Just before the election season kicks off in Gujarat, the state will warm up with the 36th National Games, with the host government set to make the event a celebration of Gujarati culture and growth. In an exclusive interview to News18, Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi said the upcoming games, which will see participation from sportspersons across the country, will be the “real Bharat Jodo”, a dig at the Congress’ ongoing yatra.
Sanghavi also dared AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had campaigned in the poll-bound state recently, to compare the data on drug networks in Gujarat and Punjab.
You have young voters to woo in Assembly elections and what better time to host the 26th National Games. How important is this event for you?
This year, Gujarat is hosting the 36th National Games. The people of the state will make history together. The government has prepared itself to host such a big event in just 90 days. Chief Minister Bhupendra bhai Patel had invited the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and stated that Gujarat is ready to host the games. The IOA did not accept our request at first, but they tasked a whole department to find out whether we are ready or not. We got the permission within a day. We will host sportspersons from across the country.
How have you prepared for it?
To enthuse the public about sports and games, we organised several local competitions like satolia, kabaddi, kho-kho, musical chairs and nimbu chammach, even at the India-Pakistan border. People from all ages participated. We also arranged carnivals and organised games in cities, imbibing the Navratri flavour. We know garba is the identity of Gujaratis. We can be anywhere in the world, but when the music is played, we break into our garba. It is with this fervour that the state will welcome sportspersons.
So, you are saying Bharat Jodo is actually happening in Gujarat through sports?
This is what I am trying to say. These sportspersons may be representing their states, but in their hearts, they are Indians representing the country. The theme is that the games unite the country. It will be our effort to showcase Gujarat’s traditions, folk music, food, culture, development, infrastructure and the spirit of hosting. I would like to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been working since 2002 on sports infrastructure and nurturing talent.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has claimed there is a drug issue in Gujarat. You have the Home department which has several drug busts in recent months to its credit. Kejriwal says such quantities of drugs cannot the state without “saanth-gaanth”.
You can see the brave work being done by our forces. Networks are being tracked and busted. It is not as if drug peddlers are coming to us with their haul and asking us to catch them. You need courage and strategy to bust these operations. Sahas chahiye, neeti chahiye drugs pakadne ke liye aur wahi sahas aur neeti se hum aage badh rahe hain (You need courage and strategy to bust drug networks and we are moving ahead with this courage and strategy).
The Gujarat Police is braving bullets at the India-Pakistan border to intercept drug consignments. In the past one year, we have recovered drugs worth Rs 6,500 crore. More than 650 people were caught during raids, and more than 30 of them were Pakistanis. These Pakistanis did not come to us on their own.
Moreover, I do not do politics on issues related to the youth.
People now know how drug rackets are carrying on in Punjab prisons. On two occasions, we recovered drugs at the border that came from Punjab prisons. Gujarat Police has caught drugs from other states as well. Our forces have braved storms and bullets to seize the drugs.
Jo log maatr rajneeti karte hain, who log yeh sahas samajh nahi payenge. (Those who indulge only in politics can never understand the courage required for the job). We know what is the capital of drugs in India. Let’s sit and compare the data.
So this is a dare to AAP from you?
I do not see it as an election year. We are fulfilling our duties. Gujarat is a sensitive state sharing a border with Pakistan. Around 1,600 km of that is the sea border. A lot has been done to break the morale; officials say it becomes a mudda if we catch drugs. But we have decided that we cannot compromise on it. Is it right to do politics on drugs and the future of our young generation?
Have you bulldozed properties of those arrested in drug cases?
I ask (Kejriwal) to bring the data and I think those who are proactively busting the networks should be felicitated by the CM of any state. We caught drugs from Delhi, Kolkata port, UP. Punjab is the epicentre of this network. Should we not bulldoze their mahals? We have seized properties of a drug peddler in Odisha as well with the state police.
It is a habit of theirs to go into a poll-bound state and make irresponsible comments. They are not accountable to anyone. He (Kejriwal) likes talking about Gujarat so much, why did he not bring the data to compare? We know the situation in every lane of Punjab.
The drug problem was one of the election issues in Punjab.
And now that elections are over, drug networks in Punjab prisons are active again. We intercepted some networks but no steps were taken to put a stop to it. Everyone is hand-in-glove.