With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s road show in Gujarat on March 12, the BJP has sounded the poll bugle, and the party’s top leadership has already been touring the state. Chief minister Bhupendra Patel spoke to News18 on the upcoming state assembly election and pressure to outperform in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah.
Q: Like Punjab, the Congress has ceded its space to other regional political parties. But Gujarat has till now been a bipolar election state. Do you think this will change in this election?
A: We have a concept of working for the last man in the queue and keep the most backward and downtrodden person in mind while making schemes and helping them. We have ensured that they get maximum benefits from government schemes such as the old age and widow pensions and ration. We are working hard to know whether beneficiaries have got the benefits. We have started an exercise where we are visiting houses to see what schemes can be implemented, and help them avail to the people who are not aware of them.
Q: What is the biggest scheme that can be a game changer in this assembly polls?
A: We are in Gujarat for quite some time. The concept of green energy and zero carbon rating is a big task, and is being worked upon. We have signed an MoU with Japan for electrical vehicles and batteries. We have signed another MoU worth Rs 5 lakh crore with Reliance as well for green energy. Our step towards green energy will ensure less dependence on petroleum.
Q: The Aam Aadmi Party is giving freebies, how are you going to counter that this election?
A: I, too, can give freebies. Look at the Rajasthan budget. Post Covid, the fiscal deficit ratio has been maintained at a low level. It should be equal or less than 3%. However, the central government has given a relaxation of 4.5% due to Covid. Despite this, the government’s fiscal deficit hasn’t touched 2% and neither have we shifted the burden on the people by increasing the tax. In non-BJP states, it has gone to 4.6%. This is a democratic set up.
Q: Gujarat has AAP posters along with the BJP’s. How big is the challenge?
A: Any party can contest elections, including the Aam Aadmi Party, but the BJP works round the clock for 365 days. It works every day with the public. The corporation elections gave us good results. Out of 44 municipal seats in Gandhinagar, the BJP got 41seats. This is for the first time that the BJP did do well there. PM Narendra Modi’s global approval rating is high. The kind of work he did during Covid is applauded worldwide. And our party ‘karyakartas’ were always with the people. They may not be with the people in their good times but in bad times it is only the BJP that had ‘karyakartas’ helping people in Covid.
Q: You spoke about the Gujarat model. This is PM Modi’s home state and you are in the seat that he held years ago. How much pressure do you feel about performing well?
A: PM Narendra Modi is unmatchable. ‘Narendra Bhai ek hi hain’ (There is only one Narendra Bhai). We have to work in his leadership and no one can work like him even globally. But whatever Narendra Modi did in the past, we have respect for him. He must have faced so many difficulties in starting this work. It has been made easier for us.
Q: What do you think of Gujarat minorities?
A: We don’t work like that. We work for everyone. The policies have been formed for everyone in the state, and no one will be spared if these are tempered with.
Q: In the last assembly election, the Congress gave a good fight to the BJP. Is the competition still strong?
A: Before any assembly election, there are local body polls, and today, we are in power in all local district panchayats. I don’t think there is any challenge. The BJP organisation and government work hand in hand to implement schemes at the grassroots.
Q: Is there any target set about seats for this assembly election?
A: There should be an opposition. I am a positive man and I talk about winning and not defeating others. If someone goes to some party, there should be some status he expects. Today, which is that one party? It is the BJP that has a status. It will not go anywhere.
Q: Will you give more tickets to fresh faces?
A: In my party, even the CM can’t say that his ticket is confirmed.
Q: On making Bhagavad Gita as part of the school curriculum and the government admitting in the assembly session that the sea plane project was closed. What is the status of that?
A: I, too, am studying and will speak later on Bhagavad Gita. The sea plane project will not be discontinued when we will start it again, I assure you.
Q: Any suggestion for Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for keeping Yamuna clean like the Sabarmati Riverfront?
A: PM Modi made the Sabarmati Riverfront a place that is for all to visit and marvel. The Delhi CM, too, can have a look at it.
Q: Were you disappointed that the defence expo was cancelled due to Covid-19?
A: Public health comes first and rest comes later.
Q: The BJP will be seeking a mandate for the sixth consecutive time. Are you worried about anti-incumbency?
A: The BJP has been coming back to power for the work it has been doing and, that is why, it should be rather easy for us.