BJP chief: Riot guilty will be punished

Indian opposition leader Rajnath Singh tells Al Jazeera that accused in Muzaffarnagar riots will be brought to book.

    BJP chief: Riot guilty will be punished
    Singh (wearing orange scarf) is contesting from Lucknow which votes today [Jay Mandal/ Al Jazeera]

    Less than 48 hours ahead of voting day in Lucknow, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh's house in the city was packed with cars and party workers.

    Singh, who is also contesting from Lucknow – the capital of northern state of Uttar Pradesh - in a freewheeling interview to Al Jazeera on Monday night spoke about his plans if he wins against the Congress party candidate Rita Bahuguna.

    He also spoke about the religious violence, which erupted between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar town of the state, and the recent charges of hate speech against Amit Shah, his fellow party man and key aide of the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

    Shah had exhorted Hindu Jats that the election was going to be for "honour and to take revenge against insult..." for which he was momentarily banned by India’s Election commission from campaigning. The ban was lifted after Shah conceded his mistake in a letter to the Commission and promised not to use "abusive and derogatory" language.

    Al Jazeera: How confident are you of winning?

    Rajnath Singh: One thousand percent. I am fully confident that I will enjoy the support of the common masses of this parliamentary constituency.

    Al Jazeera: What changes have you promised to voters in Lucknow?

    Singh: I have promised only this that after being a member of parliament I will chalk out a plan for the comprehensive development of Lucknow.

    Al Jazeera: Could you give a few examples of what that entails?

    Singh: There is a traffic problem here; there is a sewage problem here. There is a problem of pollution in the river Gomti, and Lucknow should be developed as a tourist centre.

    Al Jazeera: And what do you see as the urgent problems facing the country?

    Singh: Economic development, security, internal and external both and diplomatic issues. I can't say that this issue is more important than that one.

    Al Jazeera: Still, if you had to pick one?

    Singh: If we want to have economic development of the whole country then we have to make the whole system very transparent. Without transparency we cannot strengthen the economy.

    Al Jazeera: Lucknow is the constituency of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Do you feel the pressure to fill those shoes?

    Singh: No, no. There is no pressure. Today, I am having the absolute blessing of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and I am confident that with his blessing I will do my best to fulfil his aspirations regarding the development of Lucknow.

    Feature: BJP banks on ex-PM's legacy in Lucknow

    Al Jazeera: You have been telling that "I have never discriminated against the Muslims and I hope they will not discriminate against me in Lucknow". Could you elaborate?

    Singh: Not only against Muslims, but I have never had a feeling of discrimination between man to man.

    Al Jazeera: People believe that BJP is not friendly to minorities in India?

    Singh: This is a confusion created by our political opponents because they want to come to power by any means and their strategy is to create fear among the minorities.

    Al Jazeera: But there is a public perception that the BJP discriminates against minorities?

    Singh: It is a very wrong perception. And our political opponents have created that.

    Al Jazeera: In Muzaffarnagar, the BJP candidate has an FIR lodged against him in connection with the religious violence and Amit Shah was banned by the Election Commission for hate speech, and he also has an FIR lodged against him.

    Singh: (Interrupts) Our political opponents can lodge FIR against any worker. But the election commission has not banned rallies of Amit Shah. The Election Commission has given a clean chit [exonerated] to Amit Shah.

    Al Jazeera: You must have seen the video of what Amit Shah said at the Jat meeting. Did you not think those were inflammatory things to say?

    Singh: In a healthy democracy, I think, taking revenge can only be done through votes.

    Al Jazeera: But why should any political leader talk about taking revenge?

    Singh: He is from Gujarat. Everyone's dialect is a bit different (laughs).

    Al Jazeera: If you go to Muzaffarnagar today, you will see that once mixed villages of Jats and Muslims are now divided. If your party forms the next government what will you do to make peace?

    Singh: We will do our best to have a very cordial relationship between Hindus and Muslims.

    Al Jazeera: Can you give a specific example of what you will do to make things better?

    Singh: We will do justice to each and everyone. And whoever is guilty for the communal riot then he will be punished on both sides.

    Feature: Polls offer little hope for India's Muslims

    Al Jazeera: There is the perception of infighting within the BJP?

    Singh: That is a media creation.

    Al Jazeera: But it seems that some of veteran are not happy with Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, and present leaders have distanced themselves from him while campaigning.

    Singh: No, no. That is not correct. Our political opponents are doing the politics of BJP. And BJP is doing the politics of this country.

    Al Jazeera: But there have been indications that not everyone is happy with Modi's leadership?

    Singh: No. Everyone is very happy. I have taken decision for his projection as the prime ministerial candidate with each of my senior colleagues. There is no dissent.

    Al Jazeera: What are your plans for the polling day?

    Singh: I am not here. After casting the vote, I will go to Bihar, then West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, then Uttarakhand and then Uttar Pradesh.

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