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'Congress is daydreaming about 2019'

By Sunil Gatade
Last updated on: November 24, 2017 09:20 IST
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'The new generation is looking for performance.'
'They don't want sermons, they don't want allegations, they don't want empty assurances and hollow slogans.'

 Rahul Gandhi on the campaign trail in Gujarat: Hanjadapar village, Dwarka district. Photograph: PTI Photo

"The government is acutely conscious of the inconvenience caused by GST," Bharatiya Janata Party national Vice-President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe tells Sunil Gatade.

"The government is working overtime to undo the unreasonable part of GST," Sahasrabuddhe, a Rajya Sabha member, adds.


Why do you think there is so much hue and cry over demonetisation and the goods and services tax?

Our campaign against black money -- demonetisation and GST -- was part of our larger agenda for cleansing the fiscal system and putting an end to the parallel economy.

Now, unfortunately the Opposition is out to bring a bad name to these efforts because some of them are hugely inconvenienced.

They want to abuse all our efforts because the shoe is pinching. They are feeling the heat of the changing situation. Therefore, they are trying to tarnish our efforts and our agenda.

Do you think the Opposition is not taking up the issue keeping in mind the national interest?

Apparently, yes.

You take 50 speeches of (Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in the last one year or so. Do you find a single reference to the agenda of making India free of nepotism, free of corruption and also free of bad governance?

Not a single reference. These things have never been on the agenda of the Congress.

There is absolutely no hope they will be in the future. They were never serious about fighting corruption.

This history of lack of seriousness dates back to the days of Indira Gandhi.

Is it going to be an issue in the 2019 general election?

Of course.

A significant change over the last three years is that previously the ruling party was indulging in corruption and the Opposition was targeting them on corruption.

Now, the ruling party is targeting corruption and the Opposition is targeting their targeting of corruption.

Otherwise, how do you explain the noises Congress leaders are making on GST, the structure of which was outlined with the participation and support of state finance ministers of the Congress as well?

There is an impression that the BJP has been on the back foot with economic issues gaining precedence.

On the contrary, why should we be on the back foot?

There is absolutely no reason.

The Congress has sensed an opportunity in certain incidents of people being inconvenienced due to demonetisation and the GST.

Nobody denies that a section of people were inconvenienced. The prime minister is on record seeking 50 days to deal with the situation and people accepted this and within that specific period, Herculean efforts were made to bring normalcy.

But exploiting inconvenience to the people for partisan political gains is unacceptable.

Remember, this is a war on corruption and black money.

When we are engaged in a war we accept the inconveniences that are caused due to blackout and other such restrictions.

Similarly, some of the inconveniences caused by GST are part of the price one has to pay for the larger good of the country.

Rahul Gandhi says it is a 'Modi-made disaster'...

He is trying to exploit the inconvenience caused to people due to demonetisation earlier and now GST.

The government is acutely conscious of the inconveniences. The government is working overtime to deal with them and to undo the unreasonable part of them. It has brought in reforms.

I personally led a couple of delegations to Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia and he accepted certain points, which were later incorporated into policy.

The government is open-minded and receptive.

But whatever the lacunae in GST, they can't be looked at as a licence to exploit the inconveniences that people are facing.

But the way demonetisation and GST have been implemented is being seen in some quarters as 'India Shining'...

Unfortunately, when in the Opposition, the Congress gets nostalgic, and understandably so.

They hope that the BJP will take the same path, which it took in 2004 as that helps them daydream and set eyes on the 2019 elections.

But let me tell you that 2017 is neither 2013 nor 2002.

Things are changing and people are experiencing the changes and therefore their (Congress) dreams will never come true.

The BJP fought the last Lok Sabha election leading the National Democratic Alliance, but succeeded in securing an absolute majority on its own.
What is the road map for 2019?
What is the compulsion of going along with allies when you have a majority on your own?

As a party worker it is not for me to comment on future strategy. These decisions are taken at the highest level. I cannot say I am privy to them.

But what I understand as a party worker is, for us, an alliance is not just bringing a section of political parties together only to fight against the Congress.

We are, in a way, masters of alliance politics. Atalji (Bihari Vajpayee) ran at least two successful governments with some two dozen partners. So we understand that coalition politics depends upon mutuality of interests.

Mutual give and take is the foundation of coalition politics. The BJP takes its alliance partners along and continues with them whether technically we require them or not.

How do you look at the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, considering that a section of the Opposition is insisting that they are an 'open field'?

Our detractors fail to understand what the people understand.

The people of India have complete confidence in Prime Minister D Narendra Modi and nobody has even an iota of doubt in the purity of purpose that drives our prime minister.

People know him as a leader without any personal agenda, a leader who is working overtime.

The political situation is such that the prime minister is head and shoulders above all those in the Opposition, who are daydreaming of an opportunity simply because the general election is just about 18 months away.

There is talk that the Lok Sabha polls could be advanced and might take place along with the assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

I believe this is more speculation than real information. I, at least, am not aware of any such plan.

Strangely, your allies such as the Shiv Sena claim that the Modi wave is on the wane.

Normally, I would have declined to comment on this as we believe that you don't talk publicly about your friends. But this particular observation is a case of needless kite flying. And there is no ban on it (kite flying).

Lately, some critics of Rahul Gandhi have become his admirers and are seeing a lot of potential in him. How do you see this?

So far as a new-found political mojo of the 'First Prince of the First Family' is concerned, a few smart tweets and a set of hired followers cannot create anything other than an illusion.

With a keen tussle between the BJP and the Congress, how do you see the Gujarat assembly elections panning out?

In Gujarat, the BJP is consolidating its position. There is bickering in the Opposition camp. Already, Shankersinh Vaghela is no more part of the Congress.

Besides, those who led the Patidar agitation are no longer unchallenged leaders of the movement. People have started doubting their intentions.

Internal contradictions in the conglomeration of social groups, which are still in the making, are obvious.

Therefore, if one community leader is today seen on the dais of the Congress, tomorrow he is either compelled to give an explanation or he has to openly dissociates himself...

These are indications that one after the other, community leaders are realising that the Congress continues to be a sinking ship.

Attempts to fan discontent have come to a nought, therefore, we are extremely confident that in both Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, the BJP will win hands down.

What makes you optimistic about the BJP's prospects under Modi?

After several decades, India is witnessing a tussle between the politics of performance and the politics of procrastination.

The new generation is looking for performance. They don't want sermons, they don't want allegations, they don't want empty assurances and hollow slogans.

They want results.

In the last three years, the BJP has shown resoluteness in taking an untrodden path.

To give examples -- demonetisation, GST, surgical strikes, formation of a solar alliance, consolidating India's position in BRICS, establishing Yoga Day. Several of these things are the first of their kind in our country.

There is emphasis on productive, result-oriented implementation.

Meetings of PRAGATI, the meeting the prime minister conducts with bureaucrats, are testimony to how he wants to walk the talk.

There is emphasis on innovation and people's participation, the extent of which goes far beyond previous experience.

The way the prime minister speaks to the people on Mann ki Baat and the way people resonate or extend wholehearted support to Swachh Bharat... all this shows the vibrancy of the relationship the prime minister continues to enjoy with the masses.

IMAGE: Rahul Gandhi on the campaign trail in Gujarat: Hanjadapar village, Dwarka district. Photograph: PTI Photo

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Sunil Gatade
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