Minister of state for finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar was in Varanasi on Wednesday, January 12, to attend the conference organised by the BJP’s business unit at Nagarik Natak Mandali, following which he spoke to The Wire in a one-on-one conversation.
Edited for clarity.
You are one of the most prominent faces of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh as you were an MP for 20 years (from 1989 to 2009). Does this qualify you as the first claimant for the chief minister’s post if the party wins upcoming assembly elections?
The BJP is not a ‘face-focused’ party and our face depends on our cadres. Our core objective is to provide good governance. If the people choose us here, then we will anoint [as chief minister] whoever can handle the state honestly.
There is a strong buzz that some of the old warhorses have been sidelined in favour of new recruits. You, Mahesh Sharma and Yogi Adityanath have been excluded from the election committee, but former BSP leaders Swami Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak, and former UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi are in the committee. Has this caused any resentment within the party rank and file?
Yes, indeed, my name is missing from the list. But, it is up to the party to take such decisions. I am here to work for the organisation. Everyone’s role is different in each cadre.
According to you, what are are the major issues on which the BJP is contesting the UP polls?
Our party is seeking ‘parivartan‘ (change). We performed remarkably well in the state in the 104 Lok Sabha elections, winning 71 out of 80 seats. We are confident of replicating this success in the assembly election. This election is the biggest opportunity for the people UP to join in the prime minister’s inclusive vision. We are trying to motivate all sections of voters to vote for development rather than freebies, and will project the government’s work at the Centre as a sign of what can be done in UP.
What impact, if any, do you think demonetisation will have on the outcome of these elections?
India became independent 70 years ago, but now when we have achieved economic freedom and 98% people are satisfied with demonetisation. I am thankful to the people who supported this move. There is no longer any major problem in financial transactions, and if any minor issues continue to persist as a result of demonetisation, this will soon end.
We are in the process of instituting major economic reforms, including taxation reforms, which the people will witness in coming days. We have also identified several avenues for improvement, including the conditions of banks, especially gramin banks in the villages
The grand success of the Jandhan Yojana and demonetisation was achieved because people agree with the prime minister’s vision.
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that religion should be separate from politics. What are your thoughts on this?
This is the right decision and we will obey the judgment. People should vote on the basis of work rather than class or religion. We will showcase the union government’s work, which we would like to replicate in UP rather than providing freebies.
Given the ongoing family feud in the Samajwadi Party and with it now almost split down the middle, does it still remain your biggest rival in the state or has the balance tilted towards the BSP?
The father [Mulayam Singh Yadav] and son [UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav] are betraying the voters of UP with their drama. Now it is up to UP’s voters to expose their drama. While I was the minister of state for textiles, I had asked the state government to allocate land for energetic businessmen, but one-and-half year later, there is still no allocation. The state government has no intention to work for its people. UP needs a change that can boost its economy.
Some people are saying that the Centre’s decision to present the Union Budget on February 1 is being done in a haste. Does the Budget decision have any connection to the upcoming assembly elections?
Things will become clear soon, but our sole purpose is to utilise the Budget well. It has nothing to do with the state polls. We are trying to pass the Budget by March 31 to enable a systematic flow of work. Earlier the entire process to pass the Budget used to last until May or June, and therefore in the first three months of the financial year no new work could be begin. Therefore, we are trying to make it systematic so that the Budget can be passed by March 31.