From the beginning of the Narendra Modi saga in Gujarat, Amit Shah has been his right-hand man. Already facing charges in the encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi, the problems for the former minister of state for home escalated last week when the CBI filed a chargesheet and named him as the kingpin in the killing of Tulsiram Prajapati, an eyewitness in the Sohrabuddin case. But Shah, who is out on bail, remains defiant and determined to play an innings in the state assembly elections in December. Excerpts from an interview to Panini Anand:
Modi says more Muslims will vote for him this time. Do you think your presence will damage his efforts?
I don’t think so. We are going to win elections with a two-thirds majority. The vote percentage is going to increase. I am a small person. Chhota aadmi hoon. I don’t think my presence or absence will make much difference.
But you have always been Modi’s right-hand man?
There is no question of being the right- or left-hand man. I have always tried to work for him and the party.
Just after the Supreme Court allowed your entry in the state, you announced you will campaign for the party with full effort and energy.
Yes, I am going to do so. I said that in the party executive. Not even a week has passed, I will be clearer about my role and situation in the next couple of days.
Will you contest elections this time?
Yes, if the party decides, I will contest.
But Advani didn’t contest in 1996 due to criminal charges against him in the hawala case. Don’t you think you should follow the same path?
He is a big leader. I don’t want to be compared with him. Main Advaniji ki barabari nahin kar sakta, unse bahut chhota hoon.
You have been named in the CBI’s chargesheet on fake encounters in Gujarat under your home ministership. Do you think it’s morally correct to campaign and contest?
First thing, all these charges are completely baseless. They have nothing to prove against me. The CBI has been misused against many politicians, including me. This is all a part of a political conspiracy against me. If I am wrong, why was YSR a good man and his son a bad man for the same party? See the others also; how many of them are terrified by this misuse of CBI.
Secondly, this is what they want; people are not allowed to remain active in politics. This is a whole conspiracy against our government in Gujarat. Why should we be stopped by this kind of politics? There have been only 14 cases of encounters in my state between 2003 and 2007. In the same period, some 1,200 encounters took place in India. No one dares to speak about them. What morality are you talking about? An innocent Bihari was killed by the police in Mumbai because he took out firearms as he was frightened; no one talks about his encounter or the encounters that took place in Bihar, UP and other states. Why only Gujarat?
Yes, I will also think about what you are saying, but that hardly matters because at the end of the day, I am a party worker and will do what the party will ask me to do.
What’s the guarantee the BJP or NDA won’t misuse the CBI the same way you claim it’s being misused today?
Give us one example when this was done during the NDA tenure.
But why do you think that the Supreme Court order is a great relief; it’s a ‘cat in, mouse out’ situation. The SC has less faith in the state government as these cases have been moved out from the state....
Send them to any court in any part of this country. You or anyone can’t find anything against me. Some ngos are earning their bread and butter by doing this. Let me ask you. Why will I kill Sohrabuddin or anyone else? There has to be some motive. They can’t establish it. Now, they have come up with more than 300 cases of extortion against me. All of them are baseless; even the SC has found them to be trash.
There are phone records to suggest you ordered removal of documents.
In the last three days, you called me more than a dozen times. Now, if I kill someone; does that mean you are also involved? You are talking about phone records during an encounter in December 2006. Check any random date; two months before or after, six months before or after; you will find the same trend of phone calls between me and government officials. If I was part of this conspiracy, or encounters took place at that time, main itni baar to kya, ek baar bhi phone nahin karta kisi adhikaari ko. Do you think I am a fool who will use an office phone and talk to an official about a conspiracy or an encounter? Why would I not use a fake identity or talk on some personal number or face-to-face if I was part of this whole thing? These records of phone calls are proof of my innocence.
So who ordered these encounters ?
The CBI will answer it. The court will decide over it. I can’t comment on it now. As far as the encounter of people like Sohrabuddin is concerned; what do you think they were? Some 150 AK-47 rifles, 250 hand-grenades and about one lakh ammunition were recovered from his place. Though I don’t agree that he should have been killed, there is no doubt about him being anti-national. And, let me remind you that those who died in encounters (in Gujarat) were not even anti-social elements; they were all anti-nationals.
Do you think Modi is fit to be the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections? Who will lead the state in case he moves to Delhi?
Outlook or any other media house should not worry about who will replace whom. We have a party to decide and it will be done when the time comes. Yes, he is the perfect man to be the prime ministerial candidate. After all, he is among one of the senior and most popular faces of our party. I hope he will become the prime minister, but for now our focus is only on the Gujarat elections.
What about Nitish Kumar or the others who are not comfortable with Modi becoming a prime ministerial candidate?
They will be convinced. We’ll talk to all our allies if Modiji’s name is decided as PM candidate by the BJP. We are winning with a two-thirds majority and more seats in the state. There will be a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress on more than 270 seats in the 2014 elections; there is no scope for the third front. The NDA will form the (next) government.
But there are voices against Modi’s autocratic nature....
The leadership has to be ruthless, but one has to understand that the ruthlessness is for politics or for development and good governance. I can see that he is so far the biggest victim of liberties given in a democracy.