Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday there was a “hundred percent” possibility that the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, will be conferred on Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar, adding that it is what the people want.
Ahead of the elections in Maharashtra, the matter has emerged as a big poll issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah saying at several rallies that the Bharat Ratna should be given to the independence activist.
The Opposition including the Congress, has, however, remained critical, saying that Savarkar had been charge-sheeted for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. He was later acquitted.
“In Savarkar’s case, the court had already taken a clear decision. History is clear about that. The allegations by the Congress about Gandhi’s murder case is false and is against history. The problem is that Congress always wants to mislead and confuse people,” he said in an interview with CNN-News18.
Gadkari also reacted to Shiv Sena’s opposition to the proposal saying that the BJP ally in Maharashtra is free to come out with its own manifesto promises. He, however, desisted from clarifying whether the party was considering giving Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray the deputy CM’s position in case of a victory.
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
MARYA: The question is why are these elections so lackluster?
GADKARI: These elections are crucial for Haryana and Maharashtra. This is a performance test for the BJP state governments for the last 5 years whatever development work that has been executed by the government. It is exactly important for the government whether people are going to support it or not. I am confident that the work which is already being done in Haryana and Maharashtra by the state leadership and under the leadership of PM Modi. Based on our contributions in these states, people are definitely going to support the BJP. I am 100% confident that we will get a record-making victory.
MARYA: It is almost been seen that the results on 24th are decided and that BJP will form the government in both the states. Don’t you think it’s bad for democracy when you have opposition in complete disarray?
GADKARI: We are not responsible for the opposition. It is the responsibility of the opposition party in a democracy to make their party strong. How can you expect me to strengthen the Congress Party?
MARYA: But you gave the slogan of Congress Mukth Bharat..?
GADKARI: That is not what the slogan means. The main meaning of it is that we want to make the BJP strong in all parts of the country. In the no 1 position of the BJP, we explain the new terminology of Congress Mukth as where the congress was is in the winning position and now the BJP is going to replace the Congress. That is the spirit behind the term.
MARYA: One issue taking center stage is the fraud in Maharashtra and Punjab Cooperative bank. It raises the questioning of monitoring the cheques and balances that should have been there having failed. The regulatory body in RBI did not do its responsibility. One question thousands of depositors are asking is whether will they have access to the money and how soon will they have access to the money?
GADKARI: The bank is under the control of RBI and the state government as a cooperative bank. The finance minister has assured the people that the issues will be resolved as early as possible and we will try the best to protect the interests of the depositors. At the same time, assets are there. So the RBI and govt of Maharashtra will both make a policy with the help of the Finance Ministry and will find a solution as early as possible. The Finance Minister is seriously considering all these issues. I am confident that we will give positive results as early as possible to the people.
MARYA: India is facing a huge crisis on the economic front. The economic slowdown is impacting various sectors such as the manufacturing sector, the automobile sector, the real estate… All of them have been impacted. It is being said your Department of Road and Transportation is not undertaking any new projects because of the slowdown. The labor market has been impacted and a lot of laborers are jobless. Don’t you think that it is the biggest challenge for you rather than talking about issues such as 370 in a state where it is not relevant?
GADKARI: Frankly speaking, the whole world is facing recession. Even in the economy, there are problems because of the global economy, some problems because of demand and supply, and some problems because of the business cycle. These problems are there everywhere. The government has already taken decisions by which in due course of time… I am expecting positive results and with respect to growth rate, whatever decision we have taken… I am confident that there will be a drastic change with the next 2-3 months.
MARYA: what was the need of adding this bit in your election manifesto that VD Savarkar would be given a Bharat Ratna.? The fact is that both in the state of Maharashtra and at the center it’s your government. Why now?
GADKARI: Actually, it is a huge demand by people by and large about Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and VD Savarkar conferred with Bharat Ratna. So the Chief Minister assured upon asked by someone that we will recommend both VD Savarkar and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule for Bharat Ratna to the central government. What is wrong with it? Savarkar is a great leader.
MARYA: You have made it an election issue….?
GADKARI: Not at all. It is not an election issue. People will ask questions on anything and you are supposed to give answers to that. I believe there is nothing wrong with it.
MARYA: Your alliance partner Shiv Sena has been critical of it. What was the need to add it in the manifesto?
GADKARI: Not at all. Whatever we are talking regarding our party’s decisions and policies is our privilege and right. Shiv Sena is an independent party and our alliance partner. They have the right to declare a lot of things in their manifesto and they have. That is their right.
MARYA: Before talking about Shiv Sena, I will stay on this issue for more because the Congress, in particular, Manish Tiwari has put out a question to your party that why does the BJP want to confer Bharat Ratna for Savarkar? Why not on Ghodse given the fact Savarkar was not only charge-sheeted but was later acquitted for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and later Ghodse was later convicted and hanged. When your government is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Gandhi… is it right to begin this discourse?
GADKARI: First of all, in the court case of Savarkar, the court has already taken a clear decision that his history is clear. The allegations from the Congress on the Gandhi murder case is totally false and is totally against the history. The problem is that Congress always wants to mislead people and confuse them. Savarkar was a great leader who was an inspiration and motivation for all of us. He dedicated his life to the country. His family was destroyed only because of national thoughts and it is the time for the country to respect him. Why are we going to relate it to other issues? Frankly speaking… the people who do not read the history and literature of Savarkar and people who do not know about Savarkar are making comments against him. It is very unfortunate.
MARYA: Does it mean that Bharat Ratna for Savarkar is a possibility?
GADKARI: 100%…. the state government has recommended and the central government will take an appropriate decision.
MARYA: Staying with Shiv Sena… What is happening with the alliance? Is there a possibility of giving a deputy CM position to Aaditya Thackeray, now that he has made a formal electoral entry, considering he is the first Thackeray to enter the electoral space?
GADKARI: Giving the Deputy CM spot is the right-hand privilege to the Chief Minister, therefore, he will decide. Every party has the right to project their leader and I do not feel any problem in it.
MARYA: So you are not ruling out that Aaditya Thackeray could become the Deputy CM?
GADKARI: It is totally in the hands of the CM. After the elections, one thing is very sure that Devendra Fadnavis will be the next CM of Maharashtra. As a CM it is a right-hand privilege for him and whether he will take that decision is up to him.
MARYA: One press conference that stood out in this election was Fadnavis along with Uddhav Thackeray announcing the seat-sharing formula. Mr. Gadkari was absent and that’s the question being asked.
GADKARI: For the last many days I’m in the national politics and I am not entangled with the state politics, I am not supposed to go there. My role now is related to the national issue and the national party. I am always there for all the programs in the nation. As far as the state, Devendra Fadnavis and our President Chandrakant Patil are there and they are doing the job. On many occasions, they ask me, discuss with me, and take my advice. They are making the decision and I am supporting them.
MARYA: Since you have been campaigning in Maharashtra for Several Years, you have seen the era of Balasaheb Thackeray and the equation between BJP and Shiv Sena during those days and right now. Are we to believe that BJP is the one firmly on the saddle and you are the big brother.? That debate got settled in 2015 itself and is a reiteration right now.
GADKARI: Shiv Sena and BJP are the longest-running political alliance in the country. In Marathi we have a phrase: neither do we have a good understanding nor can we live without each other. The fact is clear that our alliance is on the basis of Hindutva and that is one of the reasons why Balasaheb Thackeray and Promod Mahajahan have made this alliance permanent and as far as the period is concerned, it is the longest alliance in the country. I am hopeful and positive that in the interest of Maharashtra and its people, the alliance will work and will contribute new development to the state and it is in the interest of the ‘Marathi Minds.’