Harvard educated, Capt Abhimanyu Sindhu (46) is one of the young emerging leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A former army man, he was also on the team of party president Amit Shah that campaigned in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha elections. Now a first time cabinet minister, he holds number three position in the order of precedence behind chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and education minister Ram Bilas Sharma. The young leader has 13 portfolios, most after the CM, including key departments such as finance; excise and taxation; industries and commerce; labour and employment; revenue; forests; environment; industrial training; law and legislative affairs etc. He spoke to chief of bureau Hitender Rao on a range of issues. Excerpts:
HT: Which are the priority areas you intend to focus on as a minister?
Capt Abhimanyu: The key priority is to improve the financial situation of the state, which appears to be in some sort of distress. This happened due to the lack of prudence and accountability in the decisions that had financial impact in the past 10 years of the Congress rule.
We have to service a debt of almost Rs 80,000 crore and face a revenue deficit of Rs 5,000 crore, which is absolutely unacceptable under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.
The financial health of the state is very important. We have announced an annual hike recently in the social security pensions. Tax collections are not showing growth; there are leakages and corruption also. But we are working on it at both the policy and the execution level.
What are the immediate challenges before you asa minister?
Managing the financial resources for plan expenditure is a major challenge. Unfortunately, in Haryana the non-plan expenditure (establishment costs, salaries etc.) consume the most part of the budget; whereas for development, we need to have money for plan expenditure, which we don’t have right now. Being the finance and excise and taxation minister, I have an onerous task of setting things right. But I can assure you we will deliver.
How do you view the investment opportunities in the state?
There has been a decline in the manufacturing sector which has impacted our tax collections also. The overall industrial climate does not appear to be very conducive in Haryana. Also, there is disenchantment among the entrepreneur and the investor. How do we restore their confidence? We need to focus on law and order, transparency, infrastructure,adequate power supply to the industrial sector, and accountability. Transparency and accountability will be priority areas in our approach towards the administration. Fiscal management has to improve anda conducive industrialenvironment has to be ensured.
But do you have a blueprint in place to improve things?
We are working on two aspects—bringing transparency and accountability into our own systems; and sending a message out that we are for robust industrial growth and ensuring improvement in the manufacturing sector. We’ll follow the PM’s ‘Make in India’ philosophy and skill development idea.
There were a lot ofcomplaints/allegations of favouritism and corruption against the Congress regime. Will the BJP government be any different? How?
We will be different entirely. That’s what we are mandated for. In the past we have seen nepotism, corruption, regionalism, casteism etc. We are a government committed to the welfare of each and every individual Haryanvi. We believe in the principle of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. This government, believe me, is for the last man in the last row. There is great focus on good governance and development at the Centre. We have a similar mandate in the state. We would like to seek people’s guidance, cooperation and suggestions at every level. This is a government of the people, for the people and by the people genuinely. There has been a paradigm shift in the politics of Haryana, from dynastic rule, and caste- and region-based politics.
How do you plan to tackle mismanagement, fiscal as well as procedural (as pointed out by the chief minister in the assembly) in the departments?
We are working at the policy level to plug the possible loopholes and would not mind making structural alterations in the entire administrative framework. Then we have to work at the procedural level and improve the processes. Lastly, we will have to work at the behavioural and attitudinal level. Minimising human interventions in financial transactions and recruitment, by taking these processes online, is required.
How do you intend to cut down extravagance and unfruitful expenditure?
We are going to be a very responsible government. We will exercise utmost financial prudence and spend within our means only.
As the industries ministers, do you see a renewed focus on small and medium enterprises, a key employment and revenue generating sector?
Every size of industry has own advantages and contribution to the society. Large industries contribute in terms of providing brand equity, but now we have to focus on medium and small enterprises because there is a huge regional disparity in terms of industrial spread in Haryana. Besides employment and revenue generation, a key priority area is to spread the industrial activity to the block level in a cluster-based approach. We are trying to identify local industrial activity that can be helped and sustained to grow in a cluster. Some places known for producing copperware or aluminium-ware, or plywood industry in Yamunanagar, scientific instrument industry in Ambala, foundries in Samalkha, or something fresh like a new craft or trade, can be encouraged. Footwear industry was set up in Bahadurgarh and we expect an export turnover of`3,000 crore in just two yearsfrom now.
As the revenue minister, how do you view the contentious land deal between Robert Vadra and DLF?
The BJP government has been rather non-committal on initiating a probe. There is no precise line of action or a clear-cut move from the BJP regime, so far.
The BJP has raised many issues pertaining to land scams during the Congress rule. Those issues are much larger and bigger in quantum. We are seized of the bigger picture. We have made a commitment to the people that we will investigate all these land scams and we stand by what we said. Of course, this includes the Vadra-DLF deal. There are hundreds of other land deals that should also be investigated. Whatever comes out will be made known to the people, whether something wrong was done or not.