BJP MP Varun Gandhi is not always toeing the party line on key issues. Varun, who is quick to proclaim that fair and inclusive politics runs in his blood, says unequivocally that the repealed farm laws have hurt farmers and consumers.
UP voters should wonder about the promises made by the BJP in 2017, according to Varun, only time will tell if his association with the saffron party will continue. Excerpts from an interview with Malayala Manorama.
UP assembly Elections are underway and BJP leaders hope the party will return to power with a two-thirds majority. What is your assessment? Will the BJP get a second term?
In the 2017 parliamentary elections, the people of Uttar Pradesh gave us a massive majority. The mandate was given with the hope that there would be a sea change throughout the state – not only in infrastructure development, but in the whole system of governance. But have these hopes of the people been realized?
What is the main voting board for the UP elections?
Our young nation faces an unprecedented level of unemployment. Did you see what happened in the Railway Recruitment Board exams? One crore 25 lakh students applied for 35,000 RRB-NTPC vacancies in the railways. When the Railroad Recruiting Board started talking about 5% recruiting instead of 20%, the candidates lost patience and decided to protest peacefully. The police beat them. Will these young people get justice? Will their desire for a decent job be satisfied in this way?
Inflation also made life difficult. People will breathe a sigh of relief if government programs ranging from the PDS system to education and medicine can be freed from corruption. This time, the elections are being held around important issues such as inflation, unemployment, unrest in the agricultural sector, oppression of Dalits and women’s security.
Voters vote in elections with many things in mind. All of these issues will have an impact, but it is difficult to predict which issue will have what effect.
Will farmer unrest and controversial farm laws sway voters?
In a democracy, each mass movement has its strength. From the JP movement to the Anna movement, it has been proven time and time again that not only does the people’s movement have the ability to change any government, but it also has the strength to create new leadership. Our farmers are our blood. It is crucial to find a solution to all the problems they face today.
They are still waiting for answers from the government on the legal guarantee of the MSP, the request for compensation from the families of the 700 farmers who died during the demonstrations, the cancellation of the false lawsuits brought against them, and the resignation of the Minister of the Union. of State for Home in the Lakhimpur case.
If the government continues to ignore these problems, the farmers’ movement could probably start again.
You criticized the governments of your party in the UP and the Center for inflation and unemployment. You wrote a letter demanding the registration of a murder case and SC monitored the CBI investigation into the Lakhimpur case; What is happening? Members of the ruling party defend their governments. You attack them. Why?
Questions are not raised for the convenience of the party or government, or to make anyone uncomfortable. It is my democratic duty to speak about the problems of the people. If I don’t raise the people’s issues, then there’s no point in running for office.
I follow and always listen to what is the conscience of our nation. In favor of youth employment, the farmers’ movement, women’s safety issues and serious issues such as the cancellation of 27 exams at UP and innocent students victims of police brutality in Gaya. How is it possible that I remain silent? To whom am I responsible?
I did not enter politics to achieve personal ambitions. People elected me as an MP to raise their issues. I don’t believe in the politics of fear, or personal gain or loss. If you can’t raise the issues that matter to the public, then such a policy makes no sense. I speak in the interest of the people.
Why did you criticize the appointment of the new JNU VC?
With few tertiary institutions at par with global standards, India needs to have the right leaders to run its universities. Appointing someone who has little to offer in terms of academic vision, credentials, or even communication skills is a path to mediocrity.
We need leaders, with the right values and discipline – not those who can’t do basic due diligence when they first press release about their nomination. A big institution like JNU needs empathy, sensitivity and careful leadership, not loudmouths with little verbal control. College degrees and experience, not retweets, should be the selection criteria.
Although the BJP started with the “Vikas” issue, it has recently shifted to divisive tactics, as evidenced by statements from leaders. If you have a development to display, what is the need to adopt a division program?
I don’t want to put any election in the 80:20 or 85:15 mold. It would be immoral to consider any voter on the basis of their religion or caste. I see the voter as the biggest ‘stakeholder’.
In this election, voters in Uttar Pradesh must seek answers to these fundamental questions: Has corruption declined over these five years? Has justice been done for farmers? The public was relieved of the impact of inflation. How long will contract workers have to wait for justice? Another big question is whether young people got a job. In any election, these essential issues must be at the forefront.
You were very critical of the repealed Farm Bills. What were your fundamental objections?
There were provisions in the agricultural laws, due to which commodity trade could be restricted to certain private companies. After a while, the farmer and the consumer would suffer and basic foodstuffs would become very expensive in the country.
Are you ready to stand in the next elections as a BJP candidate? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
No one can predict what will happen tomorrow. Only time can answer such questions. I aspire to a civic policy. Fair and inclusive politics is in my blood. Concern for the last man in society is at the top of my policy.
CM Yogi said UP will become like Kerala, Bengal and Kashmir if people make a mistake in voting. Is this a sign that the BJP is feeling the heat in the western part of the state at least?
Whatever noise you hear, it’s Hindu-Muslim or back and forth. In fact, the vote will not be on any of these contentious issues. I am against seeing a voter based on religion or caste. The voter is the biggest ‘actor’ in democracy today – either include them in your decisions or they won’t include you in their decisions.
You said that “a boost for privatization is a boost for mass layoffs”. There is also this argument that privatization reduces jobs for reserved categories. What do you think is the best way to run PSUs?
We need to create the right incentives and provide greater work style autonomy to drive a results-driven, value-added approach. Restructuring of UAPs can also be done as in one large public company holding stakes in UAPs to set the roadmap, help them grow to reach global scale.
In the meantime, policy formulation can be done by individual ministries with greater rigour. Such moves have worked well in China and Singapore. In Singapore, the Temasek Holding helps various companies (SingTel, Singapore Airlines, Singapore Power) to grow, while policy making is done by the Ministry of Finance. On the other hand, Chinese growth is fueled by its PSUs, all under one holding company (SASAC), which drives efficiency towards stated goals, leading to 94 Chinese PSUs in the Fortune Global 500 list in 2020.
You also called the current period “a period of weak job creation”. Why do you think the current government has not created as many jobs as it promised?
Our unemployment problem continues to grow as we need to create around 90 million non-farm jobs (between 2023 and 2030) to take advantage of our demographic dividend. Meanwhile, PSU jobs have actually decreased (from 11.3 lakh employees in 2017 to 10.3 lakh employees in 2019). We need a national conversation about unemployment, especially among our young people. This can focus on several levers.
First, filling vacancies, converting contract positions to permanent assignments, and strengthening public services, especially health care and education, can generate up to 5.2 million jobs, in addition to providing a benefit additional increase in the demand for goods and services by the beneficiaries of these works.
Second, a national urban employment guarantee program can be announced (benefiting 20 million casual urban workers) focusing on urban public works.
Third, we should encourage job creation in water conservation, waste management, urban agriculture and renewable energy. A fully-fledged municipal corporation can create 10,000 jobs and that, when extended to all of our cities, can lead to significant job creation. Without concrete measures, our young people will be forced to continue living in misery without any work.