Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari is credited with a turnaround in the highways sector, which was adversely affected by the policy paralysis during the UPA II regime. In an interview with Moushumi Das Gupta and DK Singh, he talks about his future plans and also shares his views on the Congress’ dismal show in elections. Excerpts:
Your government is completing 2 years next week. What’s your biggest achievement?
We are moving towards a new economic thinking and the policies that we have adopted will create jobs. For the first time, the thrust is on infrastructure development. There is unlimited potential. In the highways and shipping sector, by the time we finish five years I will finish work worth Rs 25 lakh crore. Work on projects worth Rs 2.5 lakh crore is under process. As far as infrastructure is concerned, we are increasing our highway network to two lakh km from the existing 96,000 km. We are connecting all tribal districts with highway network, doing port-rail and port-road connectivity. We are building ten new access controlled expressways, improving our inland waterways and river connectivity. We are planning to develop industrial clusters along 7500 km stretch of our coastline.
There is a perception that everything is micromanaged by the PMO, and the ministers are hardly involved. How would you respond to it?
I have nothing to do with such perceptions. I take my own decisions, there is no problem. I talk to my officials, where finance issues are involved I go to finance ministry, where cabinet approval is there I go to the cabinet.
What do you make of the results of assembly elections?
Today, the Congress is ruling just seven per cent of the population. It is losing fast and the reason for this is the party’s leadership, their wrong economic approach, corruption, bad governance and lack of vision. Wherever Congress has won so far they have done because of the division they managed to create on the basis of communalism and casteism. The party’s biggest capital during its 50 years of politics was creating this feeling of fear in the minds of the minority … that if RSS-BJP comes to power, they will send you to Pakistan, they will start riots… so people voted Congress out of fear. But now this policy does not work.
What do you think is wrong with the Congress?
Ours is a party of workers (karyakartas). I used to paste posters. I was an ordinary worker who became the party president. The reason for this is because ours is not a mother-son, father-son or a family party. Now people want a party that can usher in development, generate employment, bridge the urban-rural disparity, take the country ahead by using science and technology…. The new generation that is on social media is very cautious, very sensitive. They want innovation, development, digital India, Make in India, skill development, technical education… people’s approach is changing… In such a situation you can’t say that since you have voted for Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi so now vote for Rahul Gandhi…. There are a lot of good people in Congress. I had once jokingly told Pranab Mukherjee when he was the finance minister that you can become PM, you can become President but you will never become the Congress party president because that post is reserved for the Gandhi family.
Rahul Gandhi has come in for flak for the party’s performance. As a former BJP president, what do you think about it?
He (Rahul) is surrounded by such people who are working to push him down a ditch. Whoever are his advisors, they are not connected to the grassroots. That’s the problem in Delhi across all sectors… be it Delhi’s politician, political parties or the media. You are not connected to Bharat but India. The voice of the people living in the grassroots, in the village does not reach the people who sit here. They go by perception, not by truth. And you can work based on perception only for some time, as long as people are not awake (sajag). When people become aware (jagruk) then you can’t work based on perception. You will have to understand the truth prevailing in the grassroots.
But your party lost badly in Delhi?
Ups and down go on in a democracy. And in a democracy you should never get disappointed either with defeat or exhilarated (unmadit) with a very good victory. Politics is an instrument of socio-economic reform. You need to understand this and work according to your mission, your thinking…. it’s a continuous process.
Congress is saying that BJP has indulged in politics of polarization, you polarized votes in Kerala, in Assam.
Its very unfortunate. In Kerala, we did not tie up with Muslim League… Congress is doing politics of sectarianism (sampradayikta) by joining hands with Muslim league, they have created polarization between communists and the Congress and putting the blame on us. Congress has supported terrorists. For votebank politics they gave a wrong affidavit in the Ishrat Jehan case. David Headley, he is not a RSS member, what he has said shows upto what extent Congress can go for politics of sectarianism and votebank.
What’s the next for the BJP?
Uttar Pradesh. It’s a very big constituency.
Two years in the government, do you think there is a need to induct new faces in the cabinet?
It’s the right and privilege of the Prime Minister, who to take, who to drop.
Your ministry has set a target of awarding 25,000 km stretch of highways this fiscal from 10,000 km last year and constructing 15,000 km, up from 8000 km. Aren’t you being a bit over-ambitious? Does the ministry, NHAI have the capacity?
Whatever target I set I have the capacity to complete it. I don’t say things that I can’t do. If I do not achieve the target then you write.
The government seems to be courting one controversy after another, say on the chanting of Om on Yoga day or your ministerial colleague’s demand to rename Akbar Road...
These are not our subject….you (media) start it. There are disgruntled people who are not happy at our coming to power. They had tried everything to stop us from coming to power but we defeated them. They are making people who are not from our party to put up saffron clothes and rake up non issue…. These people are frustrated. And about this Om, you see in Russia, in Uzbekistan, in Dubai. Now these people are chanting it. IIT Kanpur has done a research on Om or Aum – it has got nothing to do with Hinduism or Islam. It’s linked to yoga process (yog kriya).