‘Samvaad’, the full-day mega conclave by India TV, instituted to take stock of the Narendra Modi-led government’s three years in office, saw an enviable line-up of participants from the ruling and opposition benches.
The line-up at the event, that saw the who’s who of the government and members of the opposition discuss the change the country has seen since the Modi-led government stormed to power at the Centre with a resounding majority, witnessed various politically and socially-sensitive issues, including Triple Talaq and Ram Mandir, discussed in the day-long event.
The event saw Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Mahesh Sharma, Vijay Goel, Smriti Irani, Nitin Gadkari, and BJP national president Amit Shah. Those from the opposition who took part in the event included Raj Babbar, Pramod Tiwari, Akhilesh Pratap Singh and Manish Tewari besides Sudheendra Bhadoria of the BSP and AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi.
Presenting a report card of his party’s government at the Centre for three years now, BJP president Amit Shah said that the honest, sincere efforts in governance by the Centre had brought India close to ‘ache din’. The metaphor had gained much prominence in the run up to the polls in 2014 and the initial days of the Modi government.
“The government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked for the welfare of all sections of the society and there are no allegations of corruption on any of its ministers since the BJP came to power.
“After three years of sincere efforts towards good governance, India is now close to ‘ache din,” Shah told India TV when asked whether the government had managed to deliver its promise of ‘good days’.
The BJP president also exuded confidence in winning the upcoming presidential election in July.
"I am sure that NDA’s candidate will win in the presidential election," Amit Shah said.
Shah said the government is minutely monitoring the situation in Kashmir and the situation will soon improve.
"Have faith in the Narendra Modi government, peace will prevail in Kashmir. The government is regularly meeting with officials. We are responsible to improve the situation in Kashmir. There can’t be any fix time-frame," he said.
Shah said the PDP-BJP alliance is intact "as of now” and did not elaborate further.
Holding demonetisation exercise as a success, Shah said the drive hit the funding of terrorists and Naxalites.
"Demonetisation has hit the source of funding of terrorists and Naxalites. It also helped banks to improve their financial health," the BJP chief said.
Shah also rejected the allegations of EVM tampering and termed the theory as "baseless."
Hinting at a surgical-strike like action against Pakistan to avenge the killing and mutilation of two security personnel, Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said that it had taken India 10-15 days to launch action after the attack on an Army base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri in September last year.
"Even for surgical strikes, it took us 10-15 days. Wait and watch. It would be wrong to believe that nothing is happening.
“I can assure you on behalf of our government that we will not let the heads of our countrymen hang in shame. It is not like we do not feel the pain and we will not let that pain stay for a long time,” Singh told India TV’s Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma.
On the possibility of holding talks with Pakistan, Singh said it was up to them to make any such proposal and India will consider it. However, he expressed a note of caution saying that Pakistan has "betrayed us on many occasions."
Speaking on the Kashmir issue at India TV conclave 'Samvaad’, the Home Minister said, " It is up to them to propose any talks but we will consider it. But Pakistan is not trustworthy at the moment. Their civilian leadership wants something, their army wants something else. Pakistan has betrayed us on many occasions."
Touching upon the issue of disturbance in Kashmir, Rajnath said what was being shown on TV channels was an exaggeration.
"Whatever is being shown on TV channels about Kashmir is an exaggeration. We should not say that stone pelting is happening across Kashmir, when it is happening at a few places only. There are nationalists in Kashmir too. Wrong perception should not be created based on a few incidents" Singh said.
Hailing Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz as a role-model for Kashmiri youth, Rajnath said there is grief for him in Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said that talks are the only way to find a solution to the decades-old Kashmir issue, but stressed that the conditions need to be favourable for dialogue.
“Government is committed to Shimla Agreement. Issues can be resolved only through talks,” he said, adding that there was first a need for an atmosphere to have a dialogue.
Congress leader Manish Tewari, another panellist, termed the PDP-BJP alliance in the border state as an ‘incompatible government’.
Singh, however, said that the government was committed to restore peace in the Valley and was taking effective measures in this regard.
When asked about government’s Pakistan policy, Singh said, “Modiji’s visit to Pakistan was a message, inviting SAARC countries for oath taking ceremony was a strong message that we want peace.”
“But we will never compromise on the matters related to national security. The Army conducted surgical strikes. Indian forces are retaliating in same manner,” he said.
Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, speaking at India TV’s “Samvaad”, said that the practice of Triple Talaq is an issue of gender justice, gender equality and gender dignity, adding that many Muslim-majority have abolished it.
Holding that the issue was a constitutional matter, the minister said the practice is not integral to worship in Islam.
“Triple talaq is not a part of Islamic worship and we will oppose the practice. Many Muslim-majority countries have abolished the practice,” Prasad said.
“It is an issue of gender justice, gender equality, gender dignity and our government will stand by Muslim women no matter what,” he added.
The senior minister rejected the charge of the BJP politicising the issue.
“I do not want to do politics on this issue, triple talaq is a social evil. It was not us who approached the court and the Muslim women who were victims of this practice approached the Supreme Court but we took a stand against it when asked by the court,” he said.
Prasad also chided political parties and said women leaders like Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi did not speak against the triple talaq issue.
“There are thousands of Muslim women who have been victims triple talaq practice. They have approached court, they have come out in open. They are coming out in open as their attitude has now changed,” he said.
Participating in a panel on India TV’s “Samvaad”, firebrand BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi again locked horns over the contentious issue of Ram Mandir.
Swamy said that if the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute goes against the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, then the Parliament can overturn the apex court’s order the way it did in Shah Bano case way back in 1986 under the Congress.
Swamy, however, said that he is fully confident that the Supreme Court will uphold Allahabad High Court’s order which ruled in favour of the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Asking the Muslim community not to equate a Mosque with the Ram temple in Ayodhya, Swami argued that while a mosque can be built anywhere, Ram temple can be built only at the disputed site as Lord Ram was born at that place.
Swami tried to substantiate his argument by pointing out that mosques are used by Muslims for offering Namaz which they do even on roads, railway stations and other places.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, who was also present on the dais, recalled Swamy that he had last year said that the ‘construction of Ram Temple will begin by end of December’.
To this, Swamy said, “If the court is delaying the matter, what can I do? Mahatma Gandhi had in 1930 said that the country will get freedom in one year, but it took 17 years.”
“It (Ram Temple) is our compulsion because the BJP stormed to power on this plank. And it is mandatory because it is part of our manifesto,” Swamy said.
Owaisi further dared Swamy to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ‘order for a daily hearing in the matter’.
Swamy said that there is no democracy wherever Muslims are in majority be it a country or Kashmir.
To this, Owiasi replied on a lighter note, “You should be made the Home Minister. What are you doing there (J&K). Not a single pandit has been rehabilitated.”
Speaking at India TV’s “Samvaad”, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the government’s drastic decision to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes had contributed in a growth of Rs 7 lakh crore in revenue receipts in the past three years.
Speaking about the benefits of demonetisation, Gadkari said, “When we formed the government, the revenue receipt was 13 lakh crore. Now the revenue receipt is 20 lakh crore. Demonetisation contributed in this 7 lakh crore growth. I am sure that GST will also contribute in this.”
Referring to demonetisation and GST as the “two historic decisions of the government”, Gadkari said the revenue receipt will rise to Rs 30 lakh crore in the coming years.
Explaining about the achievements in these three years, Gadkari said the pace of road construction in the NDA government till March this year had reached 23 km per day, adding that the government has constructed 16,800 km road in one year.
The minister also announced that the government has developed a ‘river traffic control’ system that will be similar to ‘air traffic control’ between Haldia and Patna.
“The project will be launched soon,” he said, adding that works on Rs 4,000 crore project between Haldia and Varanasi is already underway.
Union Culture Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma started the event by tabling the report card of his ministry. Speaking at India TV’s “Samvaad”, he briefed about the achievements of his ministry.
Sharma said that in these three years, India has improved in tourism sector by 25 places, adding that the government has invested Rs 4,800 crore in constructing tourism corridor.
Another minister at the Centre, Vijay Goel, who holds the charge of Youth Affairs and Sports, said “Teen saal, bemisaal (three years of Modi government has been tremendous). Modi ji has created a trust in the country among the people. Even during demonetisation, Modi’s popularity did not diminish.”
Goel said, “Infrastructure in sports is a state subject and Centre focuses on excellence in sports. In the ministry we are focusing on broad basing of sports, excellence in sports. We are launching Sports ministry talent search portal and will give 1000 talented children will be given Rs 5 lakh scholarship per year for 8 years.”
Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel said, “We have brought a new national health policy in 15 years. We will take the expenditure on health to 2.5 pc of GDP from 1 pc. We are focusing on preventive healthcare.”
Participating in a panel discussion, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assured the country that defence forces are enough capable to deal with Pakistan and that they are giving befitting reply to the neighbouring country.
“We are and will keep avenging the killings of jawans with ‘interest’,” Naqvi said.
“Pakistan has been isolated. We have proved that Pakistan is a country where terrorism is getting flourished. The world has recognised us,” Naqvi added.
Speaking on the contentious issue of Lokpal, Naqvi said that the BJP-led NDA government was committed to bring a strong Lokpal to deal with corruption issues.
Congress party’s Akhilesh Pratap Singh described the three-year tenure of the government as ‘teen saal desh behaal’. “Only names of schemes have changed, and nothing else. Take example of Aadhaar. People who used to criticise it, today are lauding it.”
Janata Dal (United) leader K C Tyagi hit out at the BJP saying the party had no right to question Nitish Kumar’s alliance with Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Tyagi targeted the PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir, calling J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s party a sympathiser of terrorists.
Discussing the cult personality of Narendra Modi and if the Opposition will be able to defeat him anytime soon, Tyagi said “there is no 'Modi hatao' slogan and the motive is to stop BJP. We need 57-inch chest - 56 of Modiji and one of Raj Babbar ji's party (Congress) - to defeat BJP.”
Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar also agreed with the JD(U) leader and said that the focus should be on defeating the ideology and not the individual.
“We cannot fight a person but the ideology, so we should not focus on fighting an individual (Narendra Modi),” Babbar said.
Hitting out the BJP-ruled Central government and Modi, Babbar said, “This (BJP) is a fantasy government and the head of this government is working like a fantasy hero. Modi is expert in showmanship (aadambar) and he is doing just that.”
Hitting out at Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government, Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “Casteism, appeasement and nepotism was the basis of 'Mahagathbandhan' win in Bihar. The state has given 15 years to first Lalu Yadav and then Nitish Kumar. We all are seeing how the government in Bihar is being run from jail.”
“Unlike other parties, BJP has proved that a 'chaiwallah' or an ordinary party member can become Prime Minister,” Rudy said.
Countering criticism over the government’s failure to create enough jobs, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani said that it has provided self-employment to over 7 crore people by providing loans under MUDRA scheme.
Asked to comment on Congress leader Kapil Sibal's statement reminding her "bangles for Manmohan Singh" after Indian soldier Hemraj was beheaded by Pakistan Army, Irani said the government is making all attempts to bring back Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by Pakistan militray court.
"As we are speaking here, India is making its case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to save Kulbhushan Jadhav. I want to ask Sibal ji how many times he or the UPA government approached ICJ to save Indian lives. How many times Sibal ji went to ICJ to fight for Indian lives," she said.
When asked about Modi government's steps for women security, the minister said that the Centre has taken many steps on women safety but there was a lot to be done. She also rejected the charge that Nirbhaya remains unused.