File photo. Photograph:( ANI )
Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Friday said the BJP's number of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls may go down by "30-40" seats but the NDA will still return to power.
He also said he was ready to act as a mediator between Patidar leader Hardik Patel and the BJP in Gujarat to resolve the issue of reservation. Patel is on an indefinite fast to press the demand for reservation for the Patidar community in education and government jobs.
"The BJP's tally may go down by 30-40 seats but the NDA will return to power," the Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment said.
Athawale warned that if the Patidar stir is not resolved in time it could cost the BJP two to three Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in next year's elections.
"Since Patidars turned against the ruling party, the BJP lost around 15-20 seats in the last Gujarat elections. If the situation persists, the BJP may lose two-three Lok Sabha seats in 2019," he told reporters.
"I will try to talk to Hardik over phone to convince him. Only talks can resolve this issue. I am also ready to become a mediator between him and the BJP at the Centre. If he agrees, I will take him to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss this issue," Athawale said.
"I once told Hardik that he can get the desired results if he remains by the BJP's side. I told him that he will not get anything by joining hands with the Congress. I think he needs to talk to BJP leaders to resolve this issue," he added.
Speaking about quotas, Athawale said all communities falling in the general category, like Patidars in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra and Jats in Haryana, should be granted reservation.
"Since there is a cap of 50 per cent (on reservations), Parliament needs to first amend the Constitution to allow an additional quota of 25 per cent. We can exclude those who earn over Rs 8 lakh. I even suggested this to the prime minister in a meeting of NDA allies," he said.
Replying to a question on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute, the Union minister claimed that the site once housed a Buddhist temple.
"You will find Buddhist-era statues if you excavate. There was a Buddhist temple there. Then Hindus built a temple which was destroyed by Mughals to build a mosque," he said.