The Union finance minister tells K Karthikeyan that he is not running away from polls, he is a virtual candidate
It is widely believed that UPA –I and II had the best teams ever with you at helm of the finance ministry besides a good set of bureaucrats. It brought several reformatory schemes like MNREGA, RTI and RTE. All that good work you did in the last two tenures has been discredited by the opposition owing to inflation, which is used as one of the main poll planks against you. What went wrong?
Inflation has come down. Both WPI (wholesale price index) and CPI (consumer price index) have come down. WPI is five percent. It used to be ten percent and above. CPI used to be about 14% or so. Now it is 7.68% or so. Therefore, you must appreciate the efforts taken to bring down inflation. Why did inflation go up? Inflation went up because we adopted an expansionist monetary policy. Every country did that between 2008 and 2011. We spent more than we had. We imported lot of goods. The current account deficit also went up. And therefore inflation went out of control. The question therefore to be asked is not that inflation is high today but that inflation was high between 2008 and 2011 and since then we have taken a number of measure to moderate inflation.
Many are talking about the Gujarat model of development. Mr Modi insists it should be emulated. Being an economist and finance minister, what’s your take on this?
Complete rubbish. At this evening’s rally, I will list a number of parameters and I will tell you what Gujarat’s rank is in each parameter. There is hardly any parameter in which Gujarat is number one. In the Raghuram Rajan committee, after considering a number of parameters, they have ranked Gujarat as 12. Which means in 28 states, it is somewhere in the middle. So what is extraordinary about Gujarat? Gujarat is an average performing state led by an average chief minister and with below average ministers.
Congress has been repeatedly attacked on the corruption front. In fact, L.K. Advani said it was raining scams. Mr Modi even said that was the reason why some of the Congress seniors are not contesting. How are you countering this?
Corruption may be an issue that is affecting the minds and thinking of the people. But I have not heard of any issue of corruption being raised in election campaign. The issues people raise in election campaign are that the state government is not providing them 100 days of work, not providing them the full wage that has been stipulated for the work, that there is water shortage, that there are usual complaints about bureaucracy not attending to where there is problem and old age pension not being received. But, it is quite possible that subliminally corruption is an issue that is weighing in the minds of people.
Mulayam Singh Yadav said that some BJP leaders were in touch with him. And even some BJP seniors do not want Modi as PM. How do you see it?
I don’t know who has been in touch with Mulayam Singh Yadav. How can I answer? But there is enough evidence to believe that a number of senior BJP leaders are not happy with Modi being anointed as the PM candidate and given a chance they will probably trip him.
Should Mr Modi succeed, what kind of government would it be with many BJP leaders not wanting him as PM?
That I cannot say. If he is replicating the Gujarat model it will be disaster because the Gujarat model is based on all power being concentrated in the hands of one person and crony capitalism. If that is replicated in Delhi, which, I hope will not happen, it will be disaster for the country.
Another major issue Mr Modi as well as Ms Jayalalithaa have been raising is centre-state relationship. Time and again they have accused the UPA of adopting a big brotherly attitude and meting out raw deal to non-Congress states. How do you respond to that allegation?
Mr Modi and Ms Jayalalithaa are among the CMs who have deliberately adopted a confrontationist approach to the Centre, on NCTC, on GST and on a number of other issues. In fact some other BJP chief ministers have told me they have no objection to NCTC. But they have to fall in line with the party. Similarly, it was the Gujarat and MP finance ministers who opposed GST. I don’t think either Mr Modi or Ms Jayalalithaa is entitled to preach the virtues of cooperation with the Centre being the most uncooperative chief ministers.
What do you think gave BJP the confidence to revive the Ram Temple and uniform civil code demands?
It stems out of arrogance. They want to polarise the voters. They have come to the conclusion that they can do without the votes of the minorities. Therefore they have brought these issues back to the table to send fear among the minority voters in the hope that the others will consolidate behind them.
There is a general perception that you could have lifted party cadres spirit by contesting. Don’t you think that you have sent a wrong signal by abstaining from the poll fray?
If I had contested, they would say, should he contest again and again and again. Why should he not make way for somebody else? Please remember. I am one of four candidates from all over India, who’s contested from the same constituency eight times. I have decided now, enough with elections. Here, I am virtually the candidate.