National security, Modi appeal will propel BJP to better its 2014 tally: Amit Shah

Expressing confidence that the BJP will better its 2014 Lok Sabha tally, its president Amit Shah has predicted that the saffron party will win over 55 new seats, propelled by its focus on national security and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal across the country.

Shah also scorned Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi for their criticism of Modi for attacking their father late Rajiv Gandhi, asserting that "they cannot run away from their past however much they try".

In an interview, Shah, who is at the helm of the ruling party since 2014, talked about various aspects of the high-stakes elections, where a fragmented opposition is taking on the BJP-led NDA, which hopes to retain power, riding on its nationalism and development planks.

The BJP had swept to its maiden majority in 2014 by winning 282 of 543 Lok Sabha seats.

Asserting that the BJP will get a majority on its own, 54-year-old Shah said he has succeeded in his plan to expand the BJP's base across coastal and eastern states, where it has been traditionally weak.

The party will win more than 23 seats in West Bengal and 13-15 seats in Odisha, he added.

The BJP had won two and one seat in these two states respectively in 2014.

After taking over as BJP chief, Shah had also identified 120 seats spread across the country as potentially winnable. The party had lost them in 2014.

"The BJP will win more than 55 of those constituencies," he added.

Asked if the BJP will be able to repeat 2014 feat when it had swept north and west India, he said some seats may go this way or that way but his party will get an overall majority.

With top Congress leaders slamming Modi for his sharp attack on Rajiv Gandhi, Shah questioned "why he or Jawaharlal Nehru cannot be criticised simply because they are from the Gandhi family."

"Did the Bofors scam not happen under him (Rajiv Gandhi)? Did the Bhopal gas tragedy accused not escape when he was in power? Why should there not be a debate over these issues. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi cannot run away from their past however much they try," he said.

(with news agency inputs)