BJP’s 400+ slogan a realistic one, INDIA bloc’s X-ray desire will lead to recession: Rajnath Singh - Hindustan Times
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BJP’s 400+ slogan a realistic one, INDIA bloc’s X-ray desire will lead to recession: Rajnath Singh

May 07, 2024 04:02 PM IST

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh seeks third win from Lucknow, confident in BJP's "400 paar" target for 2024. Criticizes Opposition's regressive ideas and emphasizes on Yogi factor in U.P.

Rajnath Singh, 72, the defence minister and Lucknow MP, is looking for his third successive victory from the prestigious Lucknow Lok Sabha seat that has Uttar Pradesh’s seat of power. A former U.P. chief minister himself, Rajnath has launched his campaign for the constituency that will go to polls in the fifth phase on May 20. Talking to Hindustan Times, Rajnath Singh called the BJP’s “400 paar” slogan for the 2024 polls “realistic and achievable”. He hit out at the Opposition INDIA bloc, saying their “X-ray idea” is regressive and will lead to economic recession. He attacked the Congress and Samajwadi Party over “parivarvaad” and contended how he or the BJP does not fall into that category. Lauding the Yogi Adityanath-led U.P. government’s works—especially law and order, Rajnath emphasised on the Yogi-factor playing out in the elections in U.P. While talking about his Lok Sabha constituency, Rajnath said he doesn’t believe in making promises and rather prefers working to fulfil public expectations.

Defence minister and Lucknow MP Rajnath Singh says the lower turnout is not against the BJP. (Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times)
Defence minister and Lucknow MP Rajnath Singh says the lower turnout is not against the BJP. (Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times)

Q: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is talking about getting X-ray done?

A: Hmm, they are saying such absurd things — getting X-ray, caste census done. These are regressive things. Some Latin American countries such as Argentina or Venezuela have suffered because of such things. They were rich countries in the 1960s. Many economists say that steps such as caste census or the redistribution of wealth will lead to economic recession. It will kill people’s drive for enterprise. Why will they work and yearn for economic progress and growth?

Q: Your party is mocking Rahul Gandhi as a coward for contesting from Rae Bareli, while the Congress is calling it a masterstroke?

A: (Smirks) Oh, masterstroke! Running away from Amethi and going to Rae Bareli is a masterstroke? (He) couldn’t gather courage to contest Amethi.

Q: The BJP is attacking the Samajwadi Party and the Congress for “parivarvaad” (dynastic politics). The attack is fiercer in their pocket boroughs. In their counter-attack, they are also calling you “parivarvaadi.”

A: Of course, those parties are dynastic. It’s dynastic politics when a political party’s control stays under one family all the time, generation after generation. If members of a family contest elections and win, then it’s not dynastic. We don’t fall into that category. Our party is democratic.

Q: Is the “400 paar” target realistic?

A: Of course, it is realistic and achievable. The BJP will nail it. “400 paar” is no rhetoric. The target was set after proper thinking and analysing the political situation. We will maintain the lead in our lead states and also win seats in southern states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, or Andhra Pradesh. In some states, our performance will rise further. The BJP will cross its own tallies of 2014 and 2019 in both U.P. and the country as a whole.

Q: But “400 paar” is being linked to a perceived apprehension among some Dalits and most backward sections that the BJP intends to change the Constitution if it crosses 400 seats?

A: Absurd lie. The Congress is spreading these rumours. It is the Congress that changed the Constitution 80 times. And that too to an extent that during the Emergency, it also amended the Preamble to the Constitution which is considered the soul of the Constitution. No one can fiddle with the Constitution or reservation.

Q: How do you assess the INDIA bloc against the BJP?

A: I would say, this alliance, so far, has not been able to win the confidence of the public. It has inner contradictions. For instance, the AAP and Congress are contesting polls in Punjab separately, but in some other states they are together. Similar is the situation in West Bengal.

Q: Has the lower voter turnout in the first and the second phases rung alarm bells for the BJP?

A: Not at all. Of course, there is lower voter turnout, to some extent due to high heat. But the truth is that there is some disinterest in voters allied to the Opposition. There is some disenchantment among them for they feel that the NDA is forming the government yet again. The lower turnout is not against the BJP, rather it’s benefitting us. But the lower turnout is not a good trend.

Q: Do you think that the Opposition this time has managed to make issues out of reservation, caste census and the Constitution?

A: The Opposition is despondent. Out of exasperation, it is trying to spread lies and making up issues. For instance, even the Agniveer issue they are raising holds no water. Agniveers are happy. They are getting jobs at the age of 18 and when they exit after serving four years in the army, they will get an experience certificate, opportunities for further studies, they will get a package of about 14 lakh on exit, and also get reservation in jobs outside—including some para-military organisations. Above all, the Agniveer scheme is bringing youthfulness to the army.

Q: Is the BJP turning the narrative towards divisive issues such “Mangalsutra”, “minority reservation”? Is the BJP deviating from the main issues and going on the backfoot?

A: The BJP has not deviated at all. We are only trying to expose the Opposition, which is making such promises. They are talking about providing reservation on the basis of religion. The truth is there is no such provision. Why do politics of caste, creed and religion? Politics should be based on justice and humanity. The aim of politics should be beyond government formation. Of course, government formation is a big a factor, but politics should be done for nation-building also. Our government is doing exactly that.

Q: Is there a Yogi factor at play in these elections?

A: There’s an immense Modi factor nationwide for the work done by his government and the Yogi factor in U.P. for what all the U.P. government did. The UP government has done well, especially on law and order.

Q: Which is bigger —aastha or vikas (faith or development)?

A: Both are important. Faith-belief is important and, of course, development is very important. Many issues or problems can be solved by faith and belief.

Q: On Ram temple?

A: The BJP does what it says. It may take some time, but the BJP accomplishes it.

Q: The BJP charges Opposition leaders with not going to the Ram temple?

A: They should have gone. They should have attended the Pran Pratishtha ceremony when they were invited.

Q: But you, too, have not gone to the Ram temple since the inauguration?

A: I will go soon.

Q: It’s been 10 years as Lucknow’s representative in Parliament. Now, you are seeking a third term. With what new promises and old accomplishments are you going to the public this poll season?

A: I have never made any promises to people. My political experience tells me that candidates often make tall promises, but seldom fulfil those to a full extent. And this tendency of making promises and not fulfilling them often leads to a crisis of credibility. All leaders should take it as a challenge to deal with this crisis of credibility. I only tell the electorate that I will try to be worthy of expectations. In my previous two terms, I managed to do whatever I could do.

Q: What expectations of the people of Lucknow could you fulfil?

A: The 104-km Outer Ring Road is just one of the many works of significance and public interest. The Lucknow Outer Ring Road is functional. Nearly 65,000 vehicles take this route per day. Imagine what would be the traffic condition of roads within Lucknow if these 65,000 vehicles pass through Lucknow? A dozen functional flyovers are another achievement of my terms. They eased Lucknow traffic to a great extent. The BrahMos missile factory is established, textile park is made, new airport terminal is functional, new state-of-the-art and world class Gomti Nagar railway station is built.

Q: So what more after this, if you get another term?

A: I just mentioned 12 flyovers in Lucknow in place, and another 12 will come up in the next term. Also, the Lucknow Metro will get its second phase now. For people’s health and wellness, most of the public parks now have open air gyms. The remaining parks, too, will get those gyms. More development works will be undertaken.

Q: You had been the Union home minister, defence minister. What role do you see for yourself if the BJP returns to power?

A: Any role that is given to me, I will do. If I am asked to work at the district level, I will do it with joy. If I am asked to manage a block level function, I will do it with alacrity.

Q: A parting question...This time, you do not have any star power against you, like the film stars Poonam Sinha or Javed Jaffery who had contested the previous two polls against you?

A: (Laughs) Don’t know what went wrong with them this time.

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