Nitin Gadkari, minister, road transport, highways & shipping, has emerged as one of the key pillars of the NDA government. A former president of the BJP, the Maharashtra politician is playing a key political and administrative role. Gadkari says the Congress is throwing a spanner in the Modi government’s works You recently took on Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for his statement that the special package is a fairy tale meant to trick the voters. What is your argument?
For 10 years, Nitish Kumar asked the Congress government at the Centre for a special package for Bihar. He demanded ?50,000 crore. But when PM Modi announced the historic ?1.25 lakh crore package, he calls it ‘repackaging’. We were expecting a mature politician like him to at least acknowledge the PM’s gesture. Instead, he has turned to nitpicking and finding faults. We were initially surprised by the CM’s response. But, now, we know that he is clearly frustrated. In his frustration, he has taken to misleading the people of Bihar. On the one hand, he says it is repackaging of old schemes, on the other, he claims that the schemes have not been announced and that there is no plan. There is an inherent contradiction in his critique.
How do you view the BJP’s prospects in Bihar?
I think we’re going to win the election. Some people want to win elections through caste and religion. But, in politics, two plus two is not four. They play communal politics but the new generation wants progress. They want good roads and industry. They are not interested in caste and religion. We defeated this politics in the Lok Sabha election in 2014 and now in the assembly elections also we’ll do
the same. People in Bihar are going to support Prime Minister Modi’s development agenda.
You took the initiative for overhauling the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. But the initiative appears to have hit a wall. Any regrets?
I only initiated the amendments after having received letters asking for them from the Congress chief ministers. I have letters from the then Maharashtra CM, Prithviraj Chavan, and the current Assam CM, Tarun Gogoi, who found their own UPA (framed) law quite unworkable. It’s not practical to get consent of 80 per cent people. That simply would mean we cannot have any irrigation, road or rail project and the land will have to be returned in five years. If we were allowed to bring land reforms, it would have created smaller industrial hubs through industrial corridors. The rampant increase in urban population would have slowed down. Today, we don’t have infrastructure in cities. The Congress party doesn’t want us to succeed because they failed miserably.
The Congress has used its numbers in the Rajya Sabha to block the ordinance; so it was decided that the states can go ahead and frame their laws. Even during the NITI Aayog meeting, where all CMs were called to meet the PM but was boycotted by Congress CMs, Parkash Singh Badal (of Punjab) and Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh)
asked why are you (Centre) getting embroiled in the political games of the Congress; we want development in our states, we will add all these features to our land acquisition laws.
The Congress is saying that the Modi government is pro-market, is this image creating problems for you?
We are pro-India and pro-people. After 1947, under Nehru, India chose socialism and became a rich country with poor people. Down the road, you see this Leftism survives only as a red flag and nothing more. China has even privatised defence production; so what socialism are they talking about? We want markets with equitable distributive justice.
What kind of quantum jump has your ministry achieved in building roads? And do you see private sector in investment reviving?
In highways, we have increased road build per day to 14 km from 2 km, and it will be 30 km by March next year. We have awarded nine public private partnership projects in the last five months. The cost of the projects would be more than ?20,000 crore. I have awarded works for more than ?1 lakh crore and there’s not even a single allegation of corruption. We have reduced the rates of cement. All new roads are being made from cement. A 14-lane express highway is being built from Delhi to Dasna in UP and we are in the process of awarding contract. ♦