99 percent people agreeable to chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’: Amit Shah

New Delhi: Signalling a tough line on the issue of chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ despite controversies, BJP chief Amit Shah on Thursday said 99 percent people were agreeable to hailing ‘Mother India’ with the slogan and the party would “convince” the rest.

Speaking at a conclave here, Shah justified the government’s action on the JNU row, insisting that some people deciding to hold a programme to commemorate Afzal Guru’s death anniversary in itself is “anti-national”.

In his over an hour interaction, the BJP president expressed confidence of that BJP will form a government in Assam but reacted cautiously about its prospects in other states, saying the party will work to increase its influence and play a role in government formation in these states.

Responding to a number of questions on the controversy surrounding the issue of chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, Shah said that the particular slogan was in vogue even before RSS and the BJP came into picture.

“99 percent of people agree with the slogan. This debate is irrelevant. Those who do not want to chant this should be asked what is their problem with this slogan. We will convince the one percent people, who do not want to chant it,” Shah said but declined to answer how will the BJP go about it. “You leave it to us, how will we do it,” he said.

When asked whether MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who said he would not raise the chant hailing ‘Mother India’ “even if a knife is put to my throat”, is a traitor, he said,” No one becomes a traitor due to just one thing” and added “we will have to consider all other things and then come to a conclusion”.

The BJP chief also said there is no need to say Bharat Maata Ki Jai under pressure from RSS or BJP.

“This slogan is being chanted much before RSS and BJP came to power,” Shah said.

Asked about controversial comments made by party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya that those who do not chant the slogan should be sent to Pakistan, the BJP chief said one should rather listen to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and he himself said.

To queries on the JNU row, he said the very fact that an event was organized on February 9 to commemorate Afzal Guru’s hanging is anti-national.

“There is no confusion in BJP about this. If some people decide to hold a programme to commemorate his death anniversry, this itself is anti-national,” he said.

Shah said he does not consider Rahul Gandhi’s visit to JNU during the students’ protests as wrong but voiced reservations against the Congress vice president delivering a speech there accusing the Modi government of trying to suppress their freedom of expression.

“I am against this statement of Rahul Gandhi that some people want to suppress your freedom of expression,” he said.

Referring to alleged anti-India slogans raised at the JNU during the Afzal Guru event, he said, “If there are voices like these, then they must be suppressed.”

When asked about raising of anti-national slogans in places like Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP had allied with PDP, he referred to the arrest of separatist leader Masarat Alam and said he would have never been arrested had BJP not been in power.

Alam was sent to jail even when PDP was in power in Jammu and Kashmir, Shah said when asked about PDP’s alleged soft corner for Afzal Guru.

When asked about a Supreme Court observation that merely raising anti-India slogan is not treason, he shot back, saying that the same court had once said that calling Congress activists goondas was also treason.

Congress was in alliance in Kerala with Muslim League, which was responsible for India’s partition, Shah said.

At this Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who was seated among the audience rose and defended the alliance, saying the Muslim League in Kerala was different and was founded after the partition. Tharoor said its policies were not communal.

When told about the allegations that his government was crushing freedom of expression, Shah shot back asking “give me one example.”

Rejecting the charge, Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was called “Hitler, Ravan, a mass murderer” but BJP did nothing against those who called him names. “We will tolerate criticism against people and government but not the country,” he said.

Taking a dig at Congress for its criticism of BJP over alleged intolerance, he said the UPA government had acted against internet giant Google for allegedly showing a cartoon against Congress president Sonia Gandhi “while I keep all cartoons against me on by website”.

Asked whether his relationship with the Gandhi family is not good, Shah said, “It is true that the relationship is not good. As far as I am concerned, the relationship is not good. I do not know about them.”

Shah said BJP was on course to achieve its target of a “Congress-free India” and cited the election results in some states as example.

Asked about BJP’s prospects in five states, Shah reacted cautiously. “Party will work to increase its influence and to play a role in government formation in these states.”

About Assam, he, however, expressed confidence that the BJP will form the government.

On Aligarh Muslim University’s minority status issue, he said that AMU is “not a minority” institution.

He said the BJP demands that it should implement reservation for SC/ST and OBCs in admission there.

About black money, he said the government was moving in the right direction but there was some delay.