Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah has defended his campaign’s focus on national security, claiming that the Narendra Modi government has separated India’s diplomatic policy from its defence policy for the first time since independence. Shah made the remark in an interview with the Hindustan Times published on Tuesday.

“Since the 1990s, the public has wanted national security to be a priority,” Shah was quoted as saying. “They were longing for a focused strategy, where, diplomatically, India could boldly present its views to other countries and at the same time strike at the source of terror. Till recently, all the wars against terror were fought on Indian soil. We have suffered on this count. It is only under Modi that India has struck twice at the place of origin of terrorists in form of the 2016 surgical strike and 2019 airstrike at Balakot.”

Shah said that when the 2016 surgical strike occurred, defence experts across the world had said it was a fluke and not the government’s policy. “After the airstrike, the same experts agree that this is the defence policy of India and Narendra Modi,” he added. The BJP president said it does not mean that matters other than national security have been sidelined.

On the surgical strikes that were reportedly conducted when the Congress was in power, Shah said that “nobody says this except Congress President Rahul Gandhi”, and that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh backed the claim because “Congress has to follow the footsteps of Rahul Gandhi”.

Last week, Congress leader Rajiv Shukla had listed the dates and places where six surgical strikes had been purportedly conducted by the United Progressive Alliance administration between 2008 and 2014. These purported strikes had not been announced earlier.

On Masood Azhar

Asked if the listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist will help the BJP, Shah told the Hindustan Times, “It is an achievement of the Modi government, so why should we not take electoral advantage of it?”

Shah dismissed the Opposition’s questions about the timing of Azhar’s blacklisting. “You mean to say that UN’s 1267 committee should have postponed the meeting and waited for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to get over?” he asked. The BJP president called it the “biggest diplomatic victory” of the Modi government.

The 1267 Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council designated Azhar a global terrorist on Wednesday after China, a close ally of Pakistan, withdrew its opposition to the proposal. The BJP has called it a “win for every Indian”.

Poll projections

Shah also claimed that the BJP would win over 282 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. “Our analysis of the rounds of voting complete shows that not only the number of seats but also the winning margin will increase and the spread of the BJP/NDA will increase in terms of area,” he added.

The BJP president claimed that caste, dynasties and appeasement in elections were “ulcers”, and Modi had got rid of them through his “politics of performance”. He denied that caste and religion could overpower politics of performance or development, saying the BJP won the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017 without projecting any caste leader.