The alliances that the opposition is working on is out of compulsion as they realise they cannot defeat the BJP, says Nitin Gadkari, the minister for road transport & highways, shipping & water resources, river development & Ganga rejuvenation.
In an interview with ET, he terms the crisis in the farm sector as a result of wrong policies for 60 years and says the government is doing enough to address job issues that some sectors may be facing. Edited excerpts:
A lot of work is being done in the highways sector, but this is mostly from the Budget. Private investment has not been significant…
This assessment is not right. We have given Rs 2 lakh crore projects under hybrid annuity — 40% grant-in-aid from the government and the balance 60% from the investor. Of the 60%, the investor brings 30% while the balance comes from banks. I have crossed Rs 11 lakh crore in investment. Out of this, maximum Rs 3.5-4.0 lakh crore has come from the Budget in the last five years. The balance Rs 7 lakh crore will come from private-public investment.
Lot of work has happened on the Ganga rejuvenation, but what about other rivers?
It is unfortunate we have not been able to communicate to people. We are working on 40 tributaries and drains of the Ganga. For the Yamuna, we have started 13 projects worth Rs 4,500 crore, in Delhi. In Mathura, we have three projects under hybrid annuity. A Rs 800-crore project in Agra for the Yamuna has been cleared. There are many other projects on the Yamuna. We have only done 30% work, even then people were very happy with the water quality in Kumbh. We have hilsa fish coming right up to Allahabad; other wild life has also appeared. By next March (2020), Ganaga will be totally clean.
The opposition has praised your ministry but is going to make jobs and farmer stress a big election issue. What is your view on that?
If we rise above politics and see, sugar price is Rs 20 a kg in Brazil while we are paying farmers for sugarcane based on Rs 34 a kg for sugar. Brazil decides the rate for sugar, corn prices are set by America, soybean rate is by Argentina. In such a global economy, we are not in a position to fix prices of produce. There is surplus of wheat, rice, pulses and sugar. We have to change the cropping pattern of agriculture. Our government has taken the step towards diversification of agriculture. Our Rs 11,000-crore ethanol economy will become Rs 2 lakh crore going ahead. The results will take time to come. Agriculture crisis did not happen in our five years. This is the result of wrong policies adopted for 60 years and the neglect of agriculture. We are doing river interlinking to raise irrigation coverage, which will raise farmers’ income and production three times. We brought crop insurance scheme for farmers, Rs 12 lakh crore loan for them under the priority sector, there is relief on interest. We have developed agro-processing in a big way. We have decided to give them Rs 6,000 annually. It is not right to say that there is no crisis, but the government has tried to address. The results will come.
What about jobs?
I have awarded Rs 5 lakh crore projects under Sagarmala. In the roads sector, I have done Rs 11 lakh crore. In my other ministries, I have awarded Rs 1 lakh crore projects, taking the total to Rs 17 lakh crore. This will require machinery, rollers, contractors, engineers… There will be lot of work. We have definitely created jobs but there are some sectors where there is some problem. In economic reforms, we brought GST, brought demonetisation to stop the parallel economy. So, naturally, there is a need for more work in some sectors. But the way we have been working, our growth rate will rise over 8% in the coming years and employment potential will also rise.
Moving to politics, you are facing alliances in the coming elections and especially in Uttar Pradesh, there could be problems for you?
Politics is a game of compulsions, limitations, and contradictions. Alliances is a game of compulsion. When they realised they cannot defeat us, they have come together. In 1971, all parties came together against Indira (Gandhi) Ji, but she won the elections. So, two-plus-two is never four in politics. I am confident of the work the government has done under the leadership of Narendra Modi. We will win the elections on that basis.
The NDA government in 2014 had made many promises to people. Some have been fulfilled and some not…
Tell me which promises we have not fulfilled.
Jobs, for example…
We are not saying that we have done overwhelmingly well on every aspect. What we are saying is we have done in five years what many governments could not in the last 50 years and if we are given a chance again, we will do much more in the next five years.
What would be the key focus areas for BJP?
Policies aiming at the welfare of villages, poor, farmers and workers, and an economic framework eyeing employment generation. To formulate policies that will make the country the No.1 economic superpower. (Policies on) how to uplift the poorest of the poor and ensure social equality, how to address shortcoming of our country in the areas of healthcare, infrastructure.
How can your party address polarisation?
Our party is free of casteism or communalism or dynastic politics. This is a special characteristic of the BJP. People try to label us as a communal and a caste-based party. Their politics works till they can create fear in the minds of Dalits and minorities. We will not do politics that discriminates on the basis on religion, caste, creed or sex. Sabka saath sabka vikaas has been our mantra.
What is your expectation on your party's performance in the upcoming polls?
We will win 300 seats. People have seen what kind of work we have done. They can see democracy is secure in our hands. So, we will come back.
You are giving 300 to the BJP or the NDA?
The BJP will get 300.