Union commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma admits the UPA failed to project its story to the voters but, in a conversation with HT, lashes out at BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi for spreading “falsehood”.
Excerpts from the interview:
You are involved in making the Congress manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections. What will be there in the offing for industry?
We are holding wide consultations on the manifesto with various stakeholders such as farmers, minorities and labourers. In our economic vision, the thrust will be on growth, manufacturing and job creation.
As Union minister for industry and commerce, how do you see the BJP’s Narendra Modi enjoying the tremendous confidence of industrialists?
It’s not that we do not enjoy that confidence. Many are carried away by his (Modi’s) claims, but the facts speak otherwise. If we look at his year-to-year claims on FDI at the Vibrant Gujarat summits, it adds up to more than the FDI inflow in the country. As per RBI data till 2012-13, Ahmedabad or Gujarat doesn’t come on top of the list of FDI destination. The highest FDI of $63 billion came to Mumbai, followed by Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and then stands Ahmedabad and Hyderabad — both cities got close to $8 billion. According to the latest data on manufacturing, Gujarat stands at 6th position from the bottom!
But Modi is clearly spelling out his vision.
It’s just a loud narrative but again the facts speak otherwise. Gujarat has the highest school dropout rate, sharp disparities among urban and rural areas. Under his rule, Gujarat is the most indebted state after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Do you think inflation and corruption will spell trouble for the UPA in the polls?
A large part of inflation is due to the international oil price and we are still an oil-importing country. Unless Modi can dig oil under the Red Fort, he would not be able to solve the problem of inflation. We have allowed the Prime Minister to come under the Lokpal. A minister not only had to resign but landed himself in jail.
Last year, you tried to impress investors by cutting subsides and pushing reforms. But last month, the government relaxed LPG subsidy on Rahul Gandhi’s demand.
We are on the move on reforms but we also have a large number of the poor. Rahul Gandhi’s vision is balanced. He definitely wants growth and reforms but he also has the right to share the concerns of workers. Increasing the LPG subsidy was a political decision and there is nothing wrong in it.