2002 Should Not Have Happened: Gujarat BJP Chief Spokesperson Yamal Vyas

'Like the 2001 earthquake, it was an accident. Gujarat got a bad name because of 2002. That is not how Gujaratis behave,' Gujarat BJP chief spokesperson Yamal Vyas told Outlook.

Gujarat BJP chief spokesperson Yamal Vyas

Days before Union Home Minister Amit Shah said during an election speech that his party had taught a lesson to the rioters in 2002, party’s Chief Spokesperson Yamal Vyas had expressed different thoughts. Speaking to Outlook’s Ashutosh Bhardwaj at BJP office in Ahmedabad, Vyas termed the 2002 violence “an aberration”, even admitted that “it should not have taken place”.

He spoke on several issues, ranging from the AAP’s entry into the state to more water in Saurashtra. Edited excerpts.

The Aam Aadmi Party defeated the BJP in Delhi and Punjab assembly elections. It also won several seats in the Surat municipal elections. How do you see the challenge in Gujarat?

Gujarat is quite different. The BJP has a very strong organisation here. Our workers are practically in touch with every voter in the state. Our reach is unparalleled. The AAP is nowhere. They are trying hard in some seats of Surat. But I can assure you they won’t get any seat at all. Their CM candidate will come third in his constituency.

They are not serious contenders. Check their list of candidates – 1/3rd are former Congress members who didn’t get the tickets. The AAP doesn’t have anything positive to offer to Gujarat.

They are only on social media. They don’t understand Gujarat at all. They are offering here what they tried in Punjab and Delhi. Gujarat is totally different. The promise of free power and free electricity won’t work here. Gujarat has been giving power to the farmers at 50 paise per unit since 1998. These are election gimmicks. This has never appealed to the people.

Gujaratis are business-minded people. They will ask you: from where would you arrange these funds? Even a man on the streets and village understands that the government doesn’t bring money from its own pockets.

What about the Congress?

Congress hasn’t gone to the people in the last 4 years and nine months. They have no interest (in elections) at all. They only have a captive vote of minorities, a section of SCs and STs. Gujarat is a two-party state. No third party has ever had any success here, except the Swatantra Party which got some success in 1967. Several parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, NCP tried here, but couldn’t succeed.

Bharatiya Janata Party's Office in Ahmedabad Outlook Photo

It’s been two decades of the 2002 riots. How do you recall it?  

I think 2002 was an aberration. It shouldn’t have happened. Like the 2001 earthquake, it was an accident. Gujarat got a bad name because of 2002. That is not how Gujaratis behave. Minorities are getting equal opportunities in educational institutions, almost equivalent to their percentage in population. I had several Muslim friends in my school days.

How do you then explain exclusionary spaces like Juhapura? A large number of Muslims have migrated to Juhapura from across Gujarat.

Juapura was always there. There are several such areas in Ahmedabad, where you have only specific communities like only Patels or Jain. Every month we hear about hundreds of people shifting from one place to another. Everyone moves to be with friends and their community. It’s a natural process. It happens with Hindus as well.

The BJP has seen three chief ministers in the last eight years. Despite being in a strong majority, why this uncertainty about CMs?

Anandiben Patel resigned because she was reaching 75. She voluntarily felt so. After that, Vijay Rupani completed his five years. The only thing is that he completed it over two terms. The present CM was not known to too many people, but that doesn’t mean that he is not a good administrator. He is an able administrator. He is running the state well. He will turn out to be one of our best CMs.

Gujarat Assembly Elections 2022 Outlook Photo

If Vijay Rupani resigned because he had completed five years, would the present CM Bhupendra Patel also resign after his five years in the middle of the next term, should the BJP win the election?

We expect him to complete the next full term.

Despite the claims about the Gujarat model, the state lags behind on several human development indices. Why does Gujarat fare badly?

I don’t know how these indices are calculated. I can give you authentic figures. Our school dropout rate is just 2-3 percent. Every child in the state goes to school. We have set up a control and command centre. It supervises the performance of every student in every school. If a boy is studying in Class VII in a tribal district, the central command can know how he fared in the exams of a particular subject. Officers from states like Telangana and Kerala have come here to understand the model.

What have been the achievements of your last five years?

The biggest achievement is the completion of the Sardar Sarovar project. We now have 69000 km of water pipeline. Water has reached Saurashtra and Katch. During the Congress rule, trains and tankers were carrying water to Saurashtra. Ground water level has gone up by about 30-75 feet in Saurashtra, and 60 feet in North Gujarat.

Over the last 20 years Gujarat has progressed a lot. Now we want to take Gujarat to new heights.