Amit Shah says Lok Sabha elections third battle of Panipat, mocks rival

The Ram temple issue echoed and resonated at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national council meeting here on Friday with party president Amit Shah emphasising the commitment to build a “grand” Ram temple at the “same place”.

Over 10,000 BJP workers briefly interrupted Shah’s opening speech and raised slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top leaders watched. Shah managed to control the crowd by raising, in return, the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogan thrice.

Shah also equated the upcoming general elections with the third battle of Panipat between the Marathas and Afghan King Ahmed Shah Abdali. The defeat of the Marathas led to India facing “slavery” for 200 years, Shah added. Until then, they had won 131 battles, he pointed out, but lost the decisive one.

At the BJP conclave, the last such meeting before the parliamentary election, Shah said the summer election will be a battle of ideologies and will have a lasting impact for centuries, much like that battle.

In the course of Day 1 of the conclave, the party passed two resolutions, one on agriculture, and the other on the poor. Agrarian distress could be one of the BJP’s big challenges in the coming elections according to political analysts who consider it to be one of the factors that played a part in the party’s recent defeat in elections in three Hindi heartland states, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

In the agriculture resolution, the party reiterated its commitment to double farm income by 2022, and accused the Congress of misleading farmers with the promise of loan waivers.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh moved the resolution, listing out details of measures that the government has taken in the past four years to address issues in the farm sector. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis seconded the resolution. BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav said it was for the first time proper MSPs (minimum support prices) were offered for several crops.

“The national council appealed to the farmers to repose their trust in the leadership of Narendra Modi and elect him as the prime minister again in 2019 ,” Yadav said. In response to a question on whether farm distress led to the party’s defeat in the assembly elections, he said there were several reasons for party’s performance and that the BJP is analyzing them.

The BJP’ second resolution at the meeting highlighted the pro-poor schemes of the Narendra Modi government, and claimed that these have changed the lives of the poor. Moved by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, the resolution spoke about 10 % reservation for the economically weak in the general category. It also highlighted government schemes on electrification, the Ujjwala scheme (subsidised cylinders for poor households), food security, Ayushmaan Bharat (the health insurance scheme) and Jandhan Yojana (the financial inclusion scheme).

Analysts also say the BJP could face pressure from some of its own affiliates and associates over the issue of the Ram temple.

“The matter is in the Supreme Court and we want an early disposal of it….but the Congress is creating a hurdle,” Shah said on the temple issue. “But, do not have any confusion in your mind. We were committed to building a Ram temple through constitutional way and we remain committed to it,” he added.

The Supreme Court on Thursday, deferred a hearing in the Ayodhya case after Justice UU Lalit, one of the five judges of the Supreme Court constitution bench, recused himself after a lawyer pointed out that he appeared in a related case two decades ago. A new bench will be constituted before the next hearing on January 29, which will basically decide a schedule for the hearings. In an interview to news agency ANI early this month, Prime Minister Modi said an ordinance for temple can be considered only after the judicial process is over.

Shah described Modi as the “world’s most popular leader” and also the BJP’s “tallest leader” whose leadership was a big advantage that the party has over its rivals.

Shah said rivals who once refused to meet face to face have now come together, as they know that they can’t defeat Modi individually — a reference to the grand-alliance-in-the-making.

“We won 73 seats out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh. This time it will be 74, and not 72,” Shah said, adding that grand alliance of opposition will have no impact in the national election. His comments came a day ahead of a press conference called by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Lucknow during which they are expected to announce their alliance in Uttar Pradesh in the forthcoming parliamentary polls.

Shah tried to dismiss Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s graft charges against the Modi government and said the issues he has raised on the Rafale aircraft deal are baseless. Shah said somebody must have told Gandhi that the Congress could not face elections without levelling charges against the prime minister whose image, he added, remains unblemished.

Mocking Gandhi for his dare to attack the government on the issue of corruption, he said he and his mother Sonia Gandhi are out on bail in a case of graft, a reference to the National Herald case.

Referring to fugitive economic offenders Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya, he said they were “in comfort” during the UPA rule but were forced to flee when the Modi government came to power. “Chowkidar will bring all the thieves. It is only a matter of time. They will have to return the money pending against their names,” he said.

During the 2014 election campaign, Modi likened himself to a chowkidar (watchman) who would ensure there was no corruption.

He also felicitated Prime Minister Modi for two important decisions in less than a week – 10% quota for economically weaker sections in government jobs and college seats and the GST Council’s decision to double the limit for exemption from payment of goods and services tax (GST) to Rs 40 lakh, a move that will benefit small businesses.

“A quota for young people from the upper castes is one of the most important amendment in the constitution after it was made,” Shah said.

First Published: Jan 11, 2019 23:21 IST

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