‘Personally, against Balakot as poll issue’

‘Personally, against Balakot as poll issue’
Nitin Gadkari (File)
CHANDIGARH, MAY 3 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 5/3/2019 11:09:28 AM IST

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways NitinGadkari is one of the tallest BJP leaders who was  in Chandigarh to campaign for party candidate KirronKher, spoke to The Tribune reporter SushilManav  on a myriad of issues. These are excerpts from the interview: 

How many seats do you expect the BJP to win?

We will get a reasonably good majority,  winning more seats than we did in 2014. NDA’s partners will get a good number of seats. People want to see PM NarendraModi back in power. I have no doubt he will be PM once again.

In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, most of them from the Hindi belt. This time, it is facing a united opposition in UP. Don’t you think it is going to be hard to get a majority this time?

Two plus two does not always equal four in politics. All Opposition parties came together against Indiraji in 1971, yet she won. I don’t think UP will be any different from 2014. In Odisha and West Bengal too we are going to win seats. In the South, we will do well in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

From where does this confidence stem? The Opposition has been raising note ban, GST and farm distress to run down the government.

Frankly, GST is the biggest economic reform the country has had since Independence. And it is a fact that this reform was supported by all parties. We are constantly making improvements in GST which is a gift for  traders. People are benefiting from the tax. The recovery of GST this month has been the highest so far at Rs 1,13,865crore. We have taken a lot of initiatives to remove obstacles in the system. As far as demonetisation goes, it was a part of our fight against black money. 

Steps like demonetisation have helped economy. There were teething troubles when it was announced on November 8, 2016, but the people are happy now. The agriculture crisis is not our doing. It is because of Congress’ bad governance in  the past 70 years. Wrong economic policies and poor governance are responsible for the mess. Our government is giving priority to irrigation. 

We have taken a revolutionary decision — diversification to energy and power. For the first time, we are making ethanol from sugarcane and molasses. We are also using bio-fuel for helicopters and fighter planes.   

What do you think are the major issues in these elections? Do you think Balakot airstrike is an issue?

I feel that we should not politicise issues that concern our armed forces. This is the time to remain united on issues of internal and external security. Personally, I am not in favour of making Balakot a poll issue.

The Opposition alleges that BJP leaders are trying to take credit for the sacrifices made by soldiers by referring to Balakot in their speeches. Your take?

If you ask me to react to what Congress says on the issue and then ask for my comment to which the Opposition responds again, the issue is politicised. My suggestion is let us not politicise this issue. It is in the interest of our country that issues related to internal and external security are kept above politics.T his is my honest feeling.

What is your take on utterances by BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur against HemantKarkare?

As far as her controversial statement is concerned, she has already taken her words back. But it is certain she was targeted by the Congress in the name of so-called Hindu terrorism and was beaten up and tortured while in custody. So it must be the bitterness in her that made her make such a remark which she has taken back.

What do you have to say on the listing of MasoodAzhar as a global terrorist?

This is a great victory for the BJP government and will go a long way in exposing the nefarious designs  against India’s internal security.

Don’t you think issues of interest to the common man have taken a back seat and nationalism has emerged as a key issue?

It is not true. The BJP is going to the people on the basis of the work the Modi government has done in the past five years. It is because of the performance of the BJP government that the people want Modi to return to power. 

How do you view NYAY of the Congress which envisages Rs 72,000 per annum to poor families?

From 1947, the Congress has been making false promises. First, Pandit Nehru did it. Then, Indiraji came with the 20-point programme, five-point programme and gave the slogan of ‘GaribiHatao.’ Sonia Gandhi  madeManmohan Singh ji the PM and more dreams were sold to the poor. Now Rahul Gandhi is talking about the poor. They have been making false promises for the past 72 years.

What are your major achievements as a Union minister?

When I took over as Minister for Road Transport and Highways, the pace of construction of roads was 2 km per day. Today, it is 32 km per day. In Chandigarh, an underpass, a rotary and a flyover is being built at Tribune Chowk. An elevated road with slip roads will be constructed at the chowk. Work is on for constructing an elevated road from Sector 39 in Chandigarh to Kharar. 

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