New Delhi: BJP chief Amit Shah has claimed that his party will make substantial gains in the Northeast, Odisha and West Bengal to offset any losses, if any, in other regions and get clear majority in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Speaking to CNN News18, Shah said the BJP was looking to bag between 35-40 seats in these states. “It will be a 35-40 game,” he said.
When asked to put a figure on the seats the BJP was likely to win in West Bengal, Shah said it would emerge victorious in at least 23 seats. West Bengal has been a focus state for the saffron party – the BJP had won only two of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
Shah said that BJP was looking to bag 20-21 seats in the Northeast. When asked whether the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has caused a lot of unrest in the region, will affect the BJP’s prospects, Shah said, “Through the work that we have done through NEDA [North East Democratic Alliance, the BJP’s nodal outfit for the region], we are sure of substantially increasing our tally in the Northeast.”
The BJP had bagged eight seats from these states in 2014.
Amit Shah also claimed that the BJP was on its way to not just performing well in Odisha but would also form the next government in the state. State and Lok Sabha polls are being conducted simultaneously in Odisha.
In a freewheeling interview conducted by CNN News18’s group editor Rahul Joshi, Shah did not shy away from answering the question about who was the ‘Number 2’ in the party.
“There is only number one in our party and that is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Were you to look for a number two after him, you wouldn’t find any. As far as the leadership of the party is concerned, I’m very happy to be leading the world’s largest party and often seek suggestions from my seniors whenever occasion arises,” he said.
Shah also answered a question about the impact that Priyanka Gandhi, who was appointed the Congress party’s general secretary in February, was likely to make in the upcoming polls. “This is not her first entry into polls. She has been campaigning for her party for the last 12 years and has proved to be a failure each time. This is her 13th time. Let’s see what she’s able to do.”
Responding to allegations that Modi’s announcement of India’s space firepower capabilities in the form of ‘Mission Shakti’ had violated the model code of conduct, Shah said such announcements have been made since the time of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Election Commission had given Modi a clean chit in the matter.
“It was not a press conference but an address to the nation. And if the Prime Minister will not address the nation, then who will, the leader of the opposition?” Shah asked rhetorically.
Rubbishing claims that the announcement of ‘Mission Shakti’ was made keeping elections in mind, Shah said such tests in space were conducted only after consultations with international community. “Such things are done well in advance. It takes at least two to three months of planning,” he said.
Shah was also asked what difference the government had made in the last five years, particularly in context of the Balakot air strikes. “We have brought the narrative from fake Hindu terror to Pakistan-sponsored terror,” he said, referring to the recent verdict in Samjhauta terror case, which acquitted the accused, including Swami Aseemanand.
The world has acknowledged India’s right to self-defence and Pakistan has now been isolated, said Shah. India has the steps to carry out counter-terror operations not on our own soil but on Pakistan’s soil – at the very source of terror, he added. India has also taken effective steps in curbing the influence of separatists — by cracking on their financial sources, banning them, and putting people running those outfits behind bars, he claimed.
When asked what steps India had taken to deal with China, which has repeatedly vetoed the resolution to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist, Shah said, “China is also isolated. Sooner or later, it will be forced to support us.”
The BJP chief, contesting the elections from Gandhinagar, said that if audacious strikes like Balakot operation “had been carried out 10 years ago, terror attacks like Pulwama wouldn’t have happened”.
Since he was the first senior BJP leader to claim that the aerial strikes had eliminated around 300 terrorists, Shah was asked about its source, given that IAF Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had claimed the air force “doesn’t count the dead”. Even foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had told a Parliamentary committee that the government did not have the number of the dead.
“I got that number from media reports,” Amit Shah said.
Shah was also asked about the jobs created by the PM Modi-led NDA government, which had promised 10 crore jobs in five years. A recent NSSO report quoted by several media organisations had pointed out that job creation was at a historic low in the current period. The government had later claimed that the report was “never cleared by the Cabinet”.
“We have to stop looking at data from the Western perspective. NSSO data is correct. But we need to have a re-look at the system,” Shah asserted. “If no jobs are created, then how were so many roads and toilets built? When a girl opens a beauty parlour in a village, isn’t it job creation?”
In response to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay scheme, which will, minimum income for the 20% poorest Indians, Shah said a “concerned” Congress could have implemented such a programme to alleviate poverty during its 10 years of the UPA regime.
When asked whether the BJP was also looking to introduce such a scheme to counter the Congress’s narrative, Shah said, “We don’t need to introduce new schemes. We have already reacted to the needs of India’s underprivileged people by introducing schemes that were not even part of our election manifesto.”
The event will feature political leaders from the ruling and opposition alliances, policy experts and strategic thinkers. From national security and policy to development, the speakers and panelists will lay out their priorities on the issues and make a case for their particular agenda and why that should be favoured by voters.
With national security as a key focus area, the evening will also witness a special segment dedicated to the security forces, many of whom have made the supreme sacrifice.
Hitting out at regional parties for not “aggressively” pushing special status to Andhra Pradesh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said that the moment his party comes to power, the long pending demand will be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, Gandhi has picked Wayanad as his second seat, following demands from southern India. Announcing party chief’s decision at a press conference, senior leader Randeep Surjewala said that Gandhi chose the Kerala constituency as it is “geographically important”.
The official Twitter handle of Congress has tweeted a picture that has multiple miniatures of a man dressed as ‘chowkidar’ (watchman). Among the several watchmen, one can be seen in white beard. The grand old party has asked people to spot the odd one out as only “one chowkidar is chor (thief)”.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Janata Dal (Secular) patriarch HD Deve Gowda will launch their campaign blitzkrieg for the impending Lok Sabha elections on the outskirts of Bengaluru in Karnataka today.
Titled ‘Parivartana Samavesha’, the mega rally will be the first jointly organised campaign by the Congress and JD(S) after they came to power. The Congress and JD(S) ministers, MLAs and leaders will be part of the event which will be held at the BIEC ground near Nelamanagala. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy visited the venue himself to inspect the arrangements being made. He also dubbed the event “historic.”
Following this, state leaders of both the parties would organise similar joint meetings at several places across Karnataka.
As Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad Lok Sabha constituencies are going to polls on April 11, campaigning has begun in full swing in the two segments. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath will hold an election rally in Greater Noida’s Bisada village today to canvas votes for Gautam Budh Nagar sitting MP and Union minister Dr Mahesh Sharma.
During his day-long visit to the region, the UP CM will also hold election rallies in Loni and Ghaziabad city to drum up support for BJP candidate and the sitting MP of Ghaziabad, general (retired) VK Singh. Yogi Adityanath will be accompanied by Union minister of health & family welfare and the party’s parliamentary board secretary, JP Nadda.
The Congress will sound the poll bugle in Andhra Pradesh with party chief Rahul Gandhi’s rallies in Vijayawada and Kalyandurg. The Congress scion will be addressing two election rallies in a state where the party is fighting hard to avoid hitting the rock bottom. Rahul’s first stop will be a rally at Makineni Basavapunnaiah Stadium in Vijayawada and then at Mudigal Bypass Road Ground in Kalyandurg.