It’s so good to see three extremely vocal, talented, outspoken politicians on the stage and I would like to tell all of you that the theme is ‘Surging India.’ Please let your voices and your opinions also surge. Let this be as the spirit of Republic TV always is, let’s this be a no holds barred event. Piyush, Farooq Sahab and Praful, we are broadcasting this across all our partner networks, so I think a lot of people will be watching this even today. And we will do some free speaking.
This is a political year, I want to first begin by telling everyone that each day we count down to the elections of 2019. These elections of 2019 people used clichés like ‘make or break elections’, Mahagathbandhan vs BJP election,’ but I think at the core of all of this is India, at the core of all of this is the nation, at the core of all of this is our abiding philosophy at Republic TV that whatever happens it’s nation first, no compromise. And if it is got to be nation first, no compromise, then at the core of all of this has to be an agreement on what drives the nation.
We must debate. We must disagree, but at the core of it we must remember that regardless of an election result, we need a consensus. So, when we were thinking of this entire event, the first event after the Prime Minister’s speech was phrased ‘Consensus Possible’ with a big question mark after it, and the tagline is ‘Baseline for a surging India.’ Because if these eminent gentlemen who are here on the dais don’t agree on a few fundamentals, they can be around society, change, reform, politics, parliament, strategy, growth, our nation’s sovereignty, our sovereignty fabric and the integrity of the nation.
If the debate becomes so loud that beyond, you know, the debate turns into disagreement then I don’t think we are going anywhere.
Having said this, I am really happy to have all of you here today. We heard the Prime Minister. He laid out his vision. May I first begin by asking you this, and don’t be polite to each other, I mean you can be occasionally, but is consensus possible on the basic issues around the nation? Don’t tell me consensus exists, because the consensus does not exist, then I will prove to you in this session that consensus does not exist. But because we believe this country can surge, we believe consensus is possible. So either one of you can open your innings out here, Mr Piyush Goyal already has the mike in his hand. Okay, Piyush Goyal, is consensus possible?
A: Arnab, at the outset, personally, I believe India has demonstrated to the world the highest amount of consensus that could possibly be expected in a political democracy. If one looks at 70 years of independence, you will observe that we have had government’s changing, elections being held in a very cordial atmosphere, elections being won and lost. We just lost an election with barely 3 or 4 seats. We lost another election few days back, where we were actually ahead, but the combination came together and pipped us at the top slot. So, I think one big element where we have seen great consensus is the political election process. Another thing is whenever there is a crisis in this country, by and large, save and except the few examples when there was a Pokhran-2 test, we heard a few dissenting voices in the then principal opposition party.
But, by and large, we saw the war with Pakistan and China. We saw the Kargil stand-off, and we have had more occasion than one where India and Indians and politicians have come together standing behind the then government of the day irrespective of who it was and demonstrated to the people that in the hour of need we are all together. Then you have seen on economic reform, post-1991, governments have changed and several governments have changed, and each one of us has been a part of different governments at different time.
But the thrust of economic reform continues relentlessly, it only gets better and better, day after day, from 1991 till 2018. And no better example than that than the GST to show that, yes, consensus is possible. 30 meetings of the GST Council, where 30 representatives of states and some Union Territories sit together, officials from 30 states and the central government along with its officials, everybody working towards one defined goal and successfully navigating the world’s biggest tax reform ever embarked by any country in the world, any such a large country. You have seen that happen in UK or maybe Germany, but our country, a federal combination of states has never ever achieved a GST-type common tax in some many years. India has successfully done it, navigated it and we heard the honorable Prime Minister today giving us the way forward where we are looking at even further simplification, looking at lower rates as the tax collection improves.
So I think consensus is very much possible. You will have disagreement, you will have some loud voices as elections draw near, sometimes politics overtakes good governance, good economics, which all of us are endeavouring to do. But, by and large, in the political spectrum, I think consensus is possible. Senior leaders like Farooq sahib play that role where they can help everybody come together, of course, unholy alliances you may not find that kind of a consensus. So when you have an alliance where one day they support each other, another day they don’t attend the swearing-in ceremony of the party they support.
Q: Which one are you referring to?
A: Well, there are so many disagreements amongst alliance partners that I think those type of political consensus may not be possible when they are forming alliances. But as a nation, in the hour of need this country stands together.
A: I will be.. since we have got into the issues. First of all, GST Farooq Sahib tried to allude that it was the BJP 5 states which opposed it. I think it was the matter of issues. What was the situation or what was the kind of GST that was being proposed by the earlier government where probably you were a part of that government. First of all, the credit worthiness or the trust in that government was completely missing and the example, the easiest example of that was the reimbursement of Central Sales Tax, which was promised by the central government to the states but was not being paid by Mr Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister.
So you had CST reduced from 4 to 3, 3 to 2, the then government said in 3 years we will bring GST, and therefore, we will stop reimbursing the loss in CST. For one year they reimburse, the second year they reimburse and then they stopped reimbursing, but never brought in GST. Now the states had a huge loss, states kept demanding, and Farooq sahib you will be happy to know it was Mr Modi and Mr Jaitley after we came into power that we paid 37,000 crores of CST reimbursements to the states building up credibility of the central government that a promise made by the government, irrespective of which government was in power at what point of time, will be fulfilled by the government which helped create trust amongst the states that GST will actually succeed and centre will compensate if there’s a loss.
The second big element was the congress never proposed to guarantee, or the UPA, never proposed to guarantee a growth in the revenue of the states. They said if there is a fall in revenue it’s your funeral. What Mr Modi and Mr Jaitley brought in was a 14% compounded annual growth in the revenue to the states for five years, which helped the states take a bold decision to be a part of GST.
A: No, but this is exactly Praful bhai contradictory to what you said about GST. GST, similarly, has such a large dimension in the whole country, rates of more than a 1000 items and different services are fit by a fitment committee, comprising all the states. They try to fit in everything to the existing rate, and after that we have been able to bring down more than 400 items. The rates have come down. They are less today than what they were pre-2017. And I think today, the people of India have started recognizing that they are benefiting from GST.
Almost every item is lower than what it was earlier. If any item the input credit is not passed on, there is a mechanism to deal with it and there is a mirror so the consumer finally knows what he is paying. Earlier, also on hotels, since you took that example, there was a same tax, only it was in different pockets. There was an excise on a few products. There was a VAT. There was a service tax. There was a luxury tax. There was an entertainment tax. There was a series of taxes and cesses. A number of officers coming in, a number of returns, all of that has been simplified. Now you have only one assessment in the whole year. Everything has been brought down to a rate which is a weighted average rate across the country. And as the collections improve, because of the formalization of the economy, obviously, rates will come down. Just like you spoke of IBC, GST is a continuous process.
A: Farooq sahib, you are a very senior leader, can you get your partners, particularly, the Congress to agree for a debate and let’s decide four subjects just now. We can debate on Rafale and security concerns of the country. We can debate on the agrarian crisis. We can debate on any issue that you want to discuss.
Q: What is coming across is two things right now. One is that politics comes in the way of pursuing national interest, b) that between what is said and what is done, there is a great deal of internal contradiction, thirdly, it is accepted that political interest is bigger than national interest. And I therefore feel that you ask anyone in this country today, we have had joint sessions on parliament on the Dowry Prohibition Bill. We have had joint session of parliament on the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill of 1977. We have had joint session of parliament on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. Why should there be no joint session of parliament on the agrarian crisis following the demand of farmers all across the country. You do not need to have morchas outside parliament, you need to have a debate inside parliament and a joint session of parliament inside parliament, a consensus on these issues?
A: Arnab, first of all let’s discuss it in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. A joint session will be any different from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is probably a fanciful thought. First of all, let us have a discussion in both the houses for which the government has been requesting the cooperation of all the parties. So, I would urge you, you are a very senior leader, if you can get, you will cooperate but if you can get the younger elements whom some of you have thought will become a Prime Minister, some are yet undecided, some are saying we will not become. If you can get that whole group together, Praful bhai you can take a lead and get everybody together to start debating. Let’s start with the agrarian crisis if you first decide who your leader will be then we can discuss the agrarian crisis.
Did you not say GST we all agreed 203 votes.. then in the joint session on GST why did the Congress boycott it? Agrarian crisis, so you take a lead, get your possible charter.
Q: Let us start with Women’s Bill. Let us pass it in days.
A: We are all very happy, we can start with anything, but there has to be first a consensus that they are willing to discuss things in parliament rather than only slogan shouting.
A: Then Farooq bhai, of course, there is no question about that. But then you will appreciate that given women dignity by giving them a toilet in their home which is, you know, we had two out of three women who used to not be able to use the toilet between sunrise and sunset. Would you agree that that is not an equally important thing to have consensus? Would you not agree that giving electricity to every person in the whole country, what I am trying to say is we can at least have a consensus that by 2022, let us give everybody a home, let us give them 24/7 power, let us give them a toilet in their home, let us give them digital connectivity, let us give them a road to their home.
A: Praful bhai, this country is moving towards an honest economy and has series of steps which are formalizing the economy and taking it to an honest economy. This was an important step to give a message.
Q: Do you fight elections on honest money?
A: I wish all of you would start accepting cheques. I was seeing a report आज ही मैं देख रहा था जिसमें बताया गया कि I am collecting the highest amount of money, the BJP, and I was happy, even when I was in the opposition, because in our party we collect money honestly and we account for all the money that is collected. I am very interested to know and very intrigued to see that NCP fights elections without any money in the bank, without any donations coming. If anybody in the Mumbai audience will accept that Praful bhai that will be the day to celebrate.
Q: It was a Supreme Court decision. Similarly, Supreme Court decision was the Mandir in Kerala that women can go. The only party that opposed it right left and centre, even your president, went to Kerala and opposed it. Why? Because of a religious sentiment.
A: By the way, that is completely a traditional issue. This is a humanitarian issue. There is a world of difference. So are you comparing that one of two or three or four ladies who want to go to Sabrimala from the 90 million who are potentially harmed by a triple talaq sent on SMS. There is no comparison between the two. So, you are talking that tradition one should break, but we should not give humanitarian rights to a women. That is what your argument is.
फ़ारूक़ साहब, इतने सारे ट्रेडिशन होते हैं मुसलमानों में हो, हिन्दुओं में हो, क्रिस्चनों में हो सब ट्रेडीशन अलग होते हैं लेकिन किसी के साथ अन्याय नहीं होता है उस ट्रेडीशन से, अन्याय होता है अगर किसी को कुएं में पानी नहीं लेने दे तो रोकना पड़ेगा वह हमने किया है, समाज ने किया है। लेकिन किसी महिला को एसएमएस देकर आप तलाक कर दो और फिर उसकी बेसिक मेंटेनेंस भी नहीं देखो उसके बच्चों का ख्याल नहीं करो, यह मेरे ख्याल से यह ह्यूमन और सोशल ईविल है जिसको ख़त्म करना चाहिए।
I wish कश्मीर में आपने फिर चिंता की होती उन महिलाओं की और चिंता की होती कि वहां डेवलपमेंट हो इतने 50-70 साल, आपने कश्मीर का संविधान भी अलग रखा, कश्मीर के लिए जितना इस देश ने किया किसी ने नहीं किया। कश्मीर के लिए जितना पैसा जाता है वहां भ्रष्टाचार में ख़राब हो जाता है, कश्मीर के लिए जो डेवलपमेंट का पैसा जाता है वह काम करने नहीं दिया जाता है।
मैं समझता हूँ जितना पैसा इस देश ने कश्मीर में भेजा है वह कश्मीर के लोगों के लिए अगर, वह अगर कश्मीर के लोगों में खर्चा होता विकास में तो आज इतना बुरा हाल नहीं होता कश्मीर के लोगों का, और मेरे ख्याल से सरकार जितनी भी आयी हैं सबने जितना कश्मीर में विकास का काम किया है, विकास का काम करने गए हैं उसमें जो ….. मैं ज़रूर आऊंगा आपके साथ और आज ही मैं आपको अभी इस प्रोग्राम के बाद एक फिल्म दिखाऊंगा कैसे वह ट्रेन बारामुल्ला जाती है।
Q:वह बारामुल्ला तक तो कई सालों से जा रही है, मैं कहता हूँ दिल्ली कब वह ट्रेन आएगी और मुंबई कब आएगी?
A:वह इसलिए आएगी जब आपके लोग मदद करेंगे कि आतंकवाद वहां काम करने दे, आपके लोग वहां पर मदद करें कि ज़मीन अवेलेबल हो सके।
A: I think Praful bhai has raised a good point that we have today a situation where there are so many interests, particularly, national parties, regional parties, within regional parties the, let’s say, inter-state disputes. Today, we are having a logjam on the Kaveri water issue. There is a problem with the dam. There’s a problem with special status, all sorts of things. So, in a way, what he is saying is right. There are so many disparate elements. You will recall that when the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill was to be passed, two MPs could hold back parliament for so many sessions – two MPs – of a particular party. And we were not able to do it, we finally had to do it at midnight by marshalling them out of the house.
Similarly, a single MP led by his leader was sitting in the gallery was able to stall legislation, you may recall what I am referring to, the RJD MP who stalled the functioning of the house and on the instructions of his leaders in the gallery and we saw parliament log jammed. That’s also a reality. But Arnab, the number of laws that Prime Minister Modi and our government have been able to pass unanimously – GST was one example, the Bangladesh Border was another example. If you calculate the number of laws where there has been complete unanimity in parliament, it’s historic. These four and a half years more laws have been passed unanimously than ever before in a five year term of a government.
Q: That also answers your question that the opposition does not behave irresponsibly.
A: I have never said that. I started with a positive note, it unfortunately went into a different direction.
A: I think everybody whether it was Prime Minister Vajpayee, whether it’s Prime Minister Modi, everybody has made an effort. Prime Minister Modi went that extra mile to make an effort to get a conversation going to create a bonhomie, but you have seen that Pakistan unfortunately does not have a system in which you can really talk to anybody.
Q: On Kashmir I have a specific question, I want you to respond. When we talk about the strategic interests of the nation, unequivocally we say ‘nation first.’ But then yours is the same political party which doled out a unilateral Ramadan ceasefire, during which period 62 terror related incidents were reported. Did you build a united consensus on the issue, and had you built a united consensus, would the ceasefire have happened in the first place Piyush?
A: Well, I think as you are aware, the people of Jammu & Kashmir did not give a single party a majority. There was a government in place, which was trying to navigate the state against terrorism, and during that point of time it was a gesture, a goodwill gesture that we should, since the prayers of Ramadan are important for the community there. I think it was a very good gesture, and I think we are happy and we are proud that we gave that ….
Q: Piyush, let me be very honest. You tom-tom all your achievements and you go all out to proclaim to the world that this is what you have achieved. Good things, I am not saying.. but then you must acknowledge your failures. The problem is you only want to tom-tom your successes, you don’t want to acknowledge that viz-a-viz Pakistan, you had your tremendous highs and the abysmal lows. And that’s the problem, you see we have reached the low point after so-called acclaimed high point, what has happened, what have you achieved?
A:I think you will look at it as a failure, but what Farooq sahib also is saying and what we have done is make a sincere effort, which if you don’t even make that effort….
Q: Piyush, look at everyone in the eye, say how confident are you of being in June 2019, just a one line. How confident are you?
A: Well, I am absolutely confident, because we have taken the people of India together with us in this development journey. Our development journey has reached the last man at the bottom of the pyramid, the vision that the Prime Minister has articulated and what we have worked for for the last four and a half years truly will give a different future to each and every citizen of this country. And I think be it women in the country, be it youth, be it the farmers, everybody realizes that in this journey – obviously, Rome was not built in a day. It was a whole process. But eventually, Rome was built. We are trying to take India to the greatest heights of development and ensure that every citizen of this country has a better quality of life.
Q: Piyush, Rome started getting built only in the last four and a half years?
A: I said Rome was not built in a day, but Rome was eventually built. So we are going to eventually build a developed India. By the way, Prime Minister Modi is the only Prime Minister who has acknowledged the role of everybody in this country. You tell me any other Prime Minister before Mr Modi, other than Mr Vajpayee, who acknowledged previous Prime Ministers. आप बताएं मुझे कभी कोई और प्राइम मिनिस्टर ने कहा हो कि सबका योगदान जोड़कर आज देश यहाँ पर पहुंचा है।
A: Who is arguing with that, but it’s not only Nehru, one can also point out a hundred issues about that. By the way, on Saturday I just visited the Statue of Unity. I think it’s a brilliant thing each one of you must go and visit. It’s so invigorating.
A: You are offering a Deve Gowda-type government, the Gujral-type government and Charan Singh-type government? Vajpayee-type government was a common programme, they were together in all the states that they worked. They were not fighting in one state, together in a second state, having some other third alliance partner in the third state. And we were together in the states also.
We have heard about compulsions of coalition causing huge scams. Praful bhai, we have heard that Manmohan Singh used to say that I cannot stop my Ministers from corruption because it’s the compulsions of coalition politics. Does the country want a similar situation again, or are you suggesting you are offering that to the people of India?