‘India is now among world’s top economies’

SENIOR CABINET minister in the Modi Government, Ravi Shankar Prasad had been four time MP in Rajya Sabha. Prasad, who was also a close aide to Vajpayee and was minister in his government, discusses different aspects of India’s politics, economy and policies at length with DR ANIL SINGH

Edited Excerpts from an interview •

You are one of the important and responsible ministers of the Modi government. Where do you see yourself in the government and the party now?

First of all, let me tell you that I am not the senior most. There are more senior people than me in the party and the government. Yes, I have been fortunate that I got an opportunity to work with Atal ji’s government and in Modi’s government too. I’m basically a worker. I shall be happier with the party’s progress and growth.

Now coming to your question, remember when we came to power, how was the India’s economic condition? Capital investment in India had almost ended, the country stood on the brink of economic exile. Today, we can proudly say that leaving behind France, our country is being considered in the world’s top big economic countries.

According to the World Bank-IMS, it’s the fastest growing economy. Most FDIs have increased and today we should see where our economy stands. Tax base in India has increased, tax reforms have been done and the biggest thing is that the respect for India has increased in the world. Today, Modi is not just known as the leader of India but also as an authentic Global Leader in the world.

You have questioned, where do we find ourselves after four and a half years? The result of elections has been revealed in three states. We got defeated in Chhattisgarh and we accept that and we will take it seriously.

If we could have got 1,800 more votes, we could have bagged 114 seats and from 3,700 to 4,000 votes we could have won 119 seats.

Shivraj Singh gave a very good fight but Congress government came into power and I congratulate them. Despite the notion that we will lose the ground in Rajasthan, we gave a tight match. The results will be in our favour whenever Lok Sabha elections take place because the voters are mature enough, they make wise decisions.

The era of HD Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral has passed away. Now the country needs a stable and strong government formed by BJP. On the other hand, the focus is to remove Modi and for that purpose make a grand alliance.

Schemes like digital India, Saubhagya Yojna, monetary schemes have touched the heart of the people and have led to give more respect to the poor and prosperity of the nation. When the elections will occur, the people of the country will vote for BJP, Modi and NDA and make them win with majority.

You talked about the defeat of three states, immediately after that, good news and relief for the BJP came from the Supreme Court in Rafale case. The court had clearly said that the whole deal was absolutely fair and fine. But there is a mistake. Who is responsible for that? Is it the fault of the court or the government’s fault or you blame the opposition?

It’s good that you have raised the issue of Rafale and people should know it. For 25 years, the Indian Air Force was not able to get new ships. Countries like China and Pakistan’s air force is very strong. If we could have powerful ship loaded with missile, then our army officers, soldiers might not have been martyred in the Kargil War. We could have won with the help of Air Force. In 2001, Atal ji tried to start but we lost in 2004. No bona fide action was taken from 2004 to 2012.

When tender was launched in 2012, Dassault, who was the first to create Rafale, that was the lowest, was stopped later. Who had pressurised to stop it and why everybody knows it. No
defense deal is done in the Congress government without any deal and I can say it with full responsibility. Then Modi ji comes in power and Air Force divulges the whole story.

Modi ji told them that there is a provision in the manual of the law that the head of the state can do an agreement. Thirty-six aircrafts are arriving. There are 18 ships in a squadron. Two squadrons mean 36 ships are loaded and they are ready. There is neither Anil Ambani nor any other person.

So the whole ruckus was absolutely baseless. You must have seen that statement of Rafale’s CEO that when we shall build aircraft in India, we shall provide work to 100 people and
Ambani is one of them who is getting work of only 800 crores.

What did the Supreme Court do? It looked at the decision-making process and found that it is crystal clear. Secondly, he called for Air Force officials and also noticed that the planes were required. Thirdly, the court found that Rafale is an aircraft of authentic firepower.

He said that this is not our subject but said that there is no commercial vested interest in this whole matter. Then he said that we shall not interfere in it for perception. And remember the hearing in this case was done for five times and the last hearing took four to five hours, everybody argued. We expect that the Congress party will accept it peacefully, but the kind of words Rahul Gandhi has used on the Supreme Court’s verdict, is painful and unfortunate.

Now, in the matter of PSC and CAG, we had told them that if any defense deal is done, then we share the pricing with the CAG. According to the procedure, after CAG’s report, the PSC examines and presents it in the House. The mistake that has been done is the error of dictation, but the process has been followed.

Our attorney general has applied for the modification, but these two lines do not make any effect on the 25 pages decision of Rafael, which has been examined separately on priority. One thing I want to say to the readers that can’t we all think on the same line when it comes to the security of the country? Congress is repeatedly asking for the price but if we will reveal the price then we shall have to disclose which missile has been installed, what is the firepower, and all this is secret clause in the contract. This will also make Pakistan and China’s Air Force know everything and that’s harmful for the nation. We can proudly say that opposite to Congress Government, there is no scam or no broker in the defense deals in Narendra Modi’s government there is no scam.

There is a famous quote of Shakespeare, “When woes come, they do not come singly, they come in battalions.” Do you feel that in the last few days your government had bad time because in these days the RBI governor resigned, CBI controversy and defeat in Assembly elections. What is your take on it?

In the history of the Independent India, who has ever requested for impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice of India. The Congress leaders did but it was rejected. Has Rahul Gandhi ever disowned it? Who had questioned the Election Commission of India
saying they change the program according to PM’s press conference? Who asked for proof of surgical strike? It was Rahul Gandhi. Remember the time when Emergency was imposed, people were locked, editors were docked, censorship was imposed and the Supreme Court-High Court judges preceded it, that’s the history of Congress. Dr. Manmohan Singh has admitted that there should be healthy relationship between the Government and RBI. Urjit Patel has said that he has resigned due to personal reasons.

As far as the CBI is concerned, the tussle was between number one and the number two, then what could have Government done. CVC had taken charge. After the Inquiry the Supreme Court will take a decision. If the CBI director takes bribe of crores and the government can’t remain silent, because that’s CBI! Every institution is accountable, may it be a journalist, the prime minister, a court, CAG, or CBI; that’s the democracy.

The Supreme Court recently stated that when the dog-cat fight was going on for months, then what was the need to remove CBI director?

The answer is very simple. This is a comment, not an order. I am not commenting on this but I want to ask you one thing that if the dog and cat are fighting and the image of CBI is being tarnished should it be allowed to go on? Even today, the CBI has a capability if in any case police go wrong, then the CBI inquiry is demanded; people go to the high court. You know that I argued the case of complete fodder scam. I debated the case of the alkatara (tar) scam. Verdict has come and do you know how many people were imprisoned. So do not question the capability of the CBI. It was unfortunate that all this had happened.

I want to express the feelings of your workers, your supporters and sympathisers that ‘you have cheated your own people?’ Originally, there were three issues of BJP  370, Ram Mandir and Common Civil Code. Your government that is of absolute majority, a historic government has just bolstered on all the three issues.

I shall answer all one by one. Starting with Ram temple, have we not put efforts to expedite the issue of the Ram temple? I was the advocate of Ramlala and the Hindus. I want to appeal to the Supreme Court of India if the case of Urban Maoist, Sabrimala’s case can be listed and heard early, if Supreme Court can open to hear the case of Karnataka at 2pm, then why not the Ram Janmabhoomi case being proceeded that is pending for 70 years and the appeal is pending in the Supreme Court for almost 10 years. This should be prioritized. The mosque of Babri Masjid was not mosque of Namaz, it was the mosque of slavery.

It seems that the Supreme Court has taken away the fundamental issue of BJP  the Ram Temple and the Supreme Court has overthrown Rahul Gandhi’s fundamental issue too. The apex court has resolved both the issues.

I shall say politely that I am Law Minister of the country. Please do not comment on the Supreme Court of India like that and do not expect an answer. We respect the judiciary and will keep doing that. I have full faith in the Supreme Court. We have appealed for the early hearing of the case. Ram temple should be built in accordance to the Constitution. We are in its favour with full honesty and we shall succeed in it.

Not just the people of the country, all the Hindus of the world want Ram Temple. Many of the Muslims think that sentiments of Hindus should be taken care of.

Now, I come to the section 370. Today aren’t terrorists being killed in Kashmir? Why are Hurriyat leaders silent? Has the funding of all not been confiscated? Has not all the terrorists been killed in the border of Pakistan. It’s the effect of the government that many Kashmiri youngsters are joining army and police and playing cricket. We shall win over their heart and will bring change.

As far as the Uniform Civil Code is concerned, our strictness on triple talaq means that we are in favor of justice to women, we stand by women. But I want to say that if you are in government then it’s your responsibility to obey the rules and we have abided by that.

Elections are due in Bengal, where BJP may increase its score. What is your plan for the state? Some time back, Mamata Banerjee had taken the initiative to remove the word west from Bengal, which the central government had refused or it got stuck somewhere. Please throw some light on this?

First of all, you know that many big names raise a huge liberal question. Remember 2015, when there were elections in Bihar, the awards were being returned and it was in all nook and corners that India is becoming very liberal and we lost the ground in Bihar. Today, Mamata Banerjee has been confronting the democratic rights of our party. We cannot organize a rally over there. People who talk of democratic rights are silent today. We have gone to the court, a court had given verdict in our favor and we are looking forward. One thing is clear that the people of Bengal want change, they want development. You must have seen the violation of democratic rights; people were not allowed to enroll in the local body elections. I am saying it today; please note my words that in Bengal there will be a historic mandate in favor of BJP. We shall stand with people in all the miseries and we shall fight against every damage to the country.

There seems to be some agreement about the reservation of women in certain assemblies. How does BJP see this in larger perspective?

Since the beginning, BJP has been demanding for that reservations for women should be talked about. You might have noticed that some of our governments have given reservations to women in the local body elections. There is lack of consensus among the rest of the parties. You would have seen the controversy in Rajya Sabha on this issue. It was raised in the Lok Sabha too but the discussion is going on, we shall find some way out. It is a constitutional amendment, therefore consensus is necessary. For this two-thirds of majority is required.

In last September, triple talaq was termed as a criminal act by the cabinet, but people considered it was done for the polarisation of votes in the general elections. Is it really done to give justice?

One thing people should know that triple talaq issue is neither a political matter nor related to worship. Triple Talaq is issue of justice, dignity and honor of women. After 70 years of independence, there is a provision against Discrimination in the Constitution. If triple talaq has been prohibited in 22 Islamic countries, then why can there be triple talaq if food is not cooked, if the bread is half baked then triple talaq, if the wife arises late, then triple talaq. How can there be triple talaq on whatsapp? It was Supreme Court’s verdict. The law that we have brought in says that an FIR can be filed by the wife, any blood relative or someone related to their marriage. Earlier people feared that even a neighbor can file a case.

Secondly, you said about reconciliation, it can also be done but only on the request of wife. The third option if bail, it can seek from the magistrate but after the wife’s hearing. You will have to take care of the maintenance. This is in favor of Muslim women of Hindustan. I want to ask what Congress Party will do in the Rajya Sabha. On one hand, they talk about respect of women and if we talk about Bengal, then I would expect Mamta Ji to think, she is such a big female minister, Mayawati is also a woman leader, Sonia ji is also a women’s leader. So please decide, I appeal to them, we do not seek for a single vote on this matter nor politicize it. We should be one for the dignity and honor of women and to provide them justice.

Protection bill related to personnel data is an important one but the government is not much clear about its stand.

For your kind information, we have already consulted on this issue and we have formed a Shri Krishna committee and it’s recommendations have been done. We have consulted some agencies, states and departments. We shall present the bill soon in the parliament to protect the data.

A law has been passed in the government to snoop in the computers. The Opposition has unitedly targeted the government on the issue. What is your reaction on it?

You have done good homework but we have not passed the bill. It’s just a notification. As far as the Opposition is concerned, to oppose us on political issues, it is their personal matter. If you have raised the issue then let me explain it.

Section 69 of India’s IT Act provides that there is a provision for tapping computer resources to prevent India’s security, sovereignty and violence. Only the authorized persons of the state government and the central government can tap it. This rule was formed in 2009 when Manmohan Singh was in the government and its manual came at the same time. He said that later that confirmation would be done later. Now the question arises who will authorize them. We have said that ten agencies are authorized to do that. It includes intelligence, CBI, IB and other authentic institutions of Indian Government and Police Commissioner of Delhi, because the President, Prime Minister, Minister and MPs reside here. But every order needs Home Secretary’s nod. So, it is clear that not everyone can do it.

Tell me one thing, is not our country under threat of terrorism. Some people encouraged by ISI misuse the Internet, does money laundering happens every day or not, then how can we leave the matter in lurch. In a sense, India has been working for sovereignty of the country with safety valve. If Manmohan Singh’s government had done then that’s fine but if we do it then it’s questionable. We should not forget what had happened with one of the greatest President’s of India. The things that were found in the chamber of the then finance minister can’t be forgotten. There were slips and other things, people forgot all the things.

The Congress Party had imposed the Emergency, imprisoned the editors, Supreme Court superseded the court judges, among those who fought against it were the prominent people of this government. Prime Minister, Rajnath Singh ji, Arun Jaitley ji, Sushma Swaraj ji and I were amongst that.

We have fought for the freedom of the speech, the freedom of the judiciary, we have been eaten up, went to jail. Congress party should not teach us the lesson of democracy, where people grow only because of nepotism.

You have an additional charge too. It’s the time of digital social media. One is user generated content like on Facebook and WhatsApp, while the other issue is of owned content like Netflix and amazon or G5. Regulation of the content is a huge responsibility and a big problem. How is the department overseeing the content that is being telecast on such platforms and it is breaking our cultural backbone?

You have asked the right question. Our policy is very clear in this matter. We believe in democracy and there should be communication of ideas on the digital platform. Today, our common Indian asks questions on this platform to the editors like you too. Respect their right. But if social media platform is being used for violence and pornography then this should not happen. You must have seen we have taken many decisions against child pornography. What did we do with Whatsapp? We also gave notice against Facebook and it apologised. We respect the freedom of social media but if someone abuses, then there is a
provision in India’s IT Act and action will be taken.

Prime Minister Modi says that the Congress party had threatened against Supreme Court judges, and tried to make allegations against former CJI Deepak Mishra. How much the system and the organisation have got benifit?

If it’s a profit or a loss, you should see that. But I shall answer your question with a few questions. But there are also some lawyers who are Supreme Court leaders. They cannot control the cases from Supreme Court. If they have the courage then come, fight and win the elections. What did you do against Deepak Mishra? What was the Rahul Gandhi’s comment on Rafael verdict? You should ask him. In that context, the PM had asked him but he had called him a dictator. Congress party opens new pitches every six months. Some so-called secular, liberal, artist, editor, journalists talk in his favor. The rest of the time they remain silent. These people are silent on the killing of democracy in Bengal. The Urban Maoist threatens to kill Mr Modi, but they are silent. They have not uttered a single word on ‘Bharat tere tukde honge Inshaallah’. But some matters should be left to the public, the people of India are very mature and sensible enough.

In India’s legal system, the anarchy has reduced to your rule even after four and a half years as it was before. Have you taken some steps to improve the situation on this front?

I shall give two answers to the situation. Police power is under state while the border security is the issue of the centre. We have strengthened the security of the border. Have we not killed the terrorists, have we not gone beyond the border and demolished their bases. Did we not expose Pakistan to the world? As far as our states are concerned, wherever there is a crime, action should be taken against it. But our governments have worked sincerely. We have encouraged the police, controlled the criminals. Nobody will get political mileage and we will continue to do this work sincerely.

BJP raises the issues of urban naxals, JNU but your government seems to have a loosend grip. How many cases have been registered and against whom?

Do you remember when a case was registered in Pune, it was questionable? Rahul Gandhi also visited when it happened in JNU. All the journalists and Liberals asked questions. All news channels asked questions to us. Do not disturb us if we take action. It is very important that at least in the name of the country’s interest, we should talk in one voice.

Today the number of naxalites have decreased. The number of their districts has also decreased. There were about 1.5 hundred districts which have now reduced to 70. I always say that fight against naxalites freely, come in the election, and defeat us. But they don’t have the courage to face the people. They always torture the people with the power of the gun, but the country’s democracy is very strong.

Issues are raised in every election but in practicality polls are won by perception. And the perception is that BJP is lagging behind, while the Congress is going one step ahead.

It can be your perception and we are surprised that we rule over the 70 percent of the country. We won Tripura with a two-third majority where our municipality did not even have a member. If you talk about Assam Meghalaya or Nagaland we won it.

But you never said that you did amazing. Now we lost at states then everything is over. I would say wait for 26th May, you will also be here and I shall be here and I shall answer you.

You hail from Bihar. There was considerable upheaval in the state. Ramvilas (Paswan) ji is saying something else, Kushwaha ji got separated. How is this going to affect all these activities on Bihar elections?

JDU, BJP and Ramvilas Ji, these three have strong unity, they will fight together. Kushwaha ji came. His party has almost become extinct, yet we have given him respect, honored him as a minister. Now if he has gone, let it go. NDA BJP will have a very effective and authentic victory in Bihar in the Lok Sabha.

You have more than 20 seats in Bihar. Do you expect to win even more seats? Modi ji had promised a lot for Bihar in the last elections but the state has not got all that yet?

Our government is determined for the development of Bihar. We have made national highway water in Bihar, eight DPOs of Digital India opened in Bihar, the expansion of power, and Mahatma Gandhi Setu’s parallel bridge was created. To ask questions is your job but our government and Prime Minister Modi are convinced about the development of East India. Modi ji believes that till the development of eastern India is done, the country will not progress. It includes Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, North East.

Uttar Pradesh is also nearby, that’s the climax. How will you maintain it?

You used to ask this question during the assembly election. But how was the result? That’s what I will say, wait for May. The people of the country will give the BJP and Modi an effective result from Uttar Pradesh.