May 17, 2014

Interview: BJP’s Economic Policy Agenda

Piyush Goyal, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national treasurer and a confidant of Narendra Modi, said the poll scene will alter significantly once prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi steps up his campaign. Opinion polls only reflect the current mood, he said in an interview with Ullekh NP. Goyal, who works closely with Modi on the BJP’s economic agenda, also took on those who said that the candidate’s recent speech outlining his vision for India was old wine in a new bottle. He also said that the BJP was wholly opposed to foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. Edited excerpts:

Various opinion polls suggest that the BJP will emerge as the singlelargest party in the 2014 general election. However, the National Democratic Alliance (led by the BJP) will not have an absolute majority according to these polls. Are you anxious?

Not at all. These opinion polls reflect the current mood which is destined to change drastically in many states once Modi starts campaigning. He has so far done only one rally in Maharashtra. There are many states that he has’t really covered so far. His campaign, once it is completed over the next few months, will ensure that the NDA wins more than 272 seats very comfortably. Wait and watch. It could even be a landslide.

Are you taking stock of the threat from the Aam Admi Party (AAP)?
AAP is anarchic to the core and voters of this country are wise and they will reject that new party. Besides, you may have noticed that AAP is expected to eat into the Congress’s vote base, not ours.

Are you aware of the criticism that came after Modi’s speech that his vision of India is more or less old wine in a new bottle?
Modi does not believe in making promises and then failing. In Gujarat, he has succeeded in every plan without cost and time overruns. Power for all by 2012 was a promise made by the Congress and they failed. They had targets on coal production, and they failed, again. In containing inflation, they failed. They have miserably failed to meet targets in infrastructure development, from roads to building safety systems for railways. Modi, on the other hand, completely believes that all plans have to be outcome-driven. In fact, the success of the Sabarmati waterfront project is proof of his abilities in executing projects.

How well thought out were the plans he talked about at the national council meet?
Nothing was hypothetical. For each plan, he has a clear blueprint. He also has a clear funding pattern. Building mega cities – which Modiji referred to – is a project conceived when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power. Do’t forget that the NDA has a history of coming up with such massive projects. Our idea of SEZs, for instance, was large economic zones that were meant to become export hubs, tourist hubs, etc. What the NDA envisaged were unique identity zones, like smart cities. Those were largeformat cities where you could have a population of 1 or 2 million. We wanted them to be modern cities that would become growth engines for the Indian economy.

Remember, in the Vajpayee regime, we approved only two SEZs. Unfortunately, after 2004, everything under the UPA became an exercise in corruption. The UPA regime thought that this was a scheme (SEZ programme) to oblige friends and relatives. They approved 600-plus SEZs all over the country. They vulgarised the concept so badly that you could have a 25-acre SEZ as opposed to the large-format ones that were planned earlier. They were, by definition, special economic zones, not special economic buildings. The UPA made a joke of this plan. Under the Congress, those projects became real-estate loot.

A country that had made sovereign promises – that these SEZs will get certain tax benefits – reneged on them. So, first the UPA misused the policy, then killed it, and the whole world was laughing at India. So plans are all good and may be similar, but it is execution that counts. And Modi is committed to doing that.

How will a national gas grid proposed by Modi be of help to people in the countryside?

Gujarat has created a gas pipeline grid. Instead of troubling the people with a cap on LPG cylinders they can use, we believe every town can be connected through a gas grid. And then we will use gas cylinders in the villages at subsidised rates. Our villagers who are poor will no longer have to burn kerosene and ruin their health. So LPG factories wo’t close down, and LPG manpower wo’t go waste. Therefore, plans, for Modi, are to be implemented not slept over. 

What are the advantages of proper implementation of the price stabilisation fund announced by Modi?
See, there was an onion crisis here. It was not that our onion production had gone down. In fact, it had gone up. Yet prices shot up to Rs100. Maharashtra (which is led by Congress-NCP) was the culprit. NCP did not allow Congress to interfere in this. Now, what would a Modi government do in such a situation? He would have immediately procured onions from anywhere in the world using the price stabilisation fund. The mere announcement would have made hoarders bring out all the onions into the market.

What will the BJP’s poll manifesto say about FDI?
I cannot fully answer that question, but we are out and out against FDI in multi-brand retail which will hurt small traders. In fact, the manifesto will spell out specific plans to improve ties between the government and small businessmen, small retailers and traders to make their lives easier. Also, wherever FDI is permitted, easier clearance mechanisms will be evolved to make the bureaucratic process much less cumbersome, especially in sectors that give a boboost to Indian manufacturing.

Source: This article is sourced fro Economic Times

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