Q. Since the 2002 Gujarat elections, you have a policy that there is anti-incumbency against sitting MPs or MLAs.
The chances of winning is certainly a relevant criteria and will remain so.
Q:Are you thinking of a shake-up in ticket distribution to counter themahagathbandhan?
There is no set formula, those with maximum chances of winning will naturally get tickets. We are in politics after all
Q: Is there a possibility of fielding fresh faces in Haryana, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a cadre-based party with maximum flexibility. There is scope of lateral entry into the party. We use every election as an opportunity to induct new people. If we are limited to our cadre, we won’t be able to attract voters in different parts of society.
Q: You have formed a rainbow coalition in Tamil Nadu. But this All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is not the same as when J Jayalalithaa was alive. Is there a realisation that this alliance may only get you a toehold in the state?
Our priority is to strengthen the BJP in every state. During the Jana Sangh, there was politics of isolation. We won 166 seats in 1996, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the PM for 13 days. Apart from Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal, no one supported us. When we reached 183 seats, we gained 24 allies. We’ve remained in the centrestage since then, we have understood power sharing in centre and state-level. The North East, Bihar, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh are all examples of that. The states where our strength was less, like in West Bengal, we hardly got 2-4 per cent votes 10 years ago. Our vote share in Bengal has gone up to 16 per cent, we’ve marginalised the Left and the Congress. In Assam, we have become the primary party. We were a small party in Odisha but today we can give the Biju Janata Dal a tough fight. Coalitions in states are done on principle by regional parties, that’s not the case with us. 80 per cent of the Mahagathbandhan like Mayawati, Mamata, Naidu, DMK have worked with us in the past.
Q: The government is being asked a lot of questions on unemployment and farmer distress…
The Opposition only raises fake issues like Rafale and EVM, they claim institutions are in danger. The Opposition abuses the Election Commission and criticises the Supreme Court. I read a letter from Tejashwi Yadav to Rahul Gandhi to boycott the media because it has become fake. The Opposition attacks the media, Election Commission and Supreme Court and then claims that institutions are under attack. We are growing at the rate of 7-7.5 per cent every year unlike any other country. If you take an average, the economy has expanded in these last 5 years. Productivity of the nation increased, so can we employ only half the people and have 10 times the output. CII just released its report outlining how many jobs were produced in the last 5 years.
Q: There was NSSO as well…
The real proof is who will come in the formal sector, will give PF and come under EPFO. The number of people under EPFO are increasing every year. You give Mudra loans to 13 crore people for self-employment, but no jobs were created? There has not been a single big movement against the government. When there are no jobs, there is social unrest. Where is that now?
If there was some big social unrest, would you see pro-incumbency? We have distributed 1,90,000 cr worth low-cost grains as well as subsidised food. Rs 60,000 crore was set aside for MGREGA and given to rural areas. We will give Rs 6,000 to every small farmer which means Rs 75,000 crore more in rural areas. We have connected villages with roads, homes with toilets, electricity and cooking gas. All BPL card holders will have homes by 2022. 50 crore people will get free hospital treatment.
Ayushman Bharat has not reached the people of West Bengal. The leader of Bengal is against the centre, so she will oppress farmers and not take a penny from centre. Karnataka sent a list of three farmers first. Even now their list is of only 60,000-70,000 farmers.
The economic formulations of the Modi government will strengthen the country’s economy. The idea is to reduce taxes and transfer the resources towards the poor and rural areas. Since Indira Gandhi’s time, the Congress has given slogans to the poor. We have given them resources.
Q: It’s being said that this a similar moment for BJP as that of India Shining in 2004.
That we will get to know on May 23. The Opposition has nothing but fake issues. Fake issues are picked up and the opposition speaks on it.
Q: Is there a Modi wave in these elections?
There is a wave. But the media will understand that only on result day. Those in politics can see the wave beforehand.
Q: Is there any parallel to the 2019 election in the history of India?
I consider three elections as the closest to this year’s elections — two domestic, one international. I think this election is a reverse of 1971. That was the first election in which I worked as a student activist. All opposition parties came together in that election. At that time we said it was a grand alliance and Indira Gandhi would be defeated. People were with Indira Gandhi, she won 320+ seats and we were nowhere.
2014 was a election of hope, we put our faith in one person. He has made no mistakes and has led a strong and honest government. My third example was when Margaret Thatcher was removed and John Major came to power. Fear of the opponent made the conservatives win which was contrary to all the polls. When people see this absurd coalition, they think ‘we don’t need a 6-month government but a 5-year one’.
Edited excerpts from an interview given by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to CNN-News18, March 14, New Delhi