Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief and North East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari spoke to Hindustan Times about the party’s election campaign , ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh, inflammatory slogans and statements by his party MPs, and the BJP’s prospects of returning to power after 21 years.
The BJP began its campaign with development, talking about unauthorised colonies; but now the party’s campaign is focused on Shaheen Bagh. Your opponents say that the BJP doesn’t have any real issues to talk about and is trying to polarise. Your comment.
They are trying to divert people’s attention from the issue by saying that we don’t have any real issues. Development is our main agenda in this election. We are talking about Ayushman Bharat for free medical care and PM Awas Yojana to provide housing to people. But they [opponents] are stalling these citizen-centric welfare schemes as they fear the credit will go to Modi ji. Non-implementation of these two schemes will be the main reason for the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) defeat in Delhi.
In all his public meetings, Amit Shah ji talks about development first. But Delhi’s safety is a big issue. The fact that a group of 1,000-1,500 people can come and set buses on fire has scared residents. And the state government is supporting those who are behind the violence and giving them cheques worth Rs 5 lakh.
We didn’t make Shaheen Bagh an issue. Our issue is to make Delhi Shanti Bagh. They started the campaign to make Delhi Shaheen Bagh. Today, a large number of Shaheen Bagh residents are opposing it [the protest]. They are feeling ashamed of what has become of the area because of the AAP and few Congress leaders.
Your MPs Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma were barred from campaigning for inflammatory comments and slogans. There have been three incidents of firing in Shaheen Bagh and Jamia after the “shoot traitors” slogan; Verma called CM Arvind Kejriwal a “terrorist” and made the “rape and kill” comment about protesters at Shaheen Bagh. Do you agree with what your party MPs said?
The BJP never supports any kind of violence. We believe the law of the land is sufficient to punish traitors. Anurag ji didn’t say ‘goli maro’... the kind of slogans that are being chanted at Shaheen Bagh such as “PM ko goli maro”, “HM ko goli maro”, “Jinnah wali Azadi”. They [the MPs] got excited because of it. But we (BJP) don’t support their statements.
Why has the party not taken action against them?
The Election Commission has already punished them. But I want to say the EC should take into consideration slogans being shouted at Shaheen Bagh....and leaders like Amantullah Khan, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Shashi Tharoor are making speeches there. I want to request EC that action should be taken against them as well.
The Shaheen Bagh protest has been going on for over 50 days now. Why is there no attempt by the Centre to have a dialogue with the protesters? Is it the Centre’s failure that it has not been able to get the road cleared, and there have been three firing incidents in less than a week’s time in the city despite the Delhi Police being under its direct control?
It is not the Centre’s failure. This shows that the Centre is concerned about citizens as there are women and children who are sitting at the front of the protest. They know that Modi government is concerned about them and their safety. There are women sitting with their small kids in the front row, else it would have been cleared in two hours.
Arvind Kejriwal is the chief minister of Delhi. People are sitting on a protest and have been blocking the entire area for 50 days, but he has not visited the area. Should he not make an appeal to the people? But he says they are with Shaheen Bagh. This means he wants to make Delhi Shaheen Bagh.
As far as talking to protesters is concerned, Ravi Shankar Prasad ji said yesterday that people can talk to the government. We are open for talks, but no one is coming forward.
BJP talks about ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. It is for first time since 1993 that the BJP has not fielded any Muslim candidate in the Delhi election . Why?
They (Muslim candidates) don’t help us win, even when we give them tickets. We have a minister from the Muslim community [at the Centre]. We have to bring them (Muslim leaders) through Rajya Sabha and legislative councils [in states]. We have given them tickets so many times, but they don’t help us win.
Your 48-page Sankalp Patra is silent on subsidies on water and electricity — one of the key poll issues this time. What is BJP’s stand on it as several of your senior leaders have spoken against it?
The government is a continuous process. We have clearly said that whatever schemes the government has started will continue and we will not stop them. We have promised to give atta [wheat flour] for â‚¹2 per kg, scooter and bicycle for girls, and financial assistance to them. We are of the view that freebies or subsidies should be given to economically weaker sections.
The BJP’s manifesto has several promises for women empowerment, so why has the party has the least number of women candidates fielded by all major political parties?
We have given tickets to women. There could be a few seats less this time. We support 33% reservation for women, but it is yet to happen. While selecting candidates, we have looked at winnability. We will keep this in mind next time.
Multiplicity of authority is one of the major reasons for slow pace of development in Delhi. In the manifesto, the BJP has proposed to constitute 8-9 boards and commissions for development works. Will it not just add to the existing problem?
No, it will solve the problem as work can be done in a more focused way. Now that our government has started the process to give ownership rights to residents of unauthorised colonies, we have decided that we will constitute Colonies Vikas Board for development work here. The board will help in better implementation of projects.
How many seats are you hoping to get this time?
We will get 50-plus seats. There is a huge difference [in public mood] since Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has started campaigning here. The Shaheen Bagh protest has exposed them (AAP). People know that they are supporting those who had set buses on fire. This has changed the whole scenario.
Source: Hindustan Times