Q: Minister Goyal, first of all, good evening and welcome to Karnataka Next, the Conclave on Newx and Newsx Kannada. Winding up this day, I know you have been also on the campaign trail, how has it been? How is it going?
A: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to your viewers. And my compliments to you for starting this new Karnataka Desh Channel. Kannada is a beautiful language and the people of Karnataka are extremely nice, so I am sure the NewX initiative in Karnataka, in Kannada, will get a very good response. I wish you all the best.
Q: Thank you very much sir. How has your campaign trail been?
A: It’s been a very exciting campaign. It’s been a campaign where the heat and dust has picked up quiet early on that the Parivartan Rashtriya had done 4 or 5 months ago which really generated a lot of enthusiasm across the state for change, change from the government of corruption, change from a government who could not focus on development, change from the lethargy that people had seen the old government into. And over the last 6 months, as we have reached out to more and more sections of society to people across the length and breadth of Karnataka, we are clearly seeing a huge amount of angst against this government.
The people are unhappy about a government that was steeped in corruption, a government that did not focus on progress of the common man, did not focus on the welfare of the farmers, which led this beautiful city of Bengaluru go into despair, go into complete breakdown of law and order. And, to my mind, the people of Karnataka are wanting change and the next government in Karnataka is clearly going to be a government which the Bhartiya Janta Party leader, Shri BS Yeddyurappa, will lead, a government with an absolute majority, a government which will provide good governance, progress, development, and will work for the welfare of every section of society.
Q: Can’t dispute your confidence, but the question is if the people are unhappy with what’s happening and you say they are happy to see you in turn, what has the BJP at the centre, for example, and let’s take a larger perspective, what has the government done for young people here in Karnataka, for example?
A: Well, I think this has been a government in the centre, which has been focused towards the young, towards the youth of India, which has been focused for the welfare of the women of India, which has ensured all-round development of infrastructure across the country and Karnataka more particularly.
Let me take a simple example of the highway sector or the railway sector, the amount of investments that have gone into strengthening the national highway network in Karnataka has never been heard of before. The speed at which projects in Karnataka have been started or are being commissioned in Karnataka in the railways is nearly 6 times what was done in the 4 years before this government came in.
Q: But the Congress has been arguing look, you made this 17,000 crore semi-urban railway announcement, but the Congress says only one crore has been given to them so far?
A: Well, this shows the complete lack of understanding of government that the Congress has displayed, and if that is what they have commented or criticized, it only goes to show the complete hollowness and why this country is in a state of such despair across the nation, wherever the Congress was in government before we came in. Obviously, when a new project is initiated, there is a thing called a ‘line item’ in the budget, you initiate a project, when you approve the project, it’s right now at a stage where the final DPR has not been made. So you just create a line item in the budget where you say this is now an approved project for 17,000 crores, and you may even provide one rupee in that.
It’s basically you are creating a project approval. It’s a technical thing that I thought all those people who have run governments will know, but if Congress is raising that point, it shows the complete lack of understanding of government.
Q: Now, criticism that we see repeated ad nauseam, Rahul Gandhi was saying it today, Randeep Surjewala was here earlier in the day. It is that this BJP is this Yeddy-Reddy tainted party, that this ‘na khaunga-na khane dunga’, this entire notion is gone. How do you respond to that?
A: Well, I really don’t need to respond to a non-issue. Mr Yeddyurappa has no cases pending against him. In fact, I would urge you to research some of the judgments that have come in favour of Mr Yeddyurappa for all the false allegations and false politically motivated cases that the Congress had put against him. And the judgments are stinging attacks, stinging in the criticism of the then congress government.
Actually, the high court judge has called it a politically motivated case. And none of our candidates has been indicted for any criminal activities. It’s unfortunate that in Karnataka, the congress tried to fix all the senior leaders of the BJP, but fortunately, we have a very robust judicial machinery in this country which has given justice to Mr Yeddyurappa.
There is no case against any of the candidates; anybody who has cases has not been made a candidate of the party.
Q: Okay, there’s been ….. today, Rahul Gandhi has said today that this is Vasava. This is Indira’s Congress vs the RSS and BJP. Randeep Surjewala said that Rahul Gandhi will die defending the founding principles of India. Is this still an ideological war sir?
A: Well, first of all, I wish Mr Rahul Gandhi a long life and I do hope he will serve the country well as a political leader, as a President of party, which we oppose. I believe political parties should oppose each other, should criticize each other’s policies wherever they are wrong. But the kind of low-level of politics that Rahul Gandhiji and Siddaramaiah have stooped to is truly very sad for the people of Karnataka, is truly very sad for the future of Karnataka.
But I am very surprised that Rahul Gandhi today chose to invoke his late grandmother, particularly, in a situation where they already are fighting this election with their back to the wall – in some sense, showing that what Salman Khurshid, a senior Congress leader and Member of Parliament and former Minister has said, is possibly correct. It’s a failed leadership that the Congress has today, and Salman Khurshid has rightly advised the current leadership of the Congress they should get back Soniaji to come and campaign. I am given to understand that she may be coming tomorrow probably, but it’s a good idea to get her back because the current leadership of Congress is a complete failed leadership, talking, making false allegations on a daily basis, making tweaks which are complete falsehoods and irrelevant. I think the days of the Congress as the Prime Minister has rightly pointed out are restricted to a Puducherry-Punjab parivar Congress.
Q: Okay, but some issues matter, and as you said, some issues are perciptorial, perhaps a communication on that and one of the issues that the Congress is raking up is high petrol prices. You saw Rahul Gandhi on a bicycle today; it’s a fact that India has the highest record petrol prices. How do we explain that?
A: Well, first of all the petrol price and this is a thing which has been debated, a issue which has been debated very often, is a function of international prices, and also a function of the high taxes that the states also put up. After all, today for every litre of petrol or diesel you have a huge state tax, we have been talking to the states in the GST Council to bring it within the ambit of GST. And I do hope the Congress’s few governments which are left and the other states like West Bengal and Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Andhra, Telangana, will support our effort to bring petrol and diesel into the GST regime. Having said that, I would urge Mr Rahul Gandhi not to do a mockery of cycling, but rather to start using less petrol guzzlers or diesel guzzlers and those high value cars which he is using on a regular basis, on which he also goes speed racing on the streets of Delhi very often and answer to the people of India that how whether these high prices are hitting him at all when he goes speed racing.
Q: Alright. I asked this question to another one of your cabinet colleagues earlier in the day. The BJP had 21 states and counting, 15 Chief Ministers, several deputy Chief Ministers in alliance at the centre hoping for a second term at the centre, how much power is too much power Piyush Goyal?
A: I think when the power is used for good work to serve the people of India, it’s always good. This has been a government that in Delhi and in several of the states today which has been working for the poorest of the poor, which is bringing out the ideology of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay in action, where Panditji had taught us that the first right on a nation’s resources is of the person who is at the bottom of the pyramid. This has been a government that has focused all its energies and used every power in its command to clean up the system, to rid India of corruption, to bring all the years of misgovernance to an end, to take welfare measures to the poorest of the poor, to serve the farmers of India, to help the youth of India stand on their own, become self-reliant, become creators of wealth, creators of the national economy rather than just having a country which works on doles, something which the Congress had mastered and left behind over years of bad governance.
Q: Okay, now in the past year when the electoral victories have certainly gone your way sir, there has been the talk of moral victories from the Congress. And at the central level, one of the Congress leaders today sitting here on this Conclave was pointing out that in the by-elections where the BJP began with 282, 10 by-elections they haven’t won anything. What’s happened? Isn’t that important to you?
A: Well, of course, every election is important to us, but by-elections are fought at the local level, they are not fought to form a government in Delhi, and, of course, the centre doesn’t get involved in each of these by-elections. We should be concerned. We should do a course correction in the states wherever there have been issues where we did not fare well in the by-election, nobody can deny that.
But governments are formed when a state election or a national election is done, and in every state, and state after state, we have won elections. In local bodies across the country, be it in Gujarat, be it in Maharashtra, be it in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, we have been sweeping elections. And to my mind, the country today stands solidly behind Prime Minister Modi and that has been demonstrated time and again.
Q: Okay, let me take you to a trending topic. And it’s happened once again, the Chief Minister over here, Siddaramaiah has once again come out and dared BS Yeddyurappa for a 15 minute debate. We have seen Prime Minister Modi mention it and, of course, Rahul Gandhi had made this demand. Should it happen, should there be a debate?
A: Well, we are always ready for a debate, and I think I would love to have a debate with whether Mr Siddaramaiah or Mr Rahul Gandhi or even with Ms Sonia Gandhi, even though I may have a little difficulty in understanding what she is able to say. I am not so conversant with that accent. But with Mr Rahul Gandhi at any time of his choice, on any channel of his choice, on any medium of his choice, I can have a debate with him, Amit Shahji can have a debate with him, all of us are ready.
Q: Let me take you to what Manmohan Singh has been doing campaigning today in Karnataka and he has pointed out once again Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi….
A: I think he only did a press conference. There was no campaigning, so let’s set the record straight. And I was trying to search channels; I couldn’t even find that press conference on any channel.
Q: So let me tell you what he said, he’s mentioned Nirav Modi, he’s mentioned Lalit Modi..?
A: I saw the first 2-3 sentences, and I don’t know why none of the media takes him seriously. Nobody carried it, I don’t know why.
Q: It’s just not him. They are happy to use this Nirav, Lalit surname to good use, is it an issue? Is it something that you worry about?
A: Well, it’s no good use, because just because they have a surname, it’s not going to become an issue. The people of India are super smart. They know what’s good for them, who’s good for them and they have been therefore electing us election after election. Where did this legacy of Nirav Modi start? It’s a UPA inheritance to us. We got it from the UPA. Who gave them all of these indiscriminate loans? All the bad loans and you can look up every bad loan that we are going after are loans given in the UPA regime. It was the UPA which was putting these loans under the carpet. It was the UPA which was evergreening and showing a false picture to the people of the banking sector. We did not allow the banking sector to do that. …. gave us an honest picture. The Reserve Bank of India did an asset quality review and brought the truth out, and the truth clearly shows that it was under the UPA when loans almost tripled in a short tenure of 10 years. This country has not grown in such a level that you can triple credit growth, so you can clearly see the stamp of misgovernance of the Congress party and its leaders which we are suffering, the nation is suffering.
Q: Minister Goyal, he’s also come out, Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister. He said that his successes or his tenure’s successes on the economy have been reversed in the past 4 years?
A: Absolutely, his success on coal gate and the huge 1,86,000 crore scam, I have turned it around. I have stopped that scam. That success of Manmohan Singh, he should answer to the people of India. Was I right in turning down his method of giving coal blocks free of charge to friends, relatives, Members of Parliament of his party, relatives of his Ministers, was that what he was referring to? Or was it the commonwealth scam that he very well managed in his government, or was he referring to Devas-Antrix scam or was he referring to Adarsh scam, or was he referring to giving out spectrum to a select few at very low rates?
I don’t know what policies of his he wants us to continue. I think I am happier to have brought down LED prices which Mr Manmohan Singh’s government was buying at Rs 310 plus taxes. We brought it down to Rs 38 plus taxes. I was doing a small calculation the 30 crore LED bulbs that this government bought at a saving as much as 85 to 87% per bulb has saved the nation 20,000 crores, just the government purchases of LED bulbs and which is resulting in 40,000 crore saving for the citizens of India in their electricity bills every year – 40,000 crore saved every year is a huge saving.
Q: Okay, let’s just change track sir…
A: No, no, why change track? You must ask Mr Manmohan Singh the next time he does a press conference to answer which policy he wants us to follow – coal gate, 2G, commonwealth, Devas-Antrix, Adarsh, and I can keep going on and on.
Q: So, I want to change track back into the political realm. Would you at least say that in the past one year Rahul Gandhi is more of a challenge than he was 18 months ago?
A: We actually got worried because he was not coming enough. Thank God that he is here for the next 2 days.
Q: Is it a stratagem sir, why give Rahul Gandhi if you think he is a soft candidate, why give him the stature of having your party leaders take him on one on one?
A: Well, because we respect the fact that he is the president of our principal opposition party. I just hope they continue to maintain that position because the speed at which things are changing in national politics, I just hope the next time around the principal opposition party also may not be somebody else. So, I personally feel that it’s a grace that we are showing to… and we show that grace to all our senior leaders of all political parties. So, when Ms Mamta Banerjee, the chief of the Trinamool Congress seeks time with me to discuss issues relating to coal and railways.
Well, we give all the respect to them. When Deve Gowda ji wants to meet me as Railway Minister, I don’t tell him yes, now I am a Minister, so you come and meet me in my office. I seek out his time and I go and meet him at his house and discuss railway related issues that he has. When Akhilesh Yadav as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh would want to discuss something and I was in UP, I would go to his office and give him the full protocol and respect that is due to a Chief Minister and the president of Samajwadi party.
So I believe हमको तो शिष्टाचार सिखाया गया है बचपन से | We have been taught respect your elders. We have been taught respect your peers. We have been taught respect leaders of other parties. I just hope that we would receive the same grace from the other side.
Q: Grace respect! I know you are short on time. I wonder if you want to take a couple of questions from the audience, a few people have questions. Alright, who has a question? Can you get a mike out there please?
Q: Piyushji, you addressed the question of Rahul Gandhi earlier, but you know, there is a feeling that Rahul Gandhi, you people gave him the Pappu image. He was destroyed by the BJP, but now the remaking, the relaunching of Rahul Gandhi has also been because people are fed up of the BJP. They are looking for an alternative and Rahul looks good. So, have you also created and rebranded Rahul Gandhi, because when we ask him, he says, I am not saying anything different I was saying 4 years ago, suddenly, people are seeing me differently?
A: Well, there is no harm in that. That’s very good. They saw him in Uttar Pradesh also. They saw him campaigning day and night. What was that Hindi song parody ‘यह साथ पसंद है’. Of course, I feel it was very unfortunate, whereas the original song is very vulgar. Then probably the people also didn’t like this parody here. They saw him in other parts. So, I think it’s very good. There should be a very healthy contest between two principal parties and we very much welcome that. And, well, if at all there is any resurrection it’s probably a moral resurrection.
Q: Does it suit you to have Rahul as the face of the opposition, rather than say someone like Mamta Banerjee. So is the BJP actually abetting this?
A: We don’t think so far ahead. But we wouldn’t mind any of them in the opposition leader’s role, the speed with which the Congress is diminishing, and if you really put in after the Karnataka elections, once we have got our absolute majority, and it looks like the people of Karnataka seem to have made up their mind. They do want a change here. Actually, if you will see, the states left with the Congress will not add up even to West Bengal.
Q: Well, you are in Karnataka for some time. You have been coming on and off and very important junction here. Between the two, Siddaramaiah and Yeddyurappa, Yeddyurappa is perceived as a weak leader against Siddaramaiah. It’s perceived that Siddaramaiah has got more elbow room with the high command than Yeddyurappa. The recent incidents of his son not getting ticket in Varuna constituency is one of them, and has Yeddyurappa become a baggage, a liability?
A: Not at all. Mr Yeddyurappa is the tallest leader today in Karnataka. We in fact believe that he is going to sweep the kind of love and affection he is getting from the farmers, from the rural parts of Karnataka, from the residents of Bengaluru who are sick and tired of the kind of environmental degradation that Bengaluru has seen.
To my mind, Yeddyurappa is a simple person. He is a very-very soft-spoken, kind hearted person. Just by being boisterous like the incumbent Chief Minister is, you don’t necessarily become strong. I think Yeddyurappaji is a humble person. He is liked by the people. A lot of negativity was tried to be spread about him and a perception was tried to be created, but fortunately the people of Karnataka have seen through the Congress game. And to my mind, the fact that he did not insist or demand a seat for his son in Varuna shows that in the Bhartiya Janta Party it’s not a dynastic rule, it’s the people who will work. He is a young boy. He is General Secretary of our youth wing. He has to work for many more years and chances will keep coming and going.
And I worked for 24 years before I got my first chance in legislature, or in the parliament – after 24 years of working – not that I had any less of family background. So, in our party you have to work. यहाँ पर सिर्फ कामगार का काम है, जो नामदार होते हैं उनको भी काम करना पड़ता | ऐसा नहीं है कि you come from a big surname and you are bound to get a high position. So, I am really delighted that Yeddyurappaji showed maturity and grace that his son has to work for more years before he will come into electoral politics.
Q: Piyushji, there has been a lot of concern amongst Bangaloreans regarding the suburban rail. We have seen this going on for a few years. The SPV got formed a couple of years back, at least the announcement came. Now the news coming in that there is just one crore allocation from the Union government. Can you assure Bangaloreans today on what is realistic deadline?
A: I just replied to that but I will clarify to you again. This is a demand that the honorable MP Shri Anant Kumarji has been making for the last 24 years, this demand for a suburban rail network. The suburban rail network the biggest challenge was land, because you all are aware that in Bengaluru land is so expensive and would be almost impossible to get land. Also, the suburban rail policy, that’s been going on for now more than 6 or 7 years, well before I came in, was that 80% of the money has to be put in by the state government, 20% by the Indian railways.
So, the system was we put in 20% equity, state government puts in 20% equity and 60% state government borrows and puts it in, at their guarantee and their risk and cost. So, 80-20 was the model at which though an SPV was formed, the Karnataka government was not willing to agree to any investment. So, they kept writing letters that no, we cannot invest, that 60% should also be split between both the railway and the state government.
When I became the Railway Minister, 24th September, and that date is etched in my mind. I was visiting Bengaluru and I visited all the railway stations and discussed the plans. That day Anant Kumarji and I drove from the airport to the town and he said look at the situation, look at the traffic, look at the problems my Bangaloreans have to go through, but the state government is not accepting to fund this project.
I immediately got my team cracking. I said look, let’s forget the ability to get land in Bengaluru. Prepare for an elevated rail, wherever we have land, we will go on the ground, wherever we don’t have land we will elevate. Let’s not try and buy land in Bengaluru, for the next 50 years we will never be able to do it. And compliments to the Indian railway team, they worked day and night and within 30 days they prepared a first cut prefeasibility report in which 68 kms in elevated, 92 kms is at grade, on ground, wherever we have land. And the entire project will mean we will have to acquire barely a 1000 crore rupees worth of land of just a few hectares where it’s completely essential. And now we have also agreed on a 50-50 framework, so that we put in 50%, they put in 50%, in view of which they allow us a higher development index, floor space index so that we can monetize the land around the stations to raise resources to put in our 50%.
So I have solved both the problems. 80-20 I have made 50-50, I have solved the problem of land availability and therefore I can assure the people of Bengaluru that this project will finally see the light of day. 15 lakh commuters will travel every day on that suburban and I am going to give air-conditioned coaches to the people of Bengaluru.
Q: Piyush bhai, one set of Bellary Brothers are in BJP and another set of Bellary miner brothers… one set of brothers are in BJP and two of them have got ticket and even Sriramulu has got ticket and Anil Lad, Mr Nageshwar and Anand Singh has got support of Congress. So we can say safely now that in Karnataka election corruption is dead, it’s a non issue?
A: Not at all, the Modi government will ensure that in this country no state can be run on the basis of corruption, which is why even in states which may not be run by the BJP we keep a watchful eye. And that is clearly the reason why I can see angst in the people of Karnataka against the Siddaramaiah government.
By the way, your analogy seems to be slightly wrong. Sriramulu has nothing to do with any of this, I mean just because you have some distant relative who does some wrongdoing and is facing charges, I am sure you will not take that responsibility on yourself. And nobody with a criminal background is in the Bhartiya Janta Party that has been made very clear. The candidates of the BJP have no cases against them. Sriramulu has nothing to do with any of these issues at all, दूर-दूर से उसका कोई लेना-देना नहीं है |
Whereas Anand who is a candidate I think of the Congress, Lad, these are people who have been indicted, I wouldn’t say indicted but who have been charged with a lot of wrongdoings and probably issues are still pending. So, anybody who had issues with them is not the BJP candidate, is only a Congress candidate.
Q: Okay, I think we are absolutely out of time. I see a few hands still raised, but Minister Goyal thank you so much for your time and from all of us on behalf including the Karnataka Next Conclave, thank you very much.
April 25, 2018 speaking at the Felicitation of Railway Contingent representing India in Commonwealth Games 2018