When you give special status to one state, how will you say no to Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar or West Bengal, asked the FM.
- The first thing was to get rid of 28% GST, which we have by and large succeeded.
- The next is to amalgamate 12% and 18%.
- Indians have to elect a 5-year government, not a 6-month government.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is high on conviction that it is possible to run India with an honest central government. To make his case water-tight, he says some of his government’s reforms are “unprecedented”. The FM spoke to ETNow.
Less than two weeks to go for general elections 2019, is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s main poll plank national security, last time it was economic development, it was jobs, it was about hope?
Well, no election is ever a one issue election. The first issue is going to be will we have a government. The only party that can provide governance is going to be the BJP and its allies, a party with an absolute majority on its own and allies representing various federal parts of India and Modi’s leadership.
That is the first point. The leadership matters, it is a tried, tested leadership. This is an election where the country is reposing faith once again in Modi. And if you ask a common man who do you think will win or who do you want to vote for, he says Modi. His towering personality is dominating this election.
The second important issue is for the first time, several things have happened in India and that is the governance aspect. If you have a majority government, this is what happens. India never before became the fastest growing global economy under a gloomy global situation. We were able to expand our revenue bases.
Look at the kind of reforms we brought about; some of these were unprecedented; GST, IBC, Aadhaar, the monetary policy and so on. Without increasing a single tax rate over five years, it is the first government since 1947 which did not raise tax rates, which reduced them periodically, we reduced them in every budget, we reduced them in every GST meeting and we hugely increased the tax base.
And where did we use the base for, we used it for better infrastructure and as against the Congress track record of almost 70 years of slogans of
garibi hatao to the poor, we actually transferred resources and they are visible. Villages now have roads, they have pucca houses, more are going to come in the next three years, they have electricity 100 per cent, they have sanitation 100 per cent and their method of cooking has changed almost 100 per cent.
We are trying to ensure through DBT that even the poor get an income instead of the subsidies directly into their bank accounts, some state governments are also playing an active role in that. This is a huge performance that the government has had. This is the second important point.
It is in that order, the national security is also one of the first three issues. We have been targeted by terror and we had a policy which we evolved over decades, we will respect the sanctity of the LoC and the international border. We will only have a defensive posturing on terror. When terrorists come, our intelligence network will find them out, our security forces will smash them.
But we have to succeed 100 per cent, they have to succeed only once and that is what was happening. Modi took it a little forward and there are two distinct evidences in this; the first evolution of national security is that you cannot breach the LoC and the IB every day, kill my people and I respect the so-called sanctity.
We were told the world will protest the surgical strikes. We went across the LoC and destroyed the camps next to the strike. In the air strike, we went into mainland Pakistan, demonstrated our air force’s strength, destroyed the camps at Balakot, came back. Both were highly successful. Almost every major country in the world supported us, not one sign of protest, you are entitled to have a pre-emptive strike provided it has been used against us.
Now, look at the anti satellite missile. I saw an amazing statement from Chidambaram, you never disclose this. A deterrent has always to be disclosed, the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese are not fools that they did not disclose it. If you have a nuclear capacity then you have to disclose it, it is only then it is a deterrent. The deterrent of this magnitude keeps India safe, so we have to have big deterrents now. The country is safe in this government’s hand, it is safe in Modi’s hand.
The fourth big issue is it is possible to run India with an honest central government. We have cleaned up the system. We have cleaned up institutions, we have cleaned up our mechanisms.
Last is this cusp of history, India cannot be thrown into the unknown, the khichdi phenomenon, the leader is not known, the programmes are not known, their temperaments are frightening, the kind of announcements each one of them is going to make will make governance impossible in India. So, Indians have to elect a five-year government, not a six-month government. Now these are the various issues, everything else falls in that bracket.
What about Priyanka Gandhi, late entry, but do you think it is going to make an impact?
Well, why comment on her. She has not said anything so significant, her views are still masked. Why should I comment on it at all?
She has not even announced if she is going to indeed stand.
I am not concerned whether she stands, that is their party matter, but I am yet to hear the wisdom on policy matters. We know the non-wisdom of her brother, but we are still to hear her wisdom on policy matters. Her wisdom cannot be
hum garibon ke saath hain, yeh amiron ke saath hain (We are with the poor, they are with the rich). this we were all taught when we were children, you have to grow up into a higher level of debate.
You have often accused Rahul Gandhi of also that beyond the headlines when will the…
I will tell you what does special status for a state mean, let me elaborate his views. When you give to one state, will you have to give it to five other states which are economically weaker than that one state, how will you say no to Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar or West Bengal?
Two, when he says GST, well India cannot have a one tax rate. You cannot charge food at a rate at which you charge a Mercedes car. You have to put food at mostly zero, you have to put small aam aadmi commodities at 5 per cent. The first thing was to get rid of the 28 per cent which we have by and large succeeded.
The next is to amalgamate 12 per cent and 18 per cent and have two slabs with some items at zero. When the whole exercise is moving very smoothly in that favour without understanding let him give a 10-minute talk to the whole country without reading it on GST and what he thinks are the achievements and the flaws. It has brought down the combined rate of indirect taxes in this country by almost 20 per cent. So, people have benefited. Most of the small traders are out of it.
He is continuing to target the goods and services tax saying he will scrap it if he comes to power, his new target seems to be the NITI Aayog, saying he would also want to scrap the NITI Aayog, it only fudges data, it is a marketing…
See, I think India has moved on and his ideological stance is not even that, certainly not of Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh, certainly not even of his own father, it is closer to the first three decades of a completely regulated economy.
It’s that he shoots off anything which comes to his mind, which may be populist, like new industries would not require any structure and registration. It can just start for the first three years and we would not ask for anything.
So, you will go to the bank and say I am Nayantara Rai, I want to start an industry, I do not have a company, my own contribution to equity or investment is not known, I want you to give me Rs 5 crore for starting it and then, you vanish. If you have absurdities of this kind you will produce a thousand Nirav Modis.
Now without thinking of it, he just shoots off and therefore people do not comment on it because it is really beneath a particular intellectual dignity to even comment on every absurdity.