NEW DELHI: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the Indian Air Force strikes against terrorists in Pakistan's Balakot should not be linked to the general elections and no one should either politicise or take credit for it.
In an interview to IANS, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation said that he was neither a contender for any post nor was he in any race for the prime ministership.
He said that Narendra Modi would return as Prime Minister with a huge mandate and it would be bigger than the one he got in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"Air strikes against Pakistan should not be linked to elections. It should neither be made an electoral issue nor should anyone take credit for it," Gadkari said, and added that if opposition parties were raising doubts over it, it was their problem.
"But I would request them that they should not do politics over it," he said.
Asked why the ruling dispensation was raising the issue in its election campaign, he said: "Security is supreme for us. This issue should not be politicised. If anyone in India raises doubts on the martydom of our soldiers, if someone speaks in the language Pakistan speaks, all these go against the country's interest. These are issues of national security and everyone should speak in one voice. There should not be politics over such issues."
On speculation that he could be projected as the next Prime Minister if his party needed the support of other political parties to form a government after the elections, Gadkari said he was not in the race to be Prime Minister in case of a fractured mandate.
"Neither do I have any aspirations nor does the RSS have any such plans. There is nothing like this. My statement was twisted by the media. You can go to YouTube and listen to it. I never said so. Neither am I a contender for any post nor am I in any race. In fact, I am sure that the we will get a bigger majority than we got in 2014 and Modiji will again become Prime Minister," he said.
Asked about the reasons behind this confidence, he cited the steps taken by the government like the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, full tax rebate on earning up to Rs 5 lakh, assured monthly pension for the unorganized labour force and 10 per cent reservation for the poor among the general categories.
Gadkari said the fact that opposition parties were trying to unite against Modi was not a new political phenomenon. A similar attempt had been made in the 1971 elections against Indira Gandhi and had failed.
"My experience in politics says two plus two is not always four. So speculating on the basis of arithmetic will not be proper. I don't think that the BJP will lose much seats as being predicted. We will increase our tally. Like Indira Gandhi, Modi will defeat the opposition," he said.
The senior BJP leader and former party President rejected the charges as opposition's conspiracy that his party was trying to create an atmosphere in the country that "Modi is India and India is Modi" on the very lines of the Congress slogan "India is Indira and Indira is India".
"We are patriots and dedicated to our motherland. We never said this. This is a conspiracy of the opposition parties," he said.
On the BJP's 2014 election promise of "achhe din" and bringing back black money stashed abroad, he said the government had provided electricity in all villages, houses for all, gas cylinders and health security.
"Those who have benefitted from these schemes are saying that achhe din has come for them.
"India's image has also gone up across the world and the return of Wing Commander (Abhinandan) in 48 hours following his capture by Pakistani forces is the best example of this," he said.
Asked about the impact of Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Uttar Pradesh politics, he said: "I don't think that she would make any impact."
On her boat ride from Prayag Raj to Varanasi, he said: "If I had not constructed the waterways, how she could have travelled. I got to know that she drank Ganga water. These two things prove that she has accepted our good work."
"I am confident that the Ganga will be 100 per cent clean by March 2020. We will show the world that our heritage river and symbol of our rich history and culture is restored. We will overcome. We are also working to clean the Yamuna river. Thirteen projects are already going on for cleaning and with these the sewage water going into the Yamuna will be stopped. A change can be seen in the next one year," he said.
The minister said the BJP was a cadre-based party which opposed dynasty and caste politics.
"I can say with full confidence that our ideology, our cadres and our organisation is our strength. The party never belonged to any leader. Be it Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani, Gadkari, Amit Shah or Modi. This party runs on its principles.
"Good governance and development is our mission. We work for socio-economic transformation. Work that could not be done in the last 50 years has been completed by us in five years," he said.