NEW DELHI: In his first public address after the Delhi elections, Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said BJP may have suffered in the Delhi elections because of controversial statements like “goli maaro” and “India-Pakistan match”, but added that there was no way to really know why “people pressed which button” inside a polling booth.
Speaking at the Times Now Summit, Shah termed the controversial remarks “unfortunate” and said those should not have been made. He also said the party had distanced itself from those comments immediately. The minister, who was responding to a question, did not rule out the possibility of the provocative utterances contributing to the setback. “BJP may have suffered but there was no precise way to figure out why people pressed which button inside the polling booth,” he said.
Shah, who spearheaded BJP’s campaign and had predicted a win, conceded that his assessment of the party’s prospects turned out to be wrong.
Responding to questions on the space for protests in a democratic set-up, Amit Shah said while peaceful protests ought to be allowed, no one had permission to break the law. Shah also defended Delhi Police for entering the Jamia Millia Islamia University, saying cops went after students who had burnt buses, scooters and cars. “Those whose cars and scooters were burnt also have rights,” he said, adding, “I stand firmly with the police” for entering the campus.
The home minister accepted that his “assessment” of BJP’s performance in the Delhi elections had turned out to be wrong, but emphasised that he had been right in his assessment in many states.
He argued that BJP did not contest polls only to win them but also, equally, to increase the party’s ideological footprint and dismissed suggestions that the debacle in Delhi marked a rejection of the party’s ideology.
“We do not fight elections just for electoral victory or defeat. BJP is a party that believes in expanding its ideology. I have given everything in every election. This is not the first time we have lost. I am a worker of BJP and I believe it is important for us to go out to the people of the country to take the idea of BJP and our views to people. BJP is an ideology-based party. Elections are an opportunity for us to spread our ideology. We don’t fight only to win. I accept the Delhi verdict with all humility and in good spirit, we will sit it in the opposition and will see how the Delhi government works,” he said.
Debunking the argument that a string of defeats in state polls meant the party’s ideology was “shrinking” (after losses in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi), Shah said, “In Lok Sabha elections, Arvind Kejriwal came third (in Delhi). But does that mean he was rejected? That is a wrong analogy. Ideology is only one of the many things that contribute to an electoral win.”
The minister attacked Congress for vitiating the political atmosphere by spreading misinformation about CAA. “I welcome the discussion on CAA but those who are opposing it should also tell me the reason for their criticism of it. No one is able to tell me why they think it is anti-Muslim or anti-minority,” he said.
He defended the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) against the charge that it was discriminatory and was designed to strip Muslims of their citizenship, but said he was ready to debate the changes in law with “anyone” – even those protesting at Shaheen Bagh. “Whoever wants to meet me is welcome. Seek time from my office and I promise I will meet them within three days. The discussion, however, will have to be on the merits of the case,” the minister said.
Shah, however, emphasised that for every person protesting against CAA, there were lakhs who stood in support of the government’s move.
Shah also reiterated the BJP’s charge that both the CAA and NRC were originally conceptualised by previous Congress governments.
He did not agree with the contention that fear of CAA being a precursor to a National Register of Citizens had led to unrest. “You cannot protest in anticipation of what will come. Raise issues about NRC when it comes. But I have already clarified that there is no decision about NRC in the government as yet,” he added.
Shah said the government was investigating Popular Front of India’s alleged involvement in funding anti-CAA protests around India and the report, once prepared, would be put in public domain and suitable action would be taken, if needed.