BJP president is confident of NDA securing more than 300 seats, and BJP 272, riding on ‘a Modi wave’. While he’s the man who along with Modi quietly stitched 28 alliances for BJP, he’s also seen as its moderate face. In a chat with ET on board an eight-seater Falcon jet to Purnea in Bihar, Singh spoke on a range of issues from BJP’s performance, Muslim vote bank to polarisation of votes.
How do you see the big political picture? Will you be able to secure a majority?
The atmosphere right now indicates that the magic figure of 272 is reachable. We are hopeful of crossing 300 seats.
How many seats do you expect BJP to win on its own?
A clear majority – that is today’s situation. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar we can reach a ballpark figure of 85. We will cross 50 in Uttar Pradesh.
Is the BJP seeking to polarise the electorate with a shriller campaign as the polls proceed?
As far as (Narendra) Modi is concerned, he has always spoken about development. He has also implemented this in Gujarat. The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation headed by Sonia Gandhi praised his work in Gujarat in 2008. A lot of research papers have praised his work in the state. Modi has not deviated from this (campaign pitch). As far as Amit Shah is concerned, he was trying to say that the Congress-led UPA has misled and cheated you and the time has come to take revenge. In democracy, when you take revenge it happens through voting. People have misinterpreted ‘revenge’ to suit their theory and it is not the first time he has said it. He has said it in other areas as well where there was no communal riot.
But isn’t such a statement bound to acquire a communal colour if it is made in a riot-hit area?
UP is a big state and in another part of UP there was nothing like that and the Muslim population was also low there. It’s a wrong interpretation of his statement.
The EC’s action against Amit Shah also points to the fact that his speech had communal overtones.
EC had asked Amit Shah to reply and before he could respond it passed judgement. He has sent his reply and we will have to wait for the final decision (EC censured Shah along with Khan late on Wednesday night). Sometimes EC has to take decisions to send out a message. Maybe it’s trying to send a signal. It’s not only for Amit Shah but also for Azam Khan.
But isn’t Amit Shah close to Modi just as Azam Khan is close to Mulayam Singh Yadav?
I don’t agree with that. BJP is not communal. Our political ideology is integral humanism. How can a party that believes in vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is our home) indulge in polarisation? Despite ruling for 55 years, Congress has not been able to achieve communal harmony. If there is one communal party in the country, it is Congress.
If that’s the case, why has Narendra Modi steadfastly refused to wear a skullcap even as he embraces all other religions?
He doesn’t wear anything (special) anywhere. But he has worn a turban in Punjab. The turban is our national symbol.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee have worn skullcaps. So, why can’t Modi?
I am sure they have worn it but every person is different and has his own thinking. I don’t think by wearing a skullcap you are secular and by not wearing it you are communal. If I am asked ,I will wear a skullcap. I have not had a problem since childhood and if offered I am happy to wear a skullcap. As far as Modi is concerned, he does not wear any headgear of any community. Or for that matter, he does not even sport chandan (sandalwood paste).
Does that make you the moderate face of the BJP?
It’s not about being the moderate face.
But you are the one who meets Muslim clerics.
Even Modiji has been meeting Muslim clerics. I have been meeting Muslim clerics from the days I was chief minister. I have also gone during Eid to the mosque when namaaz takes place.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was seen as a moderate face. Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad has said that you are the moderate face of the party while Muslims are scared of Narendra Modi…
I don’t want to comment on anyone’s statement. Atalji was Atalji. He had great stature. In this lifetime I cannot even hope to achieve that. I don’t think I would be able to manage it even in the next lifetime.
Should Modi apologise for 2002 riots? Congress leaders apologised for 1984 riots, after all.
Why should Modi apologise? He sincerely tried to stop the riots…no chief minister wants riots in his state…the question of apology doesn’t come if he tried to prevent violence…apology is an admission of guilt…he has been given a clean chit by a Supreme Court-monitored investigation…Congress apologised because Rajiv Gandhi had made a statement…””when a big tree falls, the ground shakes”.