Has demonetization served its purpose of taking out black money from the system?
Yes, it has done so. It is a vaccine against the scam and it has done the job.
Critics say that a large amount of black money is abroad and not in India and all cash is not black.
This is wrong to say that most of the black money is stashed abroad. You may recall that the first decision taken was constituting an SIT to find the black money stashed abroad. Secondly, we also came out with a bill in Parliament on the funds stashed abroad. Then we took initiative in G20 and followed it up by entering into the agreement on multiple avoidance tax treaty with Mauritius and Cyprus, which we then followed up with Switzerland and then with the US on FETA. PM has been consistent. PM also gave time to Indian people to declare the money. He has been doing things systematically. The black money is now in the open and this is the biggest achievement. Every rupee is being accounted for. There will be scrutiny.
The scheme caused public inconvenience. Was it avoidable?
It was not possible. It was like a cancer spread into the country. The entire system was affected. Serious action was required. In 1971, the former finance minister YB Chavan recommended demonetization. Justice Wanchoo committee also recommended it. The Congress didn’t act upon it. In the 1980s, the bill on benami transactions was passed but the government did not notify it. We did it. In 2012, the Supreme Court of India directed the government to form a mechanism to bring back black money. This government did it. UPA slept over it. One after another, there were reminders. This chemotherapy has been administered. Some people are complaining that it will lead to hair fall. So one has to choose whether you want hair fall or one wants to fall itself. People welcomed it as a gamechanger. People wanted drastic action and we have done it. We have 130 crore population. We had a parallel economy, drug mafia, a high number of fake notes and a neighbour that promotes terror etc. Everywhere black money was prevalent. We delivered a death blow and that is why there is so much hue and cry. I admit that there is an inconvenience. It might continue for few more days because people are used to cash. Arrangements could not be made because advance information could not be given. It is a temporary pain for long term gain.
When will the caps go? When do we expect the liquidity to return to normal?
PM has already assured that pain will be eased step by step.
On this issue, the Opposition did not allow the Parliament to function. Do you expect demonetization to cast its shadow on the Budget Session as well?
I hope it doesn’t happen. Parliament is to debate and discuss, which could not happen. At the end, the Opposition wanted a debate but early on they avoided the debate and disrupted (it). Then they went to the President. The government was willing and PM was ready to intervene and respond. In fact, the debate had started and Opposition had fielded Anand Sharma, Pramod Tiwari and Manmohan Singh. They fielded him as the third candidate but that is the choice of the party. Mayawati, Ram Gopal Yadav, Piyush Goel and others spoke, including me, but they changed the goal posts and asked for the Prime Minister. PM came but (they) didn’t allow the house to function. They lost a golden opportunity for a debate. It was a proper forum to highlight the issue, but they missed it.
There is a perception that senior leaders of BJP and Congress don’t talk, unlike in the days when Vajpayee was Prime Minister?
Everyone has a different style. Vajpayee’s style is different, Modi’s style is different and then Nehru, Indira and Rajiv had a different style. PM told the Opposition that we are ready for discussion but it didn’t happen. I know you have in mind what Advani ji said but I’m also sad and unhappy that Parliament wasn’t allowed to function. Then I always tell the Opposition, I propose, you oppose and let the House dispose.
Rahul Gandhi has attacked PM on the issue of demonetization and Sahara papers. Your response?
Rahul Gandhi is behaving in the most irresponsible and immature manner. My personal advice is that he should graduate himself, otherwise he would be failing himself and his party in the process. Personal criticism has been out of frustration. Congress has called Modi names. They called him maut ka saudagar, then Rahul Gandhi called him khoon ka dalali and then they called him Hitler, Mussolini, Gaddafi and former external affairs minister called him ‘impotent’. This has not helped them and their stature has gone down.
The principal charge of the Opposition is that 50 odd families are being helped through the process of demonetization?
Absurd and meaningless. They shouted these slogans in Parliament. Adani and Ambani. They said, “Modi hai hai”. I got up and told them, “Adani and Ambani, aapka meherbani”.
Adani and Ambani were not born during Modi’s regime. They were born and brought up during Congress regime. Who are these 50 families and how did they prosper? 1.86 lakh crore of the bank money which has become NPA was all given during the Congress regime by these people. All the concession to Ambani and Adani was given during Congress regime. Now, in order to portray us as pro business and against poor people, they are shouting these slogans. We are different. We feel that both industry and agriculture is important to country’s interest. Each should be respected. (In) media, there is black sheep. Every sector has a black sheep. Take action against them. Vijay Mallya was given loans during Congress regime. The loans were restructured during Congress’ tenure. This will boomerang on them. These are cheap tactics.
BJP in 2016 was able to make its presence felt in the Northeast by winning Assam. What are the prospects of the party in Uttar Pradesh?
Absolutely. BJP is becoming a real all-India party. When I joined this party, people would make fun of me that I’m joining a Brahmin baniya, urban, North India party. Today, we have MPs throughout the country. We will win Karnataka. We have done well in Kerala. Our votes have gone up. In Tamil Nadu, we have prospects because of the vacuum and the demise of Amma. In UP, the stakes are high and we will come to Parliament. We got 71 seats in Lok Sabha. People have seen the performance of SP and BSP. The alternative is BJP.
Doesn’t it worry you that demonetization might impact BJP adversely?
That is what is being discussed by media. Going by the grassroots feedback, our appeal has increased. This is the feed back I’m getting from UP. Look at the result of Chandigarh. We got 20 seats. Chandigarh is a big city. People from UP and Bihar stay there. In Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan local body elections, we have done well. Even after demonetization.
Prime Minister has invested his political capital in a scheme like demonetization. Do you think it was worth the risk?
Yes, it was worth taking. We have not come to rule the country. We want to develop it. He is known for taking risks. He has taken it up as a challenge. He went for a surgical strike against our neighbour, who is interfering in our affairs. He is known for taking tough and bold decisions. He wants to improve the living condition of the people.
Last year, the debate on nationalism and citizenship dominated universities and many areas of our society. In retrospect, how do you see it?
What is wrong with discussing nationalism? Nation means people and people means all communities. It means all sections. It means Bharat Mata ki jai. It means Daliton ki jai, Christian ko jai, Jains ko jai, sabhi backwards ko jai. It encompasses every community. We should feel proud of it. Earlier, it was a curse to talk about nationalism. Now people feel proud and people talk about it. 122 countries have recognized yoga. There nothing wrong with it.
Many scholars would say that there is a difference between ethnic and civic nationalism.
Perverts. This because of 2000 years of foreign rule and Macaulay. This education system has gone into mind. The influence of socialist model has also affected us. People have change and the mandate has changed, but people in certain sections who were well entrenched, their minds have not changed. They have lost the battle but still holding key positions like media, also the so-called leftists and so-called progressives.
There was a big clash in the Dhulagarh of West Bengal. Hundreds of shops were looted and people were thrown out of houses but so called secular media is neither reporting it nor discussing it. On the other hand, Zee TV has reported it prominently but an FIR has been launched against them. The so-called people sitting in the Lutyen’s Zone of Delhi, the big progressive people aren’t talking about it. Is talking about Hindus a crime in this country? This is perverted secularism and that is why people have rejected it. Secondly, the ultra-leftist people take up the issue of JNU and shout slogans about Hyderabad but society remains peaceful. Our image has improved. I don’t know why this perverted meaning is being given to Hindu. It is a way of life, not a religion. It is a way of living. We don’t want to discriminate against people on the basis of religion and race. After Modi’s coming in, there are less communal clashes and the focus is on development and good government. My opponents lost the elections badly and they have not been able to digest it. That is why they are attacking Modi personally and indulging in disinformation campaign.
Lastly, did the surgical strike change the nature of play between Pakistan and India?
I don’t think that Pakistan would understand but a message has gone. It was not for a political purpose but it became inevitable to show the world and to Pakistan that India is capable of retaliation. That has been done. It has raised the morale of the Indian armed forces and it has raised the morale of the Indian people living in India and also abroad.