Shazia Ilmi: 'The BJP is absolutely right in giving Sadhvi Pragya a ticket. She has been a victim, tortured and paralysed'
Delhi BJP vice-president Shazia Ilmi spoke with Rohit E David on a shoe being thrown in a BJP press conference, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur being given a ticket, Muslim appeasement politics and the possible alliance between Congress and AAP.
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Q. A shoe was thrown at BJP's national spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao, what do you have to say on that?
I just stepped out of the office and this happened. I think such incidents have taken place before, this is a press conference, people who claim to be a journalist come in. We won’t be checking people’s shoes although anyone who goes into the press room has to go through a security check.
We have done some basic research against the person concerned — and he has been exhibiting anger against the party. This guy pretended to be a journalist or a surgeon.
Q. Do you feel that the BJP was right in nominating Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and giving her a ticket?
The party was absolutely right — she has been a victim, tortured in jail cells and she was paralysed. This whole story was made out on 'saffron terror' — not a single court has found anything. They are trying to link her with the blast which happened. The NIA has given her a clean chit. The final verdict is yet to be out.
Q. How much do Muslim votes matter for the BJP, if at all?
This has not only been part of our political discourse but almost a consciousness, I think since Partition, we see Muslims as a vote bank. The BJP is very clear its policies and governance that we do not make such huge demarcations in terms of religion. We have never believed in any type of appeasement only for Muslims. In fact, it’s the only party which has spoken about 10% economic quota. The BJP does not talk about affirmative action on the basis of community or caste but economic status.
Secular parties keep fighting over the Muslim vote — if you see the socio-economic indices of Left or Congress-ruled states, you will find that Muslims have done badly as compared to other states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh where the quality of life and representation is much higher. The progress of Muslims is linked with the progress of India. They cannot be seen as a separate vote bank — which is exactly how secular parties have treated them.
Q. But the lynchings of Muslims have happened under the BJP. Is this the true face of 'sabka saath, sabka vikas'?
There is completely incorrect — Akhlaq was lynched when Akhilesh Yadav was in power. Law and order is a state subject. Communal incidents have actually come down and there hasn’t been a single riot during PM Modi’s rule, everything has been totally controlled — and curbed.
'I have faced misogyny. I have been trolled by AAP obscenely. I don't know if their leaders tell them to do it.' (Source: PTI)
Q. Amit Shah said India will be cleansed of all infiltrators except Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus. Isn't he deliberately targeting Muslims and Christians?
He said it many days back and then, there was another statement by him and he said, ‘India will welcome all minorities’. Minorities which are being persecuted will be welcomed.
Shah spoke about infiltrators. India is for Indians — just for years and years, you want this politics to stay, that you get infiltrators — and make them your vote bank. We have limited resources and the country has to go ahead. India has been a charitable nation, think of the Tibetan refugees. In fact, theAssam Accord was signed by Rajiv Gandhi and that’s the basis of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Q. Do you agree with the proposed move to criminalise/imprison men who practise triple talak?
The law is very clear on this. The Supreme Court judgment clearly says that there is no place for triple talaq. Women need to have statutory legal provision, which is what the triple talaq Bill was all about.
I don’t think we should protect people who commit a crime — and if it’s considered a crime by the Supreme Court, just like dowry, it should be punishable.
Q. Meanwhile, prominent women in politics are protesting misogyny too — do you face sexism as a female politician?
I have faced it as a young reporter. At this level, I don’t face any such thing, especially when I’m part of the spokespersons' team. It’s very merit-oriented.
I have faced sexism as a journalist and anchor though. As a woman leader, I have faced a lot of sexism from people. Not by leaders of political parties but by general public. There are enquiries about your personal life, too many personal comments — if you are a woman, you are attacked, you are trolled more by the opposition. For instance, there were so many remarks, what will Shazia Ilmi do in BJP, she wears lipstick and makeup. People were constantly trolling me, putting pictures of lipsticks and makeup boxes. Then I started re-tweeting it and told them that ‘Yes, I will wear lipstick’ — and then, it all stopped.
AAP had also trolled me, I had gone to the cyber cell complaining about obscene remarks. I don’t know whether their leadership tells them to do it, but as a woman, I have been trolled.
Q. Do you feel that an AAP-Congress alliance will badly hit BJP?
I don’t know whether they will have an alliance or not — but what's gone on has been an absolute betrayal of people’s faith. This is the party that spoke about wiping out corruption under Sheila Dikshit and talked only about UPA II's corruption.
The BJP has a very committed vote bank which remained intact even when AAP got 67 seats. The Congress vote share got wiped out.
Q. What’s your view on Sheila Dikshit?
She has been an astute administrator. She has done good things and I don’t want to say anything negative about her — I have a lot of respect for her.
I was part of the whole team who attacked her on grounds that did not merit any reason. I feel bad about that.
It’s ok to expose corruption — but to make personal comments was very terrible. We made terrible songs, ‘Sheila Tai’, I feel embarrassed about it now. But today, the same Arvind Kejriwal is begging Congress for an alliance — he was the one who apparently spoke about sending Sheila Dikshit to jail.
The Congress does not have any agenda and they have been snubbed by everyone. Before joining BJP, the Congress did approach me. I gave up my career to fight against corruption. There was no hope in hell that I would have joined the Congress. I don’t like their minority treatment or corruption.