Cong’s claim of south being alien territory for BJP is hogwash: Shehzad

Speaking to The Statesman in an exclusive interview, the BJP spokesperson said his party has been responsible to take 25 crore people of the country out of poverty.

Cong’s claim of south being alien territory for BJP is hogwash: Shehzad

Photo: BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla in conversation with The Statesman

BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla underlined a strong pro-incumbency factor in favour of the saffron party and said ‘abki baar, 400 paar’ will be a reality this general election.

“The BJP forming the government in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan again is the result of the strong pro-incumbency factor in favour of the party. We are being voted back after many years of the party rule clearly indicates that we are a hit with the people. Abki baar, 400 paar will be a reality,” he said.

Speaking to The Statesman in an exclusive interview, the BJP spokesperson said his party has been responsible to take 25 crore people of the country out of poverty. He said the Narendra Modi government at the Centre doubled the rate of construction of highways and airports as well as brought tap water connections and toilets to rural households.


Asked about the unemployment and inflation rates prevalent in the country, Poonawalla quoted the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report. “The NSSO report recently stated that the unemployment rate for individuals aged 15 years and above in urban areas decreased to 6.8 per cent during January-March 2023 from 8.2 per cent a year ago,” he said.

“The Congress is no party to lecture us on jobs or inflation. During the UPA government, the average inflation rate was 10 per cent from 2010 to 2014, today it is only 5.5 per cent. The Congress has been unable to reduce VAT (value added tax) on petrol and diesel in the party-ruled states. In Delhi, VAT on alcohol has been cut but increased on petrol,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader also hit back at the Congress over the north-south debate.

“The Congress’ statement that south is an alien territory for the BJP is a hogwash. The BJP has more MPs in the south than the Congress. Does the DMK (INDIA bloc partner) have any presence in Telangana or Kerala? We have a government in Puducherry. We are the leader of the opposition in Karnataka.

“In the south, the BJP offers something different that these traditional parties do not. The Congress and its partners are like the coronavirus and its sub-variants,” he said.

What does he say about the BJP opening its doors to opposition leaders whom they were criticizing in the first place?

“If someone feels that they were on the wrong path, should not one give them an opportunity to come to a side which puts the nation first? I think everyone deserves that chance,” he said.

Poonawalla also talked about the allegations leveled by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) against the BJP of sending Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal behind the bars in the excise policy case.

“AAP claims that it is a threat to the BJP and that is why the Modi government has jailed most of its leaders. It is a joke. In 2019 elections, the AAP polled less than NOTA votes. Even in Delhi, the party does not have the guts to fight the BJP on the seven seats. That is why they gave half the seats to the Congress, ” he asked.

He also took potshots at AAP’s Rajya Sabha member Raghav Chadha for being away from the national capital when his party is in the dock. “He (Raghav) is abroad, getting photographed with people who advocate separatism. Eye treatment is just an excuse,” he said.

The firebrand BJP leader also hit out at the opposition for making “vile comments” against the party’s women contestants.

“The ‘kupriya’ (mean) Supriya Shrinate made disparaging comments against BJP’s Mandi candidate Kangana Ranaut. Did Priyanka Gandhi Vadra issue any statement on it or the Sandeshkhali incident? The Congress has no respect for women,” he said.

Poonawalla also reacted to the opposition’s claim of his party neglecting the Manipur situation. He said the BJP has done more for the northeast than any other political player. “The Bodo and Naga accords, resolution of the Assam-Meghalaya land dispute, construction of many airports and highways, are all a testimony of people’s faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.

On whether Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is a serious challenger to the prime minister’s post, he said, “Once political strategist Prashant Kishor said Gandhi should take a break from politics. I would say it was half the advice, he should take ‘sanyas’ from politics.”

Asked if the promise of conducting a caste census will be a game changer for the Congress, the BJP spokesman said the opposition party is only employing the ‘divide and rule’ strategy with such a proposal.

“The Congress is going back to its original strategy of divide and rule. Their own government in the past had opposed the Mandal commission and refused to release its report. The party which coined ‘Na jaath par na paath par, mohar lagegi hath par’ is now talking on caste lines. Why is the party not conducting such a survey in the states ruled by it?

“The BJP has never opposed caste census, only Mamata Banerjee-led TMC has come out against it,” he added.