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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Lok Sabha elections 2019| ‘Rahul Gandhi isn’t serious about Nyay’: Thaawar Chand Gehlot

“Mamata Banerjee says he is an innocent child. What he says is childish. He is not serious about these programmes. Somebody has suggested to him that make such a promise to win the elections. So he may have done it,” Thaawar Chand Gehlot said.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2019 09:01 IST

New Delhi
File photo of Thaawar Chand Gehlot
File photo of Thaawar Chand Gehlot(PTI)

Union minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot spoke to Amandeep Shukla about a range of issues, including reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS), the Modi government’s record, the Congress’s minimum income guarantee scheme, the Balakot air strike, the candidature of Pragya Thakur, and Kashmir. Edited excerpts:

Q. The 2019 general elections are underway. Why should people be voting for your party?

A. Development, public welfare schemes, the work done to strengthen unity, integrity, and democracy in the country in the past five years.

Q. Your ministry brought the 10% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS). Critics say this was done with an eye on elections.

A. They may be saying this out of ignorance, or intentionally despite knowing the truth. This was done to help the poorer sections. The demand was there for a long time. Even the Mandal Commission made a mention of this. [Former Prime Minister] Narasimha Rao made an attempt but was unsuccessful. It was Narendra Modi who made this impossible possible. Orders have been issued to implement this by DoPT [Department of Personnel and Training], my department, and also others.

Q. But does this not breach the 50% limit for reservation?

A. We have added a clause 6 to article 15 and article 16 of the Indian Constitution through an amendment, so the 50 % limit would not apply to it. Even the 50% limit was for reservation for the categories already getting reservation. Earlier, this kind of an order during the Narasimha Rao government was cancelled because there were no such provisions in the Constitution. We have made the required changes and without touching the reservation quota for the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and OBC [other backward classes] sections. So this will continue.

Q. Your government claims to done a lot on the social welfare front. You even announced the PM KISAN scheme for farmers. However, the Congress has announced a minimum income guarantee scheme. Is the Congress not taking it one step ahead?

A. People will not pay any attention to the Congress’s claims. They have been talking of the “garibi hatao” [remove poverty] promise since 1971. The poor, however, kept suffering. This promise will prove to be similar. Even if we look at the details, it is a flop. They [the Congress] have said if the income is less than R12,000 some support will be given. Suppose you go by minimum wage estimates that a person is earning R300 daily and there are two working members in the family, the income comes to more than R12,000. So what will they give?

There may be those whose income is less, say R7,000 or 8,000. They will mislead them by gathering identification and proof papers like it happened in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka or Punjab on the loan waiver announcement. They announced loan waivers but nothing happened. They are saying – ‘Ab Nyay Hoga’ [now there will be justice]. For 60 years, there were Congress or Congress-supported governments, they did not do justice. These are promises made merely to acquire power and the people have sensed this.

Q. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has emphasised the NYAY scheme will be the final assault on poverty?

A. Mamata Banerjee says he is an innocent child. What he says is childish. He is not serious about these programmes. Somebody has suggested to him that make such a promise to win the elections. So he may have done it.

Q. In your home state of Madhya Pradesh, Pragya Thakur has been pitched against former CM Digvijay Singh. However, this move has come under a lot of criticism as she is accused of terror. What do you have to say?

A. The people will decide. We hope to win all the seats in Madhya Pradesh.

Q. But is her nomination not an indication that Hindutva is the main poll plank for the BJP?

A. Our clear agenda is the unity and integrity of our country. Our culture, that democracy is strengthened, and development takes place; that those who speak the language of Pakistan are defeated. And that India, when it completes 100 years of Independence, leads the world.

Q. Unlike 2014, formidable alliances, including the SP-BSP-RLD [Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal] in UP, are taking on the BJP this time. How do you assess your chances?

A. There is no impact. Even in UP, the BJP will win more seats. The people of the country have experienced the reality and the negative role of all these parties. To protect their own existence, they are trying to forge mismatched alliances. In reality, there is no “gathbandhan”. Shatrughan Sinha left the BJP to join the Congress, which made him its candidate in Patna. Sinha, however, has made his wife the SP candidate in Lucknow, where he campaigned for her. The Congress candidate is asking why he is not campaigning for him. All of them are just making attempts to save their existence. We will get 300-plus.

Q. But the opposition says unlike 2014, there is no wave this time.

A. Wherever there are rallies of the prime minister, there is more crowd than 2014. The crowd is participative and more enthusiastic which is proof that there is a bigger wave than 2014.

Q. In this election, a lot of leaders from all sides have made very objectionable comments. Is not our discourse turning very negative?

A. The model code of conduct is there and the Election Commission should take action as required.

Q.The Opposition, including the Congress, has consistently alleged that the government has done little for Dalits and also that it is anti-farmer.

A. We have taken a historic decision in the interest of farmers. We have worked for SC, STs and even the poor among the general category. The work is visible on the ground. The first words of the Prime Minister after he took charge was that the government is of the weaker sections and ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ [development for all]. And what he said, he did.

Q. Your critics claim that growth that happened has been jobless growth.

A. During Modi ji’s rule, nearly 6-7 crore people have got employment - they have become entrepreneurs. For instance, under the PM Jan Dhan Yojana, 34 crore accounts were opened. And of these 4-5 crore people opened accounts without any balance, and they got the right to indulge in transactions worth R5,000-10,000. Under the Mudra Yojana, over 17 crore people have got loans. Now are these people sitting with the money inside their homes after taking loans? They are working, and some would have employed others also. Of these around 4-5 crore people have taken a loan for the first time. If you take only them, they found employment in addition to those they employed. Will you not take them into consideration. Or will you only count government jobs. Even the vacant position in government have been filled.

Q.There has been much debate on the Balakot air strikes. While the government presents it as a strong and decisive step, others have raised questions on the alleged politicisation of the strike.

A. In the last five years, the Opposition, especially the Congress, has played a negative role. There was an attempt to create needless misconceptions on every issue. That is why they have lost their base among the people. The Modi government has taken strong and decisive steps in all fields. After Uri and Pulwama incidents, it has sent a message that if someone attacks us, we will eliminate them - not only in our territory but even from where they come. For the first time, terrorists were neutralised in Pakistani territory. It is a historic step, but if Congress or other parties speak the language of Pakistan, it is very unfortunate. The Congress that led the independence movement under Mahatma Gandhi is not the same any longer. They used to chant ‘Vande Mataram’ and called for strengthening the country. Now they support those who say “Pakistan zindabad”. [National Conference leader] Omar Abdullah has said there should be a separate prime minister and separate system for Kashmir. Lakhs of people have sacrificed to make it an integral part of the country. I want to ask Rahul Gandhi what he has to say on Abdullah’s demand. And why did he from Amethi and go to Wayanad to contest with the support of Muslim League. He should make clear what he wants.

Q. But your party has also talked of removing Article 370 and Article 35 A?

A. Yes, they should definitely be scrapped as early as possible. In every country the same laws apply to all religions. There should be uniform civil code also. We have mentioned in our manifesto.

Q. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was your ally and it also has expressed its opposition on these matters.

A. Alliances are formed on the basis of minimum common programme. So we entered an alliance for the sake of the development of Kashmir. Due to the lack of development, separatist tendencies were making inroads. We are a party of patriots and we made an efforts to create a positive environment. When things were not going in the right direction, we walked out of the government.

Q. Your government has said it provided graft-free governance. The Congress has, however, levelled allegations of corruption on the Rafale deal.

A. No, No and No. Even the Supreme Court has given its decision. Someone filed a writ and they agreed to hear it. They said various thing about it. Now they have received a Supreme Court notice and would learn. There will be action.

Q. You are the BJP’s incharge of Uttarakhand, where polling was held recently.

A. We will win all the five seats with big margins. Bigger margins than 2014.