Exclusive: 'Bharat nyay laws are the biggest reform in 160 years', says Amit Shah

Shah talked about the new laws, internal security situation, Lok Sabha polls and more

26-Amit-Shah Amit Shah | Sanjay Ahlawat

Exclusive Interview/ Amit Shah, Union Home Minister

As the sun finally broke through the clouds on a foggy winter morning in Delhi, we walked into the sprawling residence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, undeniably the country’s second-most powerful politician after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for an interaction.

The backbone of terrorism is broken in Jammu and Kashmir. J&K witnessed hundreds of stone pelting incidents in 2010, but not even one in 2023. The tourist footfalls are the highest in Kashmir.
Under the new laws, offences against women and children, criminal assault, slavery and forced labour are prioritised above offences against the state. All this reflects the citizen centric approach where justice is the fulcrum.
Timelines have been set for investigation, arrest, chargesheet, proceedings before magistrate, plea bargaining, appointment of assistant prosecutor, trial, bail, judgment, punishment and mercy petition.
The country has been suffering from terrorism for the last 40 years. now investigating agencies have a strong law to tackle such threats, which have been clearly defined.
The Union home ministry is talking to both the communities [in manipur] and holding meetings with all stakeholders. We are hoping the situation will return to normalcy soon.

Chairs were set in the open, invitingly, under a canopy of trees providing slight shade in Shah’s garden that had peacocks crooning, monkeys running at a distance, trees rustling and oranges peeping out of leaves that were proud to have borne fruit.

The coveted address—6 A Krishna Menon Marg—was once home to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who shifted here after leaving office in 2004.

Shah, who will turn 60 in October, walked out of his large white-washed Lutyens bungalow, which stood complementing the greenery all around, at the appointed hour. Atop all the three doors which opened onto the lawns were small photos of Dwarkadhish, the presiding deity of the eponymous temple in Dwarka, Gujarat. Clad in a woollen beige kurta and black sleeveless jacket, Shah sat with THE WEEK team for the next hour and a quarter, answering patiently our queries on the defining contribution of Prime Minister Modi, the three laws replacing the British-era criminal laws, the internal security situation, and, of course, the 2024 elections. “We will win with bigger margin and seats,” he said with confidence.

Shah took pains to answer the questions with candour and warmth, and soon enough the conversation was scattered with smiles, introspection, plain-speak and a sense of determination towards the well-being and success of the country. “The ability to be a good listener,” he said, “is a quality everyone can learn from the prime minister.”

Black coffee arrived for him but he barely took a few sips as the engrossing conversation sauntered from one topic to another, but took care to ask his staff to bring refreshments for us. The country has seen Shah in various avatars, as the aggressive president leading the BJP to become the world’s largest political party, expanding its reach to uncharted territories, as the home minister providing leadership to North Block to bring peace to Kashmir, the northeast, and the left-wing extremism prone regions, steering the deeply contentious legislation repealing Article 370, bringing the Citizenship Amendment Act and now the three new laws.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

PTI02_04_2024_000084A Paradise reclaimed: Tourists at Patnitop in Jammu and Kashmir on Feb 4, 2024 | PTI

Q/ How do you assess the 10 years of the Narendra Modi government?

A/ Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, there was despondency, especially among youth, about the country’s future. Corruption was rampant in every sphere. Internal and external security was lax. Women felt unsafe. India’s economy was lagging behind. Everyone felt the India story was over. Policy paralysis was visible.

Now, look back at ten years of the Modi government. We have become the fifth largest economy and the world expects India to become the third largest economy by 2030. The success of the G20 summit, with the unanimous Delhi declaration that came in the midst of diverging global opinions, is a big victory for PM Modi’s diplomacy.

Internal and external security has strengthened manifold. Forty new policies have been brought in, including the new education policy, which will take the country to greater heights in the next 25 years. PM Modi’s slogan of Viksit Bharat has been adopted by the citizens as their own; 23 crore people have come above the poverty line; 80 crore have got houses, electricity, drinking water, toilets, ration, health facilities and respect.

33-The-Supreme-Court Time for justice: The Supreme Court | Arvind Jain

We are marching ahead, with digital revolution and cooperatives boosting rural economy. The collective self-confidence, which hit rock bottom before 2014, is at its peak today and the entire world looks at us with hope.

Q/ What are the main achievements of the Union home ministry?

A/ Under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi, a lot of work has been done in the home ministry in the last 10 years. We have adopted a zero-tolerance policy against narcotics and, in next 3-4 years, we will have full control over the menace. The three main terror hotspots—Kashmir, the northeast and left-wing extremism—have seen 68 per cent decline in violence. More than 9,000 armed militants have surrendered in the northeast, left-wing extremism is breathing its last, and the backbone of terrorism is broken in Jammu and Kashmir.

J&K witnessed hundreds of stone pelting incidents in 2010, but not even one in 2023. The tourist footfalls are the highest in Kashmir. The Muharram procession was carried out after nearly 30 years in Srinagar. Cinema halls have opened and investments are coming.

Since 2019, several changes have taken place, like removal of the colonial laws, strengthening of anti-terror laws like UAPA, and repeal of Article 370. The passage of the three new criminal laws in Parliament in 2023 to create a new Indian criminal justice system sheds the vestiges of the colonial past and is the biggest reform in 160 years.

124036623 Ground zero: NIA officers collect evidence from the scene of a bombing in Delhi | Getty Images

Q/ How will the new criminal laws ensure speedy delivery of justice?

A/ The objective of the three criminal laws is to achieve justice as envisaged in the Constitution. As PM Modi said, these laws are framed with the spirit of “Citizen first, dignity first and justice first”. It brings an end to the slave mentality brought by the British Raj, and the police will work with data instead of dand (punishment).

We have adopted a three-pronged approach to ensure speedy delivery of justice and timelines have been added in 35 sections of the new laws at various stages of police investigation, prosecution and judiciary. Timelines have been set for investigation, arrest, chargesheet, proceedings before magistrate, plea bargaining, appointment of assistant prosecutor, trial, bail, judgment, punishment and mercy petition.

Use of technology and forensics has been given thrust to ensure transparency, accountability and to improve the quality of evidence during police investigations. Under the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, a complaint received through electronic communication will be taken on record as FIR within three days. There will be audio/video recording of the evidence, which will be produced before the magistrate immediately. From FIR to case diary, chargesheet and judgment, the entire process is digitised. Forensic evidence collection on the crime scene has been made mandatory in offences attracting a jail term of seven years or more. This will ensure the prosecution has scientific evidence, which in turn will speed up the entire process.

I would also like to point out that in cases related to sexual assault, it has been made mandatory to submit the medical examination report within seven days. Similarly, in all criminal cases, within 45 days after the hearing is complete, judgment has to be delivered.

India China Border Standoff Temporary relief: Chinese troops dismantling bunkers in disputed territory as part of India and China pulling back frontline troops | AP

I am confident that once the new laws are completely implemented, any citizen who lodges an FIR will be able to get justice within three years. Delays in the criminal justice system will become a thing of the past.

Q/ You have said that the new criminal justice system is not ‘punishment centric’ but ‘justice-centric’. How will ‘justice for all’ be achieved?

A/ The Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act were brought more than 150 years ago by the British to consolidate their rule, and not to dole out justice to the citizens of India. Therefore, they created a punishment (dand) centric system and named it “penal code’’. The priority of the British Raj was to punish citizens to protect the British crown, which is why offences like looting the treasury or attacks on the railways gained precedence. But that isn’t the case today. We have called it Nyay Sanhita, or justice centric, and the laws are based on the spirit of the Constitution focusing on citizens’ right to access justice, equality before law and justice for all. Under the new laws, offences against women and children, criminal assault, slavery and forced labour are prioritised above offences against the state. All this reflects the citizen centric approach where justice is the fulcrum.

One simple example can explain the point I am making. Earlier, there was no provision for community service in our laws. But, for the first time, we have incorporated it into our criminal laws in cases of six different petty crimes. This provision itself pronounces the purpose of the laws, which is delivering justice as per the Indian philosophy of justice and not merely punishing. PM Modi is determined to make justice accessible and affordable to all.

Q/ Is the government ready to roll out the new criminal laws?

A/ The notification will be issued by the Union home ministry soon. But it will take 5-6 months for the state governments, police and judiciary to prepare for it. The focus is on administrative preparedness, technological upgradation and building up forensic capabilities. A lot has been done, but more work is needed. The police, prosecution and judiciary also need to undergo training, and the process is going on. The aim is to transform the Indian police into a modern and world class force.

Taking charge: Shah holds a security review meeting in Manipur | PTI Taking charge: Shah holds a security review meeting in Manipur | PTI

Q/ The new laws also provide for a separate scheme to protect the witnesses.

A/ See, if the witness in a case feels threatened, then it has serious bearing on the right of the victim to get justice. So we have entrusted the state government with the responsibility of securing the witness through a notified Witness Protection Scheme. Under this scheme, there will be separate provision to meet the court expenses of the witness.

Q/ The new laws have made provisions to bring erring public servants to book.

A/ Earlier it was extremely difficult to prosecute civil servants as the permission to go ahead with it would never arrive. But we have made a provision under which the courts will have the right to proceed with it if the permission to prosecute is not granted within 120 days.

Q/ How do the new laws seek to make the police more accountable?

A/ The new laws have adequate provisions to secure the citizens from any foul play. The police have to video-record all search and seizure operations. They will be bound to provide information about arrested persons to their family members.

They will have to present arrested persons within 24 hours of the arrest. There are more than 20 sections that will ensure police accountability. Moreover, for the first time, the law mandates preliminary enquiry before registering an FIR, which will be another shield against any possible misuse of law.

Q/ The law also makes provisions to contain organised crimes.

A/ Although organised crime is a popular term in our public discourse, our laws did not have any section to deal with it. We have added a provision to deter organised crimes and have also made syndicates illegal.

The goal of this new provision is to curb the inter-state gangs. Now, abduction, robbery, car theft, extortion, prostitution, and engaging children in beggary and human trafficking can also be tried as organised crimes.

I would like to add here that we have also defined economic offences in these laws. Breach of trust in financial matters and forgery of bank notes, currency notes and government tickets will be tried as economic offences.

Q/ How are provisions related to zero-FIR and e-FIR adding to the convenience of the victim?

A/ Apart from convenience, these provisions provide security to the victims. Sometimes the culprits keep tabs on the movements of the victims and exert force on them to prevent them from visiting the police station. But zero-FIR provides the victim with the liberty to file the complaint at the police station of her choice. It also secures the victims of sexual offences from the agony of travelling to the police station to file the complaint and provides them with the facility to do the same from the security of their homes.

Q/ How does the provision to create a separate directorate of prosecution help people receive timely justice?

A/ Let us take it differently. Suppose a victim loses a case due to foul play by the police or the court. If the victim decides to appeal against the verdict the same people who deprived her of justice decide on her appeal. She is bound to face deprivation again. Therefore we have provided for an independent body called the directorate of prosecution to decide whether the grievance merits an appeal.

The law provides for the office of the directorate of prosecution in every state in three separate tiers. The first tier will be formed by the director of prosecution who will adjudicate cases with a 10-year jail term or more and the cases that involve the death penalty.

The second tier will be led by a deputy director of prosecution who will judge cases with seven to ten years of jail term.

The third is the office of the assistant director of prosecution which will decide on the cases with less than seven years of jail term.

Q/ How do the new laws make it compulsory for judges to deliver justice on time?

A/ The new laws provide for a uniform justice system. Apart from providing speedy justice, the new justice system will function in a coordinative approach. To ensure that, the posts of third class magistrate, metropolitan magistrate and assistant sessions judge have been abolished. In their place, there will be four types of judges now. They are second class judicial magistrate, first class judicial magistrate, sessions judge and executive magistrate. Moreover, judges will have to pass judgment within 30 days after the argument is over.

Q/ It was always said that we have enough laws, but not enough implementation.

A/ If you look at the three laws, there are provisions for implementation. I want to assure the readers of THE WEEK that after the implementation of these laws, our criminal justice system will be the best in the world. The technological advancements for the next 100 years will get covered as these laws are futuristic in nature. Today, 99.9 per cent police stations in the country have been linked online under a common application software of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems for the purpose of investigation, data analytics and research, and it operates in local languages. The Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) project has successfully made provisions for eCourts, ePrisons and forensic labs, and now all these platforms are being linked together for seamless data sharing and effective and timely delivery of justice. PM Modi believes that only a scientific judicial system can lead us to swift, affordable and accessible justice.

Q/ What steps are being taken to modernise the criminal justice system and increase conviction rate?

A/ Under the new laws, investigation will be based on scientific methods to ensure speed, transparency and accountability. Use of forensics is being made mandatory in all states and Union territories and necessary infrastructure is being created within the next five years. The use of artificial intelligence in policing is being encouraged. Not only will the quality of evidence improve, but the rights of both the victim and the accused will be protected. This is a positive step towards modernising the criminal justice system. The aim is to achieve a target of at least 90 per cent conviction rate. After five years, India’s criminal justice system will be the most modern system in the world.

Q/ There is some apprehension about the Hindi names given to the new criminal laws, especially in the southern states.

A/ We should not look at national reforms from the narrow prism of language. We are using Indian languages for Indian laws. Let us introspect on our own hypocrisy: we are ready to accept the language of invaders who came to India from far-off lands, but not ready to accept our own Indian languages. I don’t think it is correct. If some people want to draw political mileage by making such statements, it is their choice. But the fact is that there exist in the country many laws that already have Hindi names, given by those opposing the names of the new criminal laws today. Those laws were framed when the Congress, the DMK or other parties were in power.

Q/ There is worry that citizens can now be booked for “desh droh”(anti-national) activities instead of “raj droh’’ (sedition under IPC) for speaking against the government.

A/ Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Veer Savarkar were put in jail on charges of sedition by the British. The British concept of sedition continued even after independence to punish anyone who spoke against the government. But now we have abolished this law. Under the new laws, “desh droh” has been clearly defined as acts endangering the unity, integrity, sovereignty, security or economic security of the country. No one can be booked for speaking against the government or any leader under the new laws. If there are concerns about misuse of the law, what is the judiciary there for? I believe the legislature has done its job well in framing the laws and there is no confusion on what constitutes “desh droh”.

The provision of “desh droh” has a sentence of seven years or a lifelong jail term.

Q/ How will fugitives of law, including economic offenders, be brought to justice?

A/ For the first time, we have brought in a provision of ‘trial in absentia’ and I believe it is a revolutionary step. Till now, many criminals used to commit economic offences or terrorist acts and escape from the country. In such cases, the trial did not happen because they were not caught. But now, after the due process of issuing warrants and public notices, the government can appoint a lawyer and begin a trial in absentia against them in court. The person against whom the trial is being conducted has the right to appeal against it, but he has to come to court. Don’t the victims of terror deserve justice? I feel once the trial in absentia is complete and the accused are convicted by court, it will become easier to bring the proclaimed offenders back to the country to face the law. It is one thing to be viewed as an accused, but another thing to be seen as a convict by the world.

Any absconder accused of a crime with a punishment of a 10-year jail term or more, or the death penalty, can be declared a proclaimed offender by the court. The laws also provide for the seizure of property acquired by the offender in foreign land. During the Modi government no one who cheats Bharat will be spared.

Q/ Recently, the NIA’s national terrorists’ database was inaugurated. What does it entail?

A/ We have created several online databases like the database on narco offenders; on offenders in cases of crimes against women; on terrorists under the Integrated Monitoring of Terrorism (i-MOT); on economic offenders, banking frauds; on crime and criminal-related fingerprints under the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System which will be made available to all police stations in the country under the new laws. This will ensure that any fingerprints recovered from a crime scene need to be matched online and the suspect’s name and picture will be displayed on the screen within a few minutes. Today, we have more than 15 databases. Now the process is on to use Artificial Intelligence to correlate them to bolster the capacity to tackle internal security threats.

Q/ How are you addressing privacy concerns arising out of data sharing for intelligence purposes like in the National Intelligence Grid?

A/ No personal or private details of common citizen are being shared in any of the databases. Only the data of convicted accused will be part of the database. Similarly, with eFIRs becoming a reality, those persons against whom FIRs have been registered will become part on the database.

Q/ Big tech like Google and Facebook don’t have servers in India, which is creating hurdles in investigations. What is the government doing to overcome these hurdles?

A/ We need to find ways to deal with it right now but we are also looking at long-term solutions. The global giants take decisions based on business opportunities and India is definitely a big market. I believe we will find a solution to it.

Q/ There is growing worry about deep fakes and misuse of AI. How are you tackling it?

A/ The new laws have provisions to tackle cyber crimes. Technology is constantly evolving, which gives rise to newer crimes and we are covering all such cyber security threats under the new laws.

Q/ There is still multiplicity of agencies and lack of accountability in handling cyber attacks. Is there a thinking to create a national architecture for cyber security?

A/ The government is thinking about it, but it has not taken any concrete shape yet.

Q/ There are stringent provisions against mob lynching in the new laws. Why is it necessary?

A/ The word mob lynching has been distorted to target the BJP government and defame it by giving it a communal overtone. Maximum cases of mob lynching happen in villages when a thief is caught or when women accused of practising witchcraft are tortured, often to death, or in cases of love marriage where the boy/girl is lynched. Acts of mob lynching related to religion are few but the pseudo-secular people have used it to accuse the BJP. It is the BJP government which has brought a law to punish mob lynching, with imprisonment from seven to ten years. We have also given a legal definition of mob lynching. It is PM Modi’s vision to ensure justice to each and everyone.

Q/ How do the new laws strike a balance between bail provisions and rights of victims?

A/ The new laws have made the bail provisions liberal, where the maximum duration of detention for a first time offender has been reduced. First time offenders can get bail after serving one-third of the maximum sentence. So, it gives relief to such people. Only in cases of heinous offences or a terrorist act have the bail provisions been made strict. At the same time, the laws have been made victim centric as FIRs can be filed online from anywhere; zero-FIRs have been institutionalised and the victim can get information on the progress of investigation within 90 days.

Q/ Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is under control. Has the threat shifted to China borders?

A/ It is not important who is threatening the sovereignty and integrity of India, but whoever poses a threat to the country will be dealt with an iron hand. No one should be able to pose a threat to the country. Which is why, for the first time, we have defined terrorism under the new criminal laws.

The country has been suffering from the scourge of terrorism for the last 40 years, but there was no clear definition of terrorism and it was being dealt under normal laws. But now investigating agencies have a strong law to tackle such threats, which have been clearly defined under acts of terrorism. The Modi government is firmly committed to rooting out terrorism from the country.

Emboldening PM Modi’s policy of zero-tolerance on terrorism, the new law will punish terrorists with a death sentence or a lifelong jail term. I would also like to add that acts threatening the unity, integrity, sovereignty, security or financial security of the nation will be seen as terrorist acts by the law.

Q/ Don’t you think it is time to resolve the India-China border dispute?

A/ It is a long-standing dispute. There is no clear demarcation of border that is acceptable to both sides. Both countries have differing perceptions on it. Given that it is a complex issue and the pace of dialogue has been particularly slow, it is very difficult to set a time frame to resolve the border dispute. But one thing is clear. Under the Modi government we won’t allow even an inch of land which belongs to us to be given away to anyone. There is no doubt about that.

Q/ How are you focusing on last mile connectivity in border villages?

A/ Seventy per cent of all border infrastructure works in the country have taken place in the last ten years under the leadership of PM Modi. This was not given priority by the previous government. The Vibrant Village Programme is going to be a game changer. Nearly 662 border villages have been identified and Rs4,000 crore is being spent to transform them into model villages by providing livelihood to people, building infrastructure, jobs and connectivity. This is in line with the prime minister’s vision to bring 100 per cent saturation of nearly 350 government schemes in the border villages. For example, we are ensuring that food and groceries provided to our border guarding forces are grown locally and not transported from the headquarters. This is bringing huge benefit to farmers and bringing the hearts closer. PM Modi has ensured that no one is left out of Bharat’s saga of development.

Modi-ji will form the government with more than 370 seats. This time the NDA will win more seats and a higher voting percentage than in our last two victories.

Q/ There is talk about fencing the India-Myanmar border.

A/ We have decided to fence the porous India-Myanmar border, and the survey is going on.

Q/ The Union home ministry’s crackdown on NGOs receiving foreign funding has created a sense of fear in civil society. How are you addressing it?

A/ The Union home ministry will crack down on any organisation which is flouting the provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. I am ready to listen to all grievances if anyone can claim that despite following all the procedures and rules, their FCRA registration has been cancelled. The Union home ministry has done due diligence by issuing show-cause notices, conducting audits and sending fresh notices but when there is no response, the home ministry has no option but to cancel their registration. I think all NGOs, small or big, need to follow the law. During the Modi government the law of the land is of supreme importance.

modi-shah2 PM Modi with Amit Shah | Arvind Jain

Q/ Manipur remains disturbed. What went wrong?

A/ The issue in Manipur emerged because of ethnic reasons. The northeast, including Manipur, has a long history of ethnic violence, violence arising out of cultural or area domination. Once it begins, it goes on for a long time. But this time our central paramilitary forces were successful in bringing it under control soon. Stray incidents of violence are taking place even today, which is a matter of grave concern and the Union home ministry is talking to both the communities and holding meetings with all stakeholders. We are hoping the situation will return to normalcy soon.

Q/ There is talk that Manipur violence is communal.

A/ People doing politics or propaganda can say anything. But the ground reality is that it is ethnic violence.

Q/ Assembly elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir this year. Do you think the peace dividend can be lost if regional parties come back to power?

A/ There should be no such fear regarding polls. Also, why do you presume that one of the three parties will come to power? Someone else can also come to power.

Q/ Will the BJP be open to alliance with any party in J&K?

A/ The election dates have not been announced and it would be improper to talk about alliance at this stage. The assembly polls will be held as per the directions of the Supreme Court (to the Election Commission). I have already assured in Parliament that statehood of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored at an appropriate time.

Q/ States like Kerala and West Bengal withdrew general consent to the CBI to take up cases. Does the fight against corruption get impacted when agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate face hurdles in states?

A/ Hurdles definitely come in the way but we should not think of changing the processes for it. These are temporary roadblocks because the public understands the reality. We have full faith that the people of this country will not side with corrupt politicians. I am optimistic on this front.

Q/ Has the Governor shared reports with you on law and order in West Bengal?

A/ I cannot discuss the Governor’s report with you. But one thing I can tell you is that the law and order situation in West Bengal is not good. It is one state where maximum political violence takes place. It has the maximum incidents of lawlessness, political violence, unrest and infiltration.

Q/ When can we expect the census to be held followed by delimitation? Will population be the criterion for delimitation?

A/ The census exercise will be held after the Lok Sabha polls. After the completion of the census, delimitation can be done. I have already said in Parliament that states need not worry about the process as all concerns will be addressed when delimitation takes place. Not only will the concerns of the southern states be addressed, but they will also be protected.

Q/ After the ban on the Popular Front of India, do you see a difference in states like Kerala that have seen radicalisation?

A/ The Popular Front of India is a hardcore anti-national outfit engaged in anti-national activities, threatening the unity and sovereignty of the country and propagating a radical narrative. The outfit was banned based on mounting evidence against it. In a democratic country, it is not so easy to ban any outfit unless there is concrete evidence. The ban was challenged in court, but it could sustain. The ban on the PFI has brought under control fundamentalist activities that fuel the terror ecosystem, thwarting such threats to a large extent.

Q/ Politics in India has changed in the last ten years; cultural and civilisational issues dominate now. Can we call it a journey from ‘discovery of India’ to ‘rediscovery of Bharat’?

A/ I don’t agree to the use of the term ‘discovery of India’ or ‘rediscovery of India’. People who know Bharat will not use this. The country is in sync with its glorious past today through [the construction of] Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, which in itself showcases the rising self-confidence of the country to the world.

Q/ What is the message of the Ram Temple to the country and the world at large?

A/ The consecration of the Ram Temple was the fulfilment of a centuries-old dream. Despite this monumental victory, no sense of acrimony occupied space in the public discourse. Instead, Modi-ji created an atmosphere of bhakti (devotion); there was no frenzy or triumphalism. There was no question of anyone being small or big. Even though it was a contentious issue for the last 500 years, it was executed in an atmosphere of peace, sacredness and spirituality.

Q/ Will this help the BJP in the upcoming elections?

A/ I think it will benefit the country more. Whenever the collective consciousness of 140 crore people is awakened, when the self-confidence is awakened, it helps the country.

Q/ What is the reason for the BJP’s confidence?

A/ There has been a fundamental change in the country. The country could not think of going to the moon, or building a new Parliament. It could not imagine turning the Rajpath into Kartavya Path. The self-confidence of the country has been regenerated. A strong faith in Modi-ji’s leadership has been created. Ten years of the Modi government have been the best the country has seen in the last 70 years―on all fronts, be it national security, poverty alleviation or diplomacy. India’s respect has grown in the world. India has performed well in all sectors. The world is in awe that 130 crore people have been vaccinated twice and there has been no complaint and everyone got a certificate. Even developed countries are surprised at the digital economic transformation in a country known for its poverty. We are doing digital transactions at a record level.

Q/ So, a hat-trick in 2024 is a foregone conclusion, just as the prime minister has said?

A/ Yes, it is. Modi-ji will form the government with more than 370 seats. This time the NDA will win more seats and a higher voting percentage than in our last two victories.

Q/ You aim to better Rajiv Gandhi’s record of 404 seats in the Lok Sabha?

A/ Do not get into numbers. Our victory will be bigger than the last two.

Q/ The BJP appears to have initiated a generational change as it installed new chief ministers in three states. Will newcomers get preference in the allotment of tickets for the Lok Sabha polls?

A/ It (change of CMs) is not a general policy. It is done looking at the situation in each state. Every party does it (for picking candidates). It is natural. We will also do it.

Q/ In these elections, ‘Modi Guarantee’ has emerged as a key slogan. What is the idea behind it?

A/ Modi Guarantee means that 80 crore people who were earlier neglected by the governments have gained after 75 years of independence. This neglected population was given houses, gas, power, food, water, medicines. Their living standards improved, so too their economic condition. Modi Guarantee means that everyone in this country has a right to live a good life, which is the spirit of our Constitution.

Q/ In Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been oscillating between two ideological poles. How do you look at his somersaults? The BJP doesn’t appear to have a choice.

A/ You are addressing the question to the wrong person. It should be addressed to him. He has to decide where he wants to be.

Q/ Are there chances for the return of your other former allies like the Akali Dal, TDP and AIADMK?

A/ There are definitely chances. We can think about it. We don’t have an objection.

Q/ How do you look at the INDIA alliance?

A/ You are calling a photo an alliance. In which state have they been able to form an alliance before or after INDIA alliance came into being? What happened in Kerala? Has it happened in Bengal? It broke in Bihar. It has already been broken in Maharashtra. It is not happening in Delhi or Punjab. Where is the alliance?

Q/ It happened in Chandigarh.

A/ It was not a poll alliance. It was an alliance for sharing power. It was formed among the elected members to get a mayor elected.

Q/ How do you look at Rahul Gandhi’s yatra? He is trying to project it as an ideological battle with the BJP as he talks about mohabbat ki dukaan.

A/ What is the ideology in it? The BJP has governments in 12 states and NDA in 18 states. The Congress is only in three states. We have been in power in Gujarat for the last 32 years; 20 in Madhya Pradesh; in Assam and Uttar Pradesh for seven years; in Tripura for six years. What has happened in these states? People understand the hollow words (about mohabbat ki dukaan). It’s been 10 years since Modi-ji has been in power. What has happened? Only good things.

Q/ As Central agencies are investigating corruption charges against Hemant Soren and Arvind Kejriwal, there are allegations that it is political vendetta.

A/ Anyone who fears political vendetta should take protection from court and not hold press conferences. But our fight against corruption will not slow down because of these allegations.

Q/ The BJP has grown massively. How do you look at the future of other regional parties and even the Congress?

A/ In a democracy, only two sets of people can decide the future of a party. One, its workers, and two, the public. No other person can do it. Everyone should try to earn the faith of the public, make efforts to consistently improve themselves.

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Q/ What is your advice to Rahul Gandhi?

A/ He belongs to the Congress; why should I advise him?

Q/ Though the economy is going strong, the opposition says the government has not been able to create jobs.

A/ Job creation has been good, but, unfortunately, the left-oriented economists have termed jobs as government jobs. In a country of 140 crore, not everyone can be given a government job. The entire country understands it. These economists don’t consider self-employment as jobs. So many startups have been created, infrastructure worth 010 lakh crore has been created. Who is building it, robots?

Q/ When will the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) be implemented?

A/ The CAA will be implemented soon. There is no reason not to implement it as it was passed by Parliament. The opposition is trying to mislead. But no one, especially the minorities, fears the CAA because it is not for the minorities. Secondly, it is not a law to take away anyone’s citizenship, but to give it. It makes provisions for people who have faced religious persecution after partition and want to shift to India.

Q/ Uttarakhand is bringing a Uniform Civil Code. Will UCC be implemented by BJP-ruled states first, and not at the national level?

A/ The committee formed by the Uttarakhand government has submitted its report. The state will bring it in the assembly. UCC is part of our Constitution. Our founding fathers included it in the Constitution, under Article 44. The Constitution has been signed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, B.R. Ambedkar, Rajendra Prasad. If someone calls it communal, then I don’t have an answer for it.

Q/ There are a lot of misconceptions about how BJP governments are handling ‘love jihad’.

A/ Anyone can go to court for their freedom and their family’s freedom. There are laws for it.

Q/ Minorities have a lot of concerns and a feeling of insecurity.

A/ Is there a concrete incident for this insecurity? If the media doesn’t create a sense of insecurity, then there will be no insecurity. If there is a concrete incident, then it is our responsibility to give an answer.

Q/ There is a move to get control over the mosques in Kashi and Mathura and build temples.

A/ The claim has been going on for years. No one has come to the government. It is happening in the courts. These are not present-day claims. Even the Ram Janmabhoomi claims have been there since we got independence.

Q/ Is there any chance of advancing the Lok Sabha polls?

A/ I don’t think the election commission would have any right to hold them early; we don’t do any such thing. Elections will happen on time.

Q/ The BJP has increased its vote share in the recent assembly polls in Telangana. How do you see the BJP’s prospects in the southern states in the Lok Sabha polls?

A/ We will perform better in Telangana, Karnataka and some parts of Tamil Nadu. You must understand that we move ahead by building on our organisational strength. It takes time. We are penetrating into the south and will do well in the coming years. Modi-ji is immensely popular in Telangana.

Q/ What is holding back the BJP in Kerala? It is still not able to get seats.

A/ When Kerala’s electorate gets upset with one party, they vote for the other party. The problem is that we are in the third position. But at some point of time, people will get bored with voting for one or the other party, and they may then give a chance to the third party. I have this confidence.

Q/ The RSS has been active in Kerala and has a base. But this does not translate to political gains for the BJP.

A/ It may appear so, but our voting percentage has increased, our presence has increased. I am confident that we will open our account.

Q/ The BJP was reaching out to the Christian community in Kerala. But happenings in Manipur have caused some anxiety.

A/ We are reaching out in all the states. In Manipur, the situation is not religious. Many Christian leaders have been to Manipur. I have also met them. They also said it was not a religious problem but an ethnic one.

Q/ Are there chances of other parties joining hands with the BJP in Kerala?

A/ They can get associated with us.

Q/ There is a perception in Kerala that the BJP and the CPI(M) have some understanding as the chief minister is facing many cases, yet there is no action against him.

A/ The people who understand the BJP would not have any such doubt. We cannot have any truck with the communists at any level. We have taken the matter (against the CM) to court. They are trying to evade, but for how long? When there is some action, you call it political vendetta, and when nothing happens, you ask why we aren’t doing anything. But know for sure that the Modi government will continue to follow a zero-tolerance policy on corruption.

Q/ Even after becoming home minister, you have continued to devote a lot of time for organisational work. How do you balance such a hectic schedule?

A/ For me, working for the party is like breathing. I have become what I am because of the party. If you take the party out of my life, you will find a vacuum, a big zero. You won’t find anything else. Whatever role I may have, working for the party is my first dharm (duty). And it is my party’s first dharm to work for the nation.

Q/ How do you relax?

A/ I read a lot.

Q/ Have you had any disappointing experience in the last 10 years?

A/ We all have some disappointments in public life. I want to stress that ever since our party was formed we have not hidden our ideology. We have been taking our ideology to the people for years and we kept on losing elections, yet we did not change our ideology. We have been going on with our ideology and managed to convince the people. We got full majority twice. People will have to agree that we gave a good government and the country has progressed in every sector. Yet, some people do not make an effort to recognise the good things in our ideology, which makes me sad. It shouldn’t happen.

Q/ You have worked closely with Prime Minister Modi. Can you describe his personal attributes?

A/ There are many things. He works very hard and treats everyone as equal. One thing I want to tell THE WEEK readers is that I have not seen any other person who has such an ability to listen. He is a great listener.