BJP MP and former national general secretary Varun Gandhi on Saturday said price rise, unemployment, and farmers’ unrest are the main issues in the ongoing Uttar Pradesh elections, and the state will not vote on Hindu-Muslim issue.
In an interview with The New Indian Express, Gandhi, who is an MP from Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, rejected his party’s pitch to make it an 80% versus 20% election. “It would be immoral to look at any voter on the basis of religion or caste. I consider the voter the biggest stakeholder - either you include him in your decisions or else he will not include you in his decisions.
“Whatever noise you hear is of Hindu-Muslim or backward-forward. In fact, the vote will not be on any of such divisive issues. I am against seeing any voter on the basis of his religion or caste,” Gandhi said.
He said: “In this election, voters of Uttar Pradesh have to answer these basic questions through their vote -- Has corruption on the ground reduced in the last five years? Was justice done to the farmers? Has the public got relief from the impact of inflation? How long will the contractual workers have to wait for justice? and Whether the youth got employment.”
Gandhi further said: “In 2017, people gave us a huge mandate with the hope that there would be a radical change across the State – not just in the infrastructure, but in the entire system of governance. But have these hopes of the people been fulfilled?”
He said “our young nation is facing the biggest hit of unemployment. Did you see what happened during the Railway Recruitment Board examinations? 1.25 crore students applied for 35,000 posts of RRB-NTPC. When the Railway started talking about 5% recruitment instead of 20%, the patience of the students was naturally broken and they protested. The police lashed out at them with sticks. When will the young get justice?”
“These days, inflation has also made people’s lives difficult. People will be able to breathe a sigh of relief if government schemes ranging from the PDS system to education and medicine can be made free from corruption. This time the election is being fought around important issues such as inflation, unemployment, troubled farmers, Dalit oppression, women’s safety.”
On farmers’ agitation, the BJP MP said: “In a democracy, every mass movement has its own strength and effect. It has been proved time and again that not only does the people's movement have the ability to change any government but it also has the strength to create new leadership.”
“Farmers are still waiting for answers from the government on the legal guarantee of MSP, compensation for families of the 700 martyred farmers, the quashing of the fake cases filed against them, and the resignation of the Union Minister of State for Home in the Lakhimpur case. If the government continues to ignore these issues, it is likely that the farmers’ movement may start again.”
When asked if he would contest the next election as a BJP candidate, Gandhi said “No one can predict what will happen tomorrow. Only time can answer such questions. I aspire for people-based politics. Equitable and inclusive politics is in my blood.”
Asked why he was opposed to the three farm laws, he said “Provisions in the farm laws can ruin the market system. Also, agriculture and commodity trade could be confined in the hands of some private companies. After a while, both the farmer and the consumer would suffer, and basic food items would become very expensive in the country.”
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Elaborating on his recent remark that “a push for privatisation (of PSUs) is a push for mass layoffs”, Gandhi said: “We need to create the right incentives and provide greater autonomy in terms of working style to drive a result-oriented, value-additive approach. Restructuring of PSUs can also be done as with a single large public company holding stakes in PSUs to define the roadmap and help expand the PSUs to achieve a global scale. Such moves have given good results in China & Singapore. In Singapore, the holding company Temasek helps various companies (SingTel, Singapore Airlines, Singapore Power) achieve scale, while policymaking is done by the Ministry of Finance. On the other hand, Chinese growth is fuelled by its PSUs, all under a holding company (SASAC), which drives efficiencies towards stated goals, leading to 94 Chinese PSUs in the Fortune Global 500 list in 2020.”
Asked to explain his recent remark describing the present period as “a period of low job creation” and why the present government failed to create as many jobs as it had promised, the BJP MP said: “Unemployment is growing unabated and we need to create around 90 million non-farm jobs (between 2023 to 2030) to leverage our demographic dividend. Meanwhile, PSU jobs have actually reduced (from 11.3 lakh employees in 2017 to 10.3 lakh employees in 2019). We need a national conversation around unemployment, especially among our youth. This can focus on multiple levers.”
To handle the growing joblessness, he suggested filling vacancies, converting contractual posts to permanent assignments, and ramping up public services, especially healthcare and education. This, he said, can generate as many as 5.2 million jobs itself, besides providing an additional benefit of increased demand for goods and services by the beneficiaries of these jobs.
Gandhi said a National Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme can be announced (benefiting 20 million casual urban workers) focussing on repair and rejuvenation of urban public works. “We should encourage job creation in areas of water conservation, waste management, urban farming, renewables. A full-fledged municipal corporation can create 10 thousand jobs and which, when expanded across all our cities, can lead to significant job creation. Without concrete steps taken, our youth shall be forced to continue living its misery of finding a job, any job,” Gandhi said.