Q: Joining us now at the World Economic Forum Congress is senior Minister, Piyush Goyal. Minister welcome and thank you for hopping out of a meeting and joining us here in the freezing cold, you have been enjoying this weather heating it up with all the meetings?
A: I think it was a great opportunity to tell the world what India is all about, show the world the big opportunity that awaits new technology, new ideas, the rapid pace at which India is planning its scale up on investment, scale up on public services and the response we have received has been just hugely fantastic.
Q: We are talking here about the India Today Mood of the Nation opinion poll, coming out as it does right ahead of Republic Day. The good news from the BJP and the NDA’s perspective is if elections are held today, the BJP-NDA would win crossing the 300 figure. The slightly disconcerting news is if the opposition comes together as one, if Mayawati, Akhilesh and Mamta Banerjee back Rahul Gandhi, then the going gets much tougher for the BJP. Do you see with the Modi sarkaar doing as well it is, opposition coming together against you?
A: Well, I wish them well. This country has seen such experiments in the past. We saw that very recently in Uttar Pradesh where two of the principal parties came together, it only helped us get 80% of the seats in that state. The people see through these kind of unholy alliances, which have no common consensus, no meeting ground, parties which have been cursing each other, have been at the back of each other for years for a very short term temporary period getting together is something the people of India have rejected, not once, not twice, but if you look back, ever since 1980.
Q: So, on the one side, you have got the NDA crossing 300. The other reality is that you have got the NDA which had a peak of 360 in this Mood of the Nation opinion poll, now coming down about 57 seats from its peak. Would you read some trends into that?
A: Not at all. I would ask you to venture and look back, which government at the end of the fourth year has ever had the kind of popularity ratings that Prime Minister Modi’s government has had. Tell me any popular leader in probably the history of India who at the end of the 4th year (inaudible) starting has had popularity which has kept growing month-on-month and year-on-year. I think times are good. In fact, if there is a grouping of all the opposition coming together, possibly we will cross 400.
Q: You think it will actually make things better. Let’s talk about some of the economic metrics, because especially on the back of Gujarat we asked respondents whether they felt that the Gujarat victory validates GST, 47% said yes, no was 40%. When we asked them about demonetization, saying that is this more pain than gain, 73% saying this is more pain, 22% saying this is more gain. So, on GST summit, there seems to be resounding amount of approval for what the government has done. But on demonetization, people now wondering kuch mila bhi, fayda hua bhi ki nahin?
Q: So Minister, on GST you have got people backing you, on demonetization now 73%, if you compare this with the earlier poll where demonetization got a thumbs up. Now people are wondering whether they actually benefitted. Is the government losing the narrative on the benefits of demonetization?
A: Absolutely not, as Samir said we are very clear we are on the right path. At Davos, people have been appreciating the bold moves for bringing India into a formal economy, for eliminating corruption, black money – issues by which India had come to be identified through the years of congress rule, so many years. And I think finally they are seeing a government which means to change that narrative, which means to demonstrate that we are for an honest government.
And I think even if in the short run some people are not able to understand the long term impact and benefits of this. We are clear. We will stay the course. We are looking at a larger digitalization and formalization of the economy. We are looking to relentlessly go after black money and corruption and we are extremely confident that the people of India know that this is good for them, they will back the Prime Minister as they have backed him in election after election.
And you will note that we have finally broken the jinx that governments post introduction of GST have consistently worldwide lost the next election. Mr Modi has broken that jinx. We have thrown the congress out of Himachal. We won back Gujarat, for 30 years we have been winning elections there now – 22 years of government. And I think it once and for all shows that if you are honest in your intention the people trust you, home run for you.
Q: Mr Mittal, on the question of which are biggest achievements of the Prime Minister, the Swaccha Bharat campaign seems to be coming in it Number 1. I met somebody from the (Inaudible) board and they were talking about the problems of the Swaccha Bharat campaign how a lot more needed to be done and issue still hadn’t been resolved. And the crackdown on black money which is coming in at 17%, we are ironically in Switzerland where Rahul Gandhi has been tweeting and saying ‘kuch paisa wapis bhi lekar aao,’ nothing has come back yet. Yet that in public perception are the two biggest achievements of the Modi sarkaar?
Q: It’s corporates that deal a lot with governments and bureaucracy, to what extent do you think the levels of corruption have fallen?
A: I will just interject a small anecdote. This is about 2012 or thereabouts. My wife was travelling in a taxi, and the taxi driver asked for a fair which was about Rs 50 more than the actual fair. She said ‘arre, itna mang rahe ho, itna to banta nahin hai is raste ka’? The taxi driver said, ‘Mam sahab, 50 rupye to zyada mang raha hoon, koyle ki khadaan thode hi maang raha hoon.’
That was the mood of the nation. That has changed today. Today, everything is through a transparent process. Sumant has been at the receiving end, he’s had runaway success in his renewable energy business. Everything transparent, open equal opportunity for all. So, that’s the change what he talked about, perception and reality, both.