Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Monday ruled out an apology from Narendra Modi on the 2002 riots, saying he does not have to do it to satisfy a “fake campaign” against him.
“Those asking for an apology wanted the apology to be an act of confession. If he has actually committed a mistake why apologise, he should have been prosecuted and punished for it.
“We can squabble over the kind of expressions one wants to use… To satisfy a fake campaign he does not have to apologise,” Jaitley said in an interaction with foreign journalists here.
Perceived as a close confidante of the BJP’s PM candidate, he said Modi is certainly “concerned” about the violence and about putting in a system in place so the riots are not repeated.
The Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha said all Gujaratis, including Muslims have prospered, under Modi’s rule and these voices demanding an apology are not coming from within the state. “These are coming from these campaigns,” he said.
Quizzed on the unease of Muslims about Modi and what he and BJP have done to assuage these apprehensions, Jaitley said they were concerned about the security of the minority community, non-discrimination and their economic progress.
“Modi himself repeats this assurance of security, non-discrimination and economic progress when he repeatedly says that the primary document of governance will be Indian constitution… That is why efforts of our opponent to create this scare is not working,” he said.
Jaitley said the country, including a large number of people belonging to the minority community, has left behind the issues of 2002 riots and Modi being a polarising figure except for those who made the propaganda against him into a “way of life”.
“This entire argument of Modi being a polarising figure is projected by those who had unleashed a personal campaign against him post 2002 in the hope that allegations will stick…No Indian politician has had to face that kind of both public and judicial scrutiny,” he said.
Jaitley said Modi’s critics claimed after he had received a clean chit in the investigations that his projection as PM candidate will polarise India on the basis of religion.
“Quite to the contrary, India has got polarised on the issues of governance… It is an evidence that a very large number of people, including those in the minority community, can see reason and truth,” he said, adding that another claim that BJP would not get allies has also been proved incorrect.
Asked how much of Muslim votes BJP expects to get, he said they were aiming to get a very large number of them.
He cited the win of BJP candidates, including Muslims, in municipal elections in Muslims-dominated areas of Gujarat and that all the four victorious Muslims MLAs in Rajasthan belong to the party as a proof of its success in winning over a section of the minority votes.
Quizzed on Modi’s reluctance for media interviews, Jaitley hinted that some interviews may be on way while arguing that he has been communicating with people more than any other Indian politician.
“He (Modi) has given some interviews and I am sure he is going to give some others,” he said.
Asked about the influence of RSS, seen as the ideological fountainhead of the larger Parivar to which BJP belongs, in the likelihood of a BJP-led government, he shot back, “as a political party we take our own decisions”.
Never before, Jaitley said, a Lok Sabha election has been fought solely on the issue of governance, adding that the UPA regime suffers from anti-incumbency which borders or almost exceeds the level of “disillusionment”.
The rise of Modi has mixed the anger against UPA with an element of hope, he said, arguing that the “revival” of big rallies, seen in Modi’s public meetings, is an evidence of public support to BJP.
Asked about the options BJP would have if it falls short of seats required to lead a “strong” government, he said this “hope” was the best thing in Congress’ analysis so that it could be part of any “ragtag coalition”.
“The worst thing that could happen is such an event becoming reality… As the elections draw closer I can see the front-runner moving way ahead. A last minute push of one or two per cent popular votes will put to rest all such speculations,” he said.
Referring to the previous BJP-led NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said a BJP government would follow Vajpayee’s foreign policies.
“Security issues will dictate our neighbourhood concerns, he said, but played down concerns over response of a BJP government to terror attacks from Pakistan.
Intrusion into Kargil, which happened during the Vajpayee’s government, was a big provocation but India did not cross the border, he said.
“We don’t intend to make any radical changes in the kind of policy the previous NDA government had. Our economic interests will play an important role in guiding us about how to deal with the rest of the world,” he said.
Attacking Defence Ministry A K Antony, he said Antony believed that the best way to avoid making a mistake is not to do anything and it has harmed India’s defence.
When asked about the rise of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, he said it started on a positive note with its campaign against corruption but its primary focus is now anti-Modi and not anti-corruption. “Its sheen has worn off.”