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Signalling a tough line on the issue of chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ despite controversies, Bhartiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah said 99 per cent people agree to hailing ‘Mother India’ with the slogan and the party would “convince” the rest.

Speaking at a media conclave in New Delhi, Shah justified the government’s action on the Jawaharlal Nehru University row, insisting that some people deciding to hold a programme to commemorate Afzal Guru’s death anniversary in itself is “anti-national”.

In his interaction, which lasted over an hour, the BJP President expressed confidence that BJP will form a government in Assam but reacted cautiously about its prospects in other states, saying the party will work to increase its influence and play a role in government formation in these states.

Responding to a number of questions on the controversy surrounding the issue of chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, Shah said that the particular slogan was used widely even before RSS and the BJP came into picture.

When asked whether AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who said he would not raise the chant hailing ‘Mother India’ “even if a knife is put to my throat”, is a traitor, he said, “No one becomes a traitor due to just one thing” and added “we will have to consider all other things and then come to a conclusion”.

The BJP chief also said there is no need to say Bharat Maata Ki Jai under pressure from RSS or BJP. “The slogan has been in existence and has been chanted much before RSS, and much before BJP came to power,” Shah said.

Asked about controversial comments made by party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya that those who do not chant the slogan should be sent to Pakistan, the BJP chief said one should rather listen to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and he himself said.

To queries on the JNU row, he said the very fact that an event was organized on February 9 to commemorate Afzal Guru’s hanging is anti-national.

“There is no confusion in BJP about this. If some people decide to hold a programme to commemorate Afzal Guru’s death anniversary, this itself is anti-national,” he said.

Shah said he does not consider Rahul Gandhi’s visit to JNU during the students’ protests as wrong, but voiced reservations against the Congress vice president delivering a speech there accusing the Modi government of trying to suppress their freedom of expression.

“I am against this statement of Rahul Gandhi that some people want to suppress your freedom of expression,” he said.

Shah went on to say that the Congress was in alliance in Kerala with Muslim League, which was responsible for India’s partition.

At this Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who was seated among the audience rose and defended the alliance, saying the Muslim League in Kerala was different and was founded after the partition. Tharoor said its policies were not communal.

When told about the allegations that his government was crushing freedom of expression, Shah shot back asking “give me one example.

Taking a dig at Congress for its criticism of BJP over alleged intolerance, he said the UPA government had acted against internet giant Google for allegedly showing a cartoon against Congress president Sonia Gandhi “while I keep all cartoons against me on my website”.

Asked whether his relationship with the Gandhi family is not good, Mr Shah said, “It is true that the relationship is not good. As far as I am concerned, the relationship is not good. I do not know about them.” Mr Shah said BJP was on course to achieve its target of a “Congress-free India” and cited the election results in some states as example.

Asked about BJP’s prospects in five states, Shah reacted cautiously. “The Party will work to increase its influence and to play a role in government formation in these states.” About Assam, he, however, expressed confidence that the BJP will form the government.

On Aligarh Muslim University’s minority status issue, he said that AMU is “not a minority” institution. He said the BJP demands that it should implement reservation for SC/ST and OBCs in admission there.