are not playing the Hindutva card at all?
This will perhaps be the first Indian election in which people are voting only on the issue of development, let me tell you. Let me also tell you that this will also be the first time when you will see a welfare state in the true sense.
Are you saying that the upa’s multiple schemes like Right to Food, Right to Education and Right to Information were not directed towards the welfare of the people?
You can see how they have brought in the right to food. They have promised such a quantum that India does not have. It’s total falsehood. We do not believe in making false promises.
You can see how the Congress brought in the right to food. They promised a quantum that India does not have. We do not believe in making false promises. What kind of policies do you have in store? The common apprehension is that your policies would be divisive.
I don’t understand why you cannot change your mindset about the BJP. Let me tell you, our government will be the guardian of all Indians—not just Hindus. Why can’t you all understand that much?
But you people keep on talking only about Hindus.
We have never talked about any special interest of Hindus.
What about your visit to Ayodhya where you talked about building a temple or Narendra Modi choosing to contest from Varanasi, which is so symbolic in a religious way?
I never talked about the BJP building the temple. I simply said that millions of people of this country were keen that a grand temple be built in Ayodhya. As for Modi contesting from Varanasi, let me tell you that the BJP had to field someone from Varanasi after all. So how can you impute all kinds of motives to that decision?
Well, you are a shrewd RSS man. Therefore, while Narendra Modi is busy limiting himself to his development plank, you issue intermittent statements to keep your Hindu hardliner in good humour. Have you succeeded in your mission to bring an end to what you always refer to as minority votebank politics?
All I would like to tell you is that we have always been misunderstood. So far we have been in the Opposition. Now that we are going to come to power, we will prove everybody wrong about the perception that has been created about us.
From a state-level leader, you were propelled to national limelight some five years ago and then made incharge of UP BJP. And today you are the all-powerful Modi lieutenant. What was the turning point?
What is your idea of India?
But what you did in Gujarat in 2002 surely does not reflect that?
You do not talk about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots or the riots in Bhagalpur.
The Gujarat riots were seen as state-sponsored. And in any case two wrongs do not make a right.
That is a false charge already proven in investigations carried out by the sit appointed by the highest court of the land. But the media does not want to believe it while it does not question the Congress for what happened in 1984. In the 12 years of Modi rule, Gujarat has remained completely riot-free. There is no blot on our government. But you cannot see that.
Do you see this election as the end of the Congress party?
While I do not see the Congress getting into three digits this time, it is a bit too early to say that the party will collapse. After all, there can be no denying that it is a big national party.
Isn’t it an irony that a fiercely independent weekly like Outlook chose to publish an interview with Amit Shah (‘The kurta-pyjama Modi wears...’, May 5), the amalgam of all the vices of Indian politics. He’s extremely arrogant, a merchant of hatred, a sophisticated goon. He’s also responsible for the downfall of many police officers whom he used.
Parul Parikh, Baroda
Instead of imputing motives to Modi, why don’t you admire the guts of this remarkable man who has ventured into Varanasi when Imran Masood threatens to chop him to pieces, Beni Prasad Varma wants to guard the country and democracy from dogs, Priyanka Vadra derides him and the party as scrambling rats, Mulayam Singh calls him a goonda and Rahul Gandhi calls him a crony capitalist.
Col C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
The Congress has made a total mess of the country and a massive clean-up must take place, else this great nation will end up fighting a civil war 10 years from now. Modi can accomplish the clean-up and if he is supported, all sections of society will experience security and safety.
R. Rommel, Jalandhar
I don’t care if Muslim politicians like Qadir Rana and the Owaisis carry on their ‘hate India, hate Hindus’ campaign in any other country. But when they do so in India, they must be resisted.
Rajiv Shorey, on e-mail
If Modi must wear a Muslim skullcap, why not demand that every Muslim leader chant Vande Mataram?
Kiran K., Pune
It’s only in India that despite the highest courts not finding any evidence of state-sponsored rioting in Gujarat, journalists continue to rake it up, citing public perception.
What a crass way you have adopted to ask questions in the interview with Amit Shah!
Kashyap M.D., New York
Shah comes across as reasonable and articulate in your interview in contrast to the impression that he’s a shadowy operator.
Ravi Jain, Hyderabad
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
VNK Murti >> Mr. Shah unnecesserily put a colour for it
Yes kurta Pyjama was influenced by Turko/Persian Mughals. And skull cap is gifted to world by Jews. Modi is not comfortable with skull cap. And I do not even like it. And muslims who swear by skull cap and follow likes of Abu Azmi in every respect want higher interest on the bank deposits and wont lend a paisa of their money to poorer muslims free. What is the big deal, everyone is exercising their own free will and you want a nation of robots where everyone thinks as per a template that is approved by some politically correct secular royals in OUTLOOK and TEHELKA?
@DLN - Post 47,
1, 2- So HeadGear/skull cap is of ZIONIST ORIGIN.. If wearing this is secularism then we could also argue that you can set your house on fire to keep it warm !!
3 - People of Islamic faiths keep photographs of their revered place of worship these days in their homes/shops and per some interpretation this is also unislamic. But photography did not exist in times of Prophet. Moral of story is people should move on with times and even Prophet would have advised the same to the idiots who get worked around when someone is not comfortable wearing a skull cap.
4 - Interest is basically paid on money lent because - the lender is denied the pleasure of using money as per his or her wish for a period and the lender bears a risk of money not being repaid. Yes, you are right, christianity and islam are harsh on this. But like many others, the objection to paying interest really does not make any sense in present keynesian era where interest income on borrowed money is more of a compensation for devaluation of money's purchasing power.
In a free nation like India, anyone who is really following the islamic principles on money can follow it by 1) Having only current accounts 2) Investing in gold or shares or real estate . My question is how many who raise a voice for skull cap are doing that? BTW rich islamic nations , theocracies like Saudi Arabia, do they offer interest free loans to poorer muslim nations (include India which has 10 times more muslims than Saudi Arabia and most of them poor) ? They dont, but instead they own part shares in banking companies (Citibank, USA is part owned by saudi prince). Then why do they call themselves as Islamic nations? And why do our domestic islamic activists utter nothing about these nations?
49 D L Narayan sir
Your post is appreciatable. the point third is excellant and True.
Mr. Shah unnecesserily put a colour for it.|
I do agree with you Sir, Thanks
Thus spake the henchman, the enforcer, the blackshirt, the street arm of mafia
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