Congress is losing support because of immature talks by president Rahul Gandhi, said Nitin Gadkari, Union Road Transport and Highways.
"Unfortunately, when Rahul Gandhi speaks, people are laughing and that is the reason that Congress is losing support and credibility from the people," said Gadkari to CNBC-TV18's Ashpreet Sethi.
Watch full interview: Politics is an instrument of socio-economic reform, says Nitin Gadkari
Gadkari also hit out at Rahul Gandhi for making baseless charges against Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) over the violence in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, "Now, what is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) relation with Tuticorin problem? I do not understand. How he make this type of charges. It’s baseless."
Edited Excerpts: Many believed that you are one of the best performing ministers in the cabinet and a senior leader, do you agree with that?
It's up to the people and media. They are the best judge to decide about it, but this is not the correct thing. My all ministers and colleagues are working day and night. But it's an opportunity for my ministry that I can show the road construction, the road, the bridges, tunnels and ports. What does a health minister or cultural or educational minister can show?
Ultimately, they are also working hard, their contribution is good, they are also doing good jobs and we are all working as a team under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are all working hard and whatever the results of the government are, because of our team work.
Even in my own ministry, it's not only my credit, my secretary, my chairman, my directors, my engineers, my professionals, my contractors, they are working day and night. If suppose there is a good performance, if you feel that it is number one, it's not only Nitin Gadkari’s credit, it is the credit of total team, which is working hard day and night for the cause and they are all responsible for that.
While you are giving credit to your team, you have always told us at CNBC-TV18 that you live up to your promises but during these four years, what has been the key challenge for you?
Challenges are everywhere. I always say one thing that there are some people who convert challenges into opportunities and some people convert opportunities into problems. So problems and challenges are part and parcel of life. It is depending upon the leadership, vision, decision-making capacity and your persuasion that you can make miracles and that is management, that is leadership and leadership is a quality and under the leadership of Modi, we all are working fast because the feeling in our mind is that politics is an instrument of socio-economic reform.
People of India are giving us an opportunity to do something great for the country. Our every minute is important and we are all trying our level best to contribute to change the socio-economic condition of this country and to make this country strong, number one country in the world and that is the philosophy, the spirit behind it and we are all working hard.
Take a comparison, 48-years of Congress party with one parivar, Gandhi and Nehru parivar, they got the opportunity to rule this country for 48 years and 48 months. The BJP government under the leadership of Modi, just compare, has worked at least ten times more and has contributed more for the country. This is the performance of our party and our leaders.
While you are talking about performance and politics, let me bring in few questions on politics here. The first one being, do you believe that the BJP is not able to manage its allies here. Look at Shiv Sena going ahead saying that we will be looking at anti-BJP alliance, look at how Chandrababu Naidu walked out, withdrew, so do you believe there is friction within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)?
I will tell you one thing. When I was the BJP president, the three alliance parties were with us, Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and Nitish Kumar. All three parties are with us now. The fact is that some of the parties are not ready to come with us now, but politics is a game of compulsions, limitations and contradictions. Here there are no permanent friends and permanent enemies. Now, the opposition parties are united. In a true sense, we are stronger. Our leadership under Modi is very strong and opposition parties, day-by-day is weakening. That is the reason that because of their weakness, they are organising and united.
Does that not worry you? A maha gathbandhan by the opposition party, look at how HD Kumaraswamy – in his swearing in, Mamata Banerjee was there, Arvind Kejriwal was there, Yadav, Left parties, everybody had come together, does that not concern BJP?
From the time of Jana Sangh, we have many times faced this unity. Some of the parties were not even ready to organise the meeting with Jana Sangh. So from that, we are now in a good position. We don’t believe in political untouchability. We are trying our level best to take the party and people with us. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas.
We don’t want to play politics on the basis of caste, creed, sex, region and language. We are very much committed for social justice, social equality, economic justice and economic equality. Antodaya - the progress of the last man of the society is our socio-economic thinking. We are very transparent and nationalist and committed for the gaav, garib, majdur and kisan.
Now, it is the people of India, who supported us and that is the reason that we got the opportunity. I feel that in due course of time, again the parties which are not with us, the day will come that they will come with us and with the cooperation of all of them, we will formulate a new India. The strongest country in the world.
You are confident of getting the numbers in 2019 elections?
100% because of our performance. I am 100% confident that under the leadership of Modi, we will get full majority, reasonable majority.
Gujarat was quite a tough battle for you, look at what happened in Karnataka, everybody is saying that it was a hurried decision by BJP, look at the poll that has come in, where they are saying Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan elections that are going to come, BJP is unlikely to win there. So what is your view on that?
I feel this is not the appropriate picture. You are only considering two-four states. You take the reference of last three years of elections, you think about North-East and you think about Congress party. What is with the Congress party now? They lost Karnataka. The only major state that they have is Punjab. Congress once upon a time ruled a country, having the maximum strength in all the states, today where is the Congress?
How do you expect Congress, who don’t have any majority in different states, how under their leadership they are going to win the elections and they will get the majority. In Karnataka, we are the biggest party. At the same time, the main loser is the Congress. Previously, they were the ruling party. Now, their role is secondary and the regional party, JD(S) has a major role. Is it good for a reputation of the Congress?
You check from all the states and because of weakness, they understand that it is difficult for them to fight with Modi and BJP. The fear - that is the main reason that our strength is becoming a weakness for them and that is the reason that they are united. In a true sense, BJP and Modi, we are the architect of opposition’s unity in the country.
All parties, who have maximum weaknesses, they are united only because there is a fear in their mind about BJP and Modi.
While you say that that unity among the opposition party does not worry you. Let me bring in another issue that has been cropping up in the past. Look at the Sterlite protest – that has become a political issue now, 13 lives were lost but the Congress president Rahul Gandhi goes ahead and says, RSS is responsible and now they are calling for a ‘band’ there in Tamil Nadu. Do you believe it could have been handled better?
I feel that even the people by and large recognise that Rahul Gandhi speaks baseless and he is not indicating maturity. Actually, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and even Sonia Gandhi, they speak reasonably with maturity. Unfortunately, what he speaks, people are laughing and now that is the reason that Congress is losing support from the people and losing credibility. In a democracy, Rahul Gandhi is the president of the main opposition party. It is very unfortunate that the leader of the party and the party is day-by-day reducing their reputation in public is not a good sign for Indian democracy.
You had said that the BJP doesn’t take Rahul Gandhi seriously. He is still a baby, I am quoting you here. Do you still have that perception about him?
From a statement, I again feel that it'is not good. I am his well-wisher. In a democracy, we need a responsible opposition party. Unfortunately, what he speaks is baseless allegations. He is talking about corruption of Modi. There may have lot of differences about Modi but even a strong opponent of Modi, he never come back with charge of corruption on him. His honesty, no doubt is there, but Rahul Gandhi talks anything nonsense, immature and baseless. Now, what is RSS relation with Tuticorin problem? I do not understand. How he make this type of charges. It’s baseless. I feel that this is not appropriate for the Congress or for him. It’s time for him to behave like a responsible opposition party, otherwise I feel that Congress’ future will go in bleak black.
Let me begin with the road sector. In 2017, in an interview to us, you said 30 kilometres is the target, 28 kilometres is where we are standing right now. So, are you happy, are you content with that?
I am not happy. My previous target was 40 kilometres per day. Before next March, I am confident that we will complete the target of 40 kilometre per day.
I remember at a press conference you said 45 kilometres is also something that you could achieve?
It can go up to 45 kilometre, but my target is 40 kilometre.
Fuel price hike has been skyrocketing, look at how the hike has been going. Citizens are suffering here. Do you believe it is time we get it under Goods and Service Tax (GST)?
Yes 100%. Now, the statement of Chief Minister of Maharashtra is also there. At the time, when GST was started, I had asked question to the finance secretary. Why you are not taking liquor, petrol and diesel into GST? He was telling me that all the stakeholders and state governments feel that it is their main revenue and they don’t have confidence as to how much return they will get. However, today I feel that by adding petrol and diesel into GST, it will reduce the cost and it will increase the income of the state governments.
Once upon a time, Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra was opposing it, but today they are ready. So, probably we will get the cooperation from the states and fiance minister may succeed to get the policy and clear GST for petrol and diesel.
Will you get political consensus from states to get it under GST?