New Delhi: In run-up to the 2019 general election, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani expressed confidence about winning all 26 Lok Sabha seats from the state despite a below-par performance in the 2017 assembly election. In an interview, Rupani spoke about the ninth edition of Vibrant Gujarat summit to be held during 18-20 January 2019 and termed the reported exodus of Hindi-speaking migrants from his state as a Congress conspiracy. Rupani also spoke favourably about various states announcing plans to build statues, the need to view Sardar Patel beyond Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prism, and the demand for changing Ahmedabad’s name to Karnavati gaining traction after Faizabad district was renamed Ayodhya. Rupani also defended the Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd (GSPC) management in the backdrop of critical Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India reports and the need to revive the imported coal-fuelled power projects at Mundra. Edited excerpts:
How is this year’s Vibrant Gujarat summit different from the earlier editions?
In 2003, Modiji started the Vibrant Gujarat summit. It is not limited to only industrial investment. Investment is also coming for infrastructure, education, health and medical services and social sector. So, when we get the maximum investment from outside, the state will develop...Vibrant Gujarat summit has become a global summit and a platform. Slowly, slowly, it has become the platform to discuss the entire global trade, industries, investment and economic activity. I am happy to note that more than 100 foreign delegations participated last time and will be participating this time as well. Also, we have 10 country partners in this summit. This year’s theme is—Shaping New India, as imagined by Narendra bhai. We will be focusing on exports this time to promote trade. We are also celebrating Africa Day wherein people from all African countries will be coming.
There seems to be a competition between states to hold such kind of investment summits.
There is no competition. This model has been accepted by everyone. Everyone—Punjab, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha are holding it on this model. It is a matter of joy that the country will progress. If investment comes at different places, the country will benefit.
How confident are you of retaining all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2019? What will be your strategy?
We will win all 26 of 26 seats. The elections of 2014 saw us winning all 26 seats for the first time. There was a margin of lakhs of votes. Our result was top. In 2017 state assembly elections, Congress’ seats increased and 12 of our seats were reduced. So, this was a tight result for us. So, the difference between 2017 and 2014 elections is that, we were still leading on 18 seats (Lok Sabha) in 2017 elections, and were minus on eight seats. Of these eight seats, on five seats the difference was minor. This has been covered up. The election results came in December 2017 and now, we are going to be in December 2018. In between, all panchayat, nagar palika, (municipal) corporations byelections were won by us. Even where we lost assembly elections, even there we won. So this is also a change. The condition overall in these elections is now about who will be the Prime Minister. So, it is Modiji. Gujarat and Modiji are synonymous with each other. This means Gujarat is with Modiji. So, we are very confident that we will win all 26 Lok Sabha seats.
Where is this confidence stemming from given the perceived difficulties in other BJP-ruled states?
Actually, ground reality is different. The BJP has two-three strengths. The first strength is that we have a leader like Modiji. Our second strength is that our central and state governments have done a lot of work for people. Our third strength is our workers and organization. Congress has neither got leader nor workers. In comparison to their government, our government has done a lot of good work. So, people will stay with us.
The state has seen exodus of migrants from Hindi-speaking North Indian states recently.
There has been no exodus. This was a Congress conspiracy. While the Congress tried, the government strictly stopped this. There has been no exodus from Gujarat. Even today, in normal course, if you go to Ahmadabad station, you will find North Indians for trains leaving for northern India. They are the ones coming and going on those trains. Those photographs were shown at that time. Not one of our industries have been affected.
No North Indian has been hit, no one has got a fracture, and there is not even a question of assault. So, all these efforts were made by Congress but the government stopped it with strong means and that question doesn’t exist in Gujarat now.
So there is no environment of fear?
There was no fear even then. All of this was only in the media. And Congress made an effort. I told you, tell me one industry in Gujarat that has been shut because of this. That people have left because of this. Everyone is working in industries. All North Indians are happy in Gujarat. Recently I had gone on the occasion of Chhath. People from Bihar celebrate Chhath festival in Ahmedabad. Sushil Modiji had come and I was also there. We celebrated the festival along with thousands of Biharis. So, if there was fear, they wouldn’t have been there… Every year we go on the occasion of Chhath.
Recently Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue was inaugurated. There seems to be a competition among states in building statues.
See, we are not talking about any competition. But what our great personalities who have sacrificed themselves for the nation and given their entire life for it, this history should come before the people. That comes out in the form of statues. People come to know about them through this. People see their history. So, the coming generations get inspired by it. So with the statue of Sardar that we made, for years the coming generation will come to know about Sardar, his works, Sardar’s integration of the country and making it one. So Sardar is the symbol of India’s unity. This will inspire people. If Maharashtra constructs the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, it has got its own history. It should be done, what’s in it? It’s good that the coming generations will gain knowledge and get to know their history.
But when Mayawati was getting statues constructed there was a lot of opposition.
What Mayawati did was she put a lot of elephants, which was the party symbol. That’s the reason why we were opposing it. If Mayawati had put Gandhiji’s statue no one would have said no.
Congress’ criticism is that Sardar Patel had banned RSS.
That’s the reason why we say that we haven’t seen Sardar Saab from the lens of Congress or BJP. Sardar Saab has been a great personality for our country and he united India. Had Sardar not been there, the country’s map would have been different. Like our nawab of Junagadh was not willing and wanted to go with Pakistan. So, if you wanted to see lions today, you would have to take a visa. If you wanted to pay obeisance at Somnath (temple), you would have to take a visa. So, this is because of Sardar that we are in India. So, because of this Sardar is not about BJP or Congress. Sardar is for the country and for everyone. He is a great person for everyone.
You have talked about changing Ahmedabad’s name to Karnavati?
I haven’t said anything. The issue there is that for years, the people of Ahmedabad believe that our city’s name should be Karnavati. The old name was Karnavati. In a similar fashion that Faizabad’s name has been changed to Ayodhya. People feel that way there. And this issue has been ongoing for years. Now, with that Faizabad’s name being changed to Ayodhya, the discussion started again. I have said that we will definitely examine the issue, look at the legal aspects, listen to the people’s wishes and then decide after that. This was my statement earlier and remains the same even today.
It’s also said that your party is very good at renaming exercises.
Look at those carrying thaelas (bags) in the name of secularism, they spread these things. They feel hurt. They have fun with Faizabad but feel disheartened by Ayodhya. That’s the reason why they talk about these things and raise it in media. What does the ordinary populace want? We are public representatives. If Ahmedabad’s people want, we will do it. If they don’t want it, we won’t do it.
Year after year, CAG has been critical of GSPC.
See, the CAG looks at total regularity in the reports that it brings. In GSPC, the government of Gujarat has worked properly in entirety. GSPC is a separate company from government of Gujarat. There is no direct involvement of the government. No doubt the government has a stake in it but it is the board of directors that takes a decision. GSPC has done all work within complete regulatory (oversight). Congress has been raising this issue repeatedly. Congress has nothing to say anything in Gujarat and no place of acceptance. That’s the reason why it is circulating it. There is nothing in it.
The Supreme Court has offered a lifeline to three troubled imported coal-based power projects run at Mundra.
Look, the Supreme Court has taken a decision for the country. Any project, it doesn’t matter which is the company is a separate issue. There is Tata, Adani and Essar and it is meant for four states not only for Gujarat. There is Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, everyone is there in it. The question is the issue which is vexed, because which company will bear how much loss and for how long? So, for this, the Supreme Court has said that to sit with CERC (Central Electricity Regulatory Commission) and if there is a solution and all parties are in agreement then go ahead. So, we had asked for this permission in the Supreme Court.