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It is For States to Take Action Against Cow Vigilantes, Says Venkaiah Naidu

Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, and Information and Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu tells CNN-News18’s Marya Shakil that cow vigilantism is neither a policy of the government, nor the BJP. On Kashmir, he says, some Indians have soft corner for separatists and terrorists. Anybody who has national interest in his heart, supports Major Gogoi, he adds. Edited Excerpts:

Marya Shakil | CNN-News18maryashakil

Updated:May 29, 2017, 11:55 PM IST

Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, and Information and Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu tells CNN-News18’s Marya Shakil that cow vigilantism is neither a policy of the government, nor the BJP. On Kashmir, he says, some Indians have soft corner for separatists and terrorists. Anybody who has national interest in his heart, supports Major Gogoi, he adds. Edited Excerpts:

Q: Narendra Modi government came to power with the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. On the third anniversary, the new slogan is ‘saath hai, vishwas hai, ho raha vikas hai’. But if former finance minister P Chidambaram is to be believed, the government has neither been able to revive investment, nor created enough jobs. How do you respond to this charge?

A: If you have eyes and sight, you will be able to see what is happening. If you have decided to close your eyes and simply criticize, nobody can help it. What were the fiscal, revenue, trade and current account deficit during the UPA regime? Let us critically examine things with one statistic on which Mr Chidambaram and UPA stand nowhere. This government has achieved highest foreign exchange and lowest inflation — this is what everybody is seeing and enjoying. Do you think people are so innocent that they are only carrying around slogans? I don’t think so, people are walking along with Modi because he is taking the country forward. Their future is safe and secure in the hands of this leader. Now, from municipal elections to assembly polls to Lok Sabha polls, it is always about Modi.

Q: When Modi came to power, he promised to create 2 crore jobs a year. That number has not been achieved.

A: How do you measure it? Formal and informal jobs and then national highways, rural roads, skill development and my ministry’s housing programme. UPA constructed around 8 lakh houses and sanctioned around 13 lakh houses in 10 years, I have sanctioned around 18.75 lakh houses. When you are constructing a house, jobs are created. When you are laying highways and rural roads, jobs are created. I don’t understand who are these people sitting somewhere and writing these things. It’s not done. People of this country are happy with what the government is doing. I can’t assure white collar jobs to all people.

Q: Do you think a nationwide ban on cow slaughter is required?

A: I hope media follows what is happening. It is a Supreme Court order to restrict cattle traffic. Yes, there was a notification by the environment ministry after the SC directive.

Q: What will happen to legal abattoirs?

A: They can also fall, if someone challenges them legally.

Q: Don’t you think it will impact exports?

A: All that is happening is that this business is being regulated. That’s all. Nothing is banned.

Q: You are information and broadcasting minister. Cow vigilantism is impacting the image of the government.

A: That is not a government programme. The government is very clear, and the Prime Minister has said it openly. Cow protection is fine, but human protection is more important. It is for the state and law enforcement agencies to take action. Cow vigilantism is not a BJP or government programme. Cow is pious for many people in the country, cow wealth is national wealth that is what Mahatma Gandhi said, and then many people in the country adore cow, so let us protect it. In the name of protecting cow, you cannot act against fellow human being and take law in your hands.

Q: It appears that fringe elements are casting a shadow on the government’s image. Why don’t you take action against them?

A: Don’t worry, nobody takes them seriously. Media wants something sensational to highlight. The society doesn’t take fringe groups seriously, and neither do we. There will be fringe elements in every section of society and during every regime. We should focus on our main agenda, which is speedy development and ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.

Q: A significant section of India is being targeted in the name of cow vigilantism. As a senior leader, will you assure that community?

A: No community is being targeted. If somebody does it, they are doing wrong. As far as we are concerned, such acts inspired by vote bank politics. They are trying to divide the society into majority and minority. Show me one incident by the BJP government where a particular community is discriminated. I can show 1000 instances, where during the earlier regime, a major portion of the community were targeted, ignored and neglected.

Q: Kashmir is staring at another summer of unrest. Will you acknowledge it as the biggest political challenge for the government?

A: The point is Kashmir has been a challenge since Independence. The situation is not created on the account of this government. Our government is three years old. Our neighbor has been sending terrorist here. Secondly, in this country some people have soft corner for separatism, and also for terrorists… they are hardline separatists and soft line terrorists. That is what complicates the matter. As for J&K, let me make it very clear, we have analysed the entire state. One south Kashmir is affected by this problem. North has no problem, Jammu has no problem and Ladakh has problems on a on and off basis. South Kashmir is a minor portion. But even if it is one district, it is a problem and we are trying to counter it with effective measures. I have the figures with me. If you want, I can give it to you also… In 2016, 150 terrorists were neutralized, as compared to 108 in 2015, 110 in 2014, 67 in 2013 and 72 in 2012. On Saturday, Hizbul Mujahideen commander who engaged in anti-national activities and divisive activities was done away with. Earlier, 8-10 militants were taken care of. The government is trying to effectively deal with the situation.

Q: Your government has come out in support of Major Gogoi, who tied a civilian in Kashmir to an Army jeep. Why have you taken such a stand?

A: The entire nation supports Major Gogoi. Anybody who has national interest in his heart, will support Major Gogoi. Why sympathize with separatist? Why sympathize with people who are trying to create this problem? Why sympathize with stone pelters at all? He used his common sense and rescued everyone safely. The country is applauding and people are happy. Only a section is trying to show the country and the army in poor light.

Q: Is there a new, radical approach of New Delhi towards Kashmir?

A: The point is, whatever is required, the Army has a free hand. Secondly, the Centre and state must act in coordination. The priority is to keep the unity and integrity of this country intact, to control the law and order situation, to develop J&K. The Prime Minister has announced a massive package and has given a lot of money for the state. He has reached out a number of times. Even during floods, PM himself went there. People by enlarge, except some affected areas, are not involved in this.

Q: The BJP is an ally in J&K government and Mehbooba Mufti has said that separatist should have a role in peace process. Will you consider talking to separatist?

A: As long as anybody indulges in anti-social and anti-national activity, what is there to talk? If they express that they are part of India, definitely the government will talk to each Kashmiri, provided they abide by the Indian constitution… Today, there is an entrance exam for the army officers. As many as 1278 Kashmiri youths appeared for the exams. That shows the positive side of Indian Army… and liking for the Army by the Kashmiri youth, except for the handful people who are creating disturbance at the behest of our neighbor.

Q: Let’s please talk about presidential elections. Congress is trying to create a unity of Opposition parties, but since you have the numbers, who is going to be the first citizen of India? Will it be a political personality or someone from other walks of life?

A: We would like to have an extended possibility of a broad consensus. But unfortunately, the Oppositions parties are not even waiting for consultation. They have come out with some names. They have taken the name of Sharad Pawar and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, thinking that the Gandhi label will help them. My point is, this is not the way to discuss the presidential candidate’s name. If they want, they can suggest a prominent personality’s name to the government also. They should wait for the government to take initiative and discuss the issue with them. There is nothing wrong in coming together. I wish them best of luck. If they create opposition unity, we have seen National Front becoming a notional front. United friends have become divided friends. If these people, in spite of inherent contradictions, lack of ideological equation, lack of leadership, if they try to come together, we have no problem. If Congress and Communists come together in Kerala, I would be the happiest man, because the other stage will be available to my party. So let them do it.

Q: Will the BJP make an effort to build consensus around the Presidential candidate?

A: We will try our best. After all, we have to elect the President of India, and not a party president.

Q: The BJP, as part of its expansion plans, has reached out to Rajinikanth in Tamil Nadu and Mohanlal in Kerala. Is reaching out to cinestars an important part of BJP’s strategy?

A: We are trying to expand our base and reach out all the sections, including cinestars. Nobody should have a problem with this. As you rightly said in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal are all priority areas. In south and east, we do not have much strength. Our president is going around the states, my party is going around and even I am going around, to mobilize support. There is a positive response.

Q: In Kerala, there have been a lot of bloody clashes. How do you think it will unfold now?

A: The BJP is rising there, so the Left people are trying to crash it with bloody clash. But the Red can never succeed and let them understand that now there is a new rise of nationalist forces in Kerala. This why in the last election the BJP won 15% of votes… I am sure in the coming days the Communists will understand the mood of the people and give up this bloody politics.

Q: Now allow me to ask a few questions to the urban development minister. Why are BJP-ruled states like Haryana, UP and Maharashtra so slow in implementing Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act?

A: We are trying to ensure this. Many states are left behind. In UP, our government is hardly two months old. Erstwhile Akhilesh Yadav government did nothing with regards to housing activity… I met the UP CM and had a detailed discussion. Now he is speeding up things. Under RERA, every state is bound to come out with rules, regulation and regulatory authority by the end of this month. The Act has already come into operation and if a state doesn’t have the regulator, then there will be no registration of new projects.

Q: Critics say RERA is like a paper tiger, because there are a lot of implementation concerns. Is that true?

A: In spite of this so called pressure from builders, you have seen what my department has done. We persuaded everybody and finally the Bill got passed with all the provisions that were there. Now we are worried and I hope that there is a lot of public pressure through awareness created by my ministry, the media and other organisations… also, now there should be pressure on the states.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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