Haryana health and sports minister Anil Vij is a man of action, who likes to punch above his weight. While his surprise raids, run-ins with mandarins, missives and controversial tweets have made sure there is never a dull moment, there is unease among some of his colleagues and the bureaucracy. But Vij is unruffled. “I do my work with sincerity. Others should do theirs,” the minister says in an interview to Senior Assistant Editor Navneet Sharma and Special Correspondent Rajesh Moudgil wherein he also talks about his equation with the chief minister, saffronisation and the state bureaucracy.
You are seen as a super-active minister. What drives you?
The system is in a shambles. Aam aadmi (common man) is agitated. I feel we should do whatever we can, but not everything is in our hands. Circumstances are not always favourable. My thinking is that those who wait for favourable circumstances wait forever. Therefore, we have to work under the given circumstances whatever they are. I only think about how to improve things. I don’t know if I would be able to or not, but I will keep trying.
What changes you intend to bring in health department?
Our target is to give affordable care to every person. But the painful truth is that poorest of the poor people do not want to go to government hospitals. We are trying to change things. There has been some change in our six months. The number of those coming to state hospitals is up by 40 lakh.
What about the rumblings of discontent, specially the doctors’ strike last week?
Whenever you try to change the system, some kind of resistance is natural. But this should not stop us. We need to carry on as there are people who appreciate the fact that someone is taking interest in their department for the first time. The ministers only came for ribbon-cutting ceremonies earlier.
Bhagavad Gita, Dinanath Batra, Ramdev, ‘Maharana Pratap the Great’ and then your tweet on rewriting history. Why this insistence on saffronisation?
It is not saffronisation. It is nationalisation. We are talking about national heritage and traditions. Maharana Pratap fought against the Mughals. Akbar was an aakranta (invader), but our history books show him as someone great. Was Maharana Pratap not great? Why shouldn’t we rewrite history? We want to introduce Bhagavad Gita in schools because it originated in India. It is not about religion. If Bible had originated here, we would have said the same. We want our young generation to know their heritage. It is their right. We want to protect their right.
What about the feeling that you are trying to set the agenda for the government through your actions and statements?
I do not bother who says what. I do my work with sincerity. Others should do theirs. I have no issues. Whatever duty the party has assigned me, I am trying to perform it. No one should have any problem. As far as I know, my colleagues appreciate and respect me.
Your colleagues, including some ministers, are said to be not happy with some of your actions, including the letter on teachers.
I wrote the letter because I felt we should address the growing demand of employees for which they are agitating. The CM took my letter positively and called a meeting of ministers. It was the first time in seven months that we sat together to discuss employees’ issues. We all expressed our views.
Don’t you get a feeling that the state employees, who backed the BJP in the elections, are somewhat disappointed?
The government wants to solve their pending issues, but there seems a feeling among them that it has taken too much time. I am confident, especially after the ministers’ meeting, of my government’s resolve to find solution. The ministers-in-charge of these departments will need to take initiatives.
An impression has gained ground that you take jibes at chief minister ML Khattar in your tweets sometimes. How is your relationship with him?
We are working and he is our CM. On many issues, his word is final. Till now, he has backed me on everything related to my departments. If people think something else, it is their thinking. My tweets have been misunderstood sometimes.
It is said you are upset at being overlooked for the CM’s post and, therefore, keep trying to stay in limelight. Is that true?
This is being spread by the opposition parties. They try to create a rift between us. My party knows the truth. I was neither in the race nor have I ever asked for any post.
Your tweet “tera kya hota kalia” to former CM Bhupinder Hooda suggests lack of satisfaction with action initiated against wrongdoings of the previous regime. Please clarify.
Different people have different ways of working. CM Khattar ji may have done it after six months, but he has taken action against Robert Vadra. We had publicly named him. As for Hooda, I was BJP Legislature Party leader for five years and had seen all that his government did at that time.
भूपेंद्र हुड्डा ने कहा है कि अनिल विज CM के उम्मीदवार थे । मैंने तो कभी कुछ बनने का सोचा नही परन्तु यदि मैं CM होता तो तेरा क्या होता कालिया— ANIL VIJ Hr Minister (@anilvijmantri) May 23, 2015
Why the government ordered a limited probe into licences in one sector of Gurgaon, and not a thorough probe into what the BJP had called a colossal CLU (change of land use) scam?
Ibtedaa-e-ishq hai rota hai kya aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya (It’s just the beginning of love, why do you wail? Wait and see what happens as you move on). I am sure my government is not going to spare any Tom, Dick and Harry who has looted Haryana.
You openly disagree with the government’s actions. What about collective responsibility as a cabinet minister?
I have always fought for aam aadmi. My message to them is they are not alone. I usually speak or take action in my departments where I have a right. As for collective responsibility, I do discharge that. That’s why I wrote the letter on employees’ issues.
You were unhappy with the working of the bureaucracy. Do you find any change?
Old habits die hard. I am trying to make them change their ways, but they do not want to. I will keep trying.
Your tweets are crafty, filmi and even nasty at times. Is it all to hog the limelight?
I convey my views. As there is a 140-character limit, I have to use idioms, similes etc. I posted (during the tweet-war with a Congress leader) “yadi koi pagal kutta kisi aadmi ko kaat jaye toh zaroori nahin hisaab tabhi barabar hoga jab aadmi kutte ko kaate”. These are old sayings. But I am not calling anyone a dog as such (laughs).