Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani feels Rahul Gandhi's image is now worse than what it was in 2014, and says he pities the Congress president when he sees him getting trolled on social media over his "immature" behaviour.
In an interview to PTI, Rupani also says that after the 'Modi wave' in 2014, the country will for the first time this year witness the "Modi tsunami". "I feel pity for Rahul Gandhi seeing him being trolled excessively on social media over his immature behaviour. His image is of a non-serious politician...with his winks in Parliament, antics like hugging Modiji.
All this shows his immaturity. His image is now worse than it was in 2014," he says. Rupani was in the city to campaign for BJP's Mumbai-North East candidate Manoj Kotak, to seek support of the city's Gujarat community for the party candidate. "In 2014, there was a Modi wave, this time around, the country will witness a Modi tsunami because in the last polls, the sentiment was that Modiji should be made the prime minister and now, after he became the PM, people believe he is the right choice," he says.
Modi has ensured that every sector sees growth, unlike the previous governments, he claims. Rupani says the country has witnessed a "trustworthy and transparent" governance after several years. "After Pulwama (terror attack), he (Modi) is known as a decisive prime minister heading a strong and stable government. People will vote only in the name of Modi," he says.
Asked if Priyanka Gandhi's formal entry into politics will hurt the BJP, specially in Uttar Pradesh which sends the maximum number of MPs to Parliament, Rupani says the Congress may think she is the party's 'trump card', but "she is limited to UP and not seen anywhere outside". "The Congress has asked her to campaign for it to save its own existence there.
(SP leader) Akhilesh (Yadav), (BSP supremo) Mayawati did not even accept the Congress. The party is nowhere in the picture in UP. They will barely be able to win one-two seats," the chief minister claims. To another query, he says the Congress created an "anti-majority" and "anti-Hindu" feeling among the majority population by coining terms like "Hindu terror" and its refusal to abolish Article 370 of the Constitution, which provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
"Due to all this, the absolute negativity towards the Congress in the minds of people is evident. The majority Hindu population is upset with the Congress and will not vote for it," he says.
Asked if fielding Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur for the Lok Sabha polls was the BJP's mistake, he says, "The Congress has tried to malign the image of Hindus with terms like 'Hindu terror'. Sadhviji was fielded as an answer." On Thakur's comments against slain Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, Rupani said she should not have said it.
Thakur, who is contesting the Lok Sabha poll from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, recently claimed that Karkare died during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks as she had "cursed" him for "torturing" her. To another query, Rupani says the surgical strikes and the recent air strike on terror camps in Pakistan were a victory of the armed forces, dubbing the actions as a reply to the neighbouring country over its "misadventures".
"Modiji gave the Army a free hand at the right time, while the Congress talks about taking back the armed forces. While the current government believes in zero tolerance (towards terrorism), the Congress believes in appeasement. People are seeing this difference and appreciating Modi," he says.
Asked how the BJP will fare in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Rupani says the environment is much better than in 2014 and that the party will win the polls with a majority. "It is difficult to predict the exact figures, but the BJP and NDA will fare better than last time," he says. On the opposition's criticism over the BJP not giving tickets to veteran leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, Rupani says his party believes in "graceful retirement" after 75 years of age.
"Advaniji is 92 years old now and even in his blog, he has only expressed his apprehensions for the country. He is a large-hearted man who has strengthened and made the party what it is today. He cannot be unhappy for not getting a ticket," he says.
Advani in his blog earlier this month said the essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression. "Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our 'enemies', but only as our adversaries," he wrote in the blog.