Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu shares with Santwana Bhattacharya his experience of being part of the Narendra Modi Government, which is celebrating its first year in office.
What is the single biggest achievement of the government?
Economy, which was derailed earlier, has been revived. The policy framework for change has been put in place. The World Bank and the IMF are all saying India will surpass China and the international rating agencies have improved the country’s outlook. In short, a firm beginning towards enabling people to meet their aspirations, economic growth, GDP likely to grow 7.8 percent, FDI flow, and 56 percent jump, etc. Secondly, the Prime Minister filled the leadership vacuum. Because of him there’s a renewed interest in India.
Is it more about a change of perception? Your focus has been ‘Make in India’, the manufacturing sector. But that has not really taken off.
Well, the manufacturing sector cannot take off overnight. One year is too short a time, but the direction is set. We’ve made progress in the social sector, financial inclusiveness, Jana Dhan Yojana, Mudra Bank, insurance, pension for all. It is not a mere perception. Economy revival without corruption, that’s the oxygen we’ve provided. The rest will follow.
You’ve accused the Opposition, the Congress in particular, of acting as an obstructionists force in the Rajya Sabha. But they say you did the same with the insurance bill, GST when in you were in the Opposition
No, that’s not what they are doing. They are insisting on referring even the bills which have been approved by the Standing Committee to a Select Committee. GST is UPA bill. The real estate bill is your UPA bill. They were referred to the Standing Committees, again they demanded Select Committee (referral).
The Opposition alleges the government isn’t allowing due scrutiny of bills
If we want to avoid the scrutiny of Parliament, why did we hold a record 90 sittings of the Lok Sabha and 87 of the Rajya Sabha? Why were nine bills referred to different committees even though they were extensively debated and considered by Standing Committees in the past?
How much of a problem is the Rajya Sabha?
The lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha is certainly an issue but not a problem. Both Houses passed a record 47 bills and five major ordinances. This was made possible with the government reaching out to the parties that had some reservations on certain bills. The same was not the case with land and GST bills.
But your insistence on the land acquisition bill has earned you criticism of being pro-corporate.
What was the first sentence the Prime Minister uttered after entering Parliament? “My government will work for farmers, youth and women.” Till yesterday, they (the Congress) were the ones giving out land for SEZ. National resources were given illegally to a handful of their friends and corporates…
In the Urban Development Ministry, you are required to deal with the AAP Government. Have you faced any problems?
We’re guided by the simple advice from the PM: Work as Team India. So far there is no problem and I hope there will be none as the roles of Central and Delhi governments are clearly defined. But they have to act in a mature, constructive manner and follow rules. They can’t act beyond their jurisdiction. They’ve made such tall promises which cannot be kept. So they are creating alibis to divert attention.
You were in the (Vajpayee) Government when Sheila Dikshit was Delhi CM. Do you have any memory of a similar tug-of-war?
No, none. Sheila Dikshit is a dignified lady, 100 times better than those we have now. She lost out because she couldn’t fulfil promises, but we had no problems with her.
After the bifurcation your state, Andhra Pradesh needs a new capital.
Huge injustice was done to my state. The UPA didn’t do enough homework, unilaterally divided the state before general elections. We also supported Telangana, but there is also the question of justice for Andhra Pradesh, which lost Hyderabad. It is on my insistence that certain things were included in the bill. Whatever we’ve done in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand will be done there also. We’ve given Rs 1,000 crore from the ministry kitty. For the rest, a detailed project report has to be submitted. Only then can I release further funds.
But what about granting special status to Andhra Pradesh as was promised? The Opposition is saying you are promising something while in the state and something else while at the Centre.
On the question of special status, there is a Gadgil formula. Four parameters are there. Andhra fulfils only the last parameter. In case of revenue deficit, assistance can be given.
They should have put the special status promise in the Act. That would have made it easier. All things promised in the Act will be implemented. But when the 14th Finance Commission gave its report, it was said if the revenue deficit was being taken care of, special status couldn’t be given. It is a constitutional issue. The Finance Minister asks how he can bypass the Finance Commission report after it the Cabinet accepts it. Still, I haven’t given up.