Millennium Post

‘Modi is addressing leadership crisis that’s plaguing BJP’

What are your plans for the ministry, after you took over as the minister for road transport and highways last year?

We need to give space to information and technology. Since the user of roads and highways in India is paying for its charges, it is his right to have it in good shape.

For that we want to use Facebook effectively. If a user comes across any issue while travelling on X distance, of  roads not being up to mark, then he should have a right to bring it up via  posting his comment on Facebook.

Information and technology will help in addressing concerns of users. Hence, we are thinking about how effectively we can use the IT space so that my ministry can function effectively.

Why has the ministry missed the target of awarding 9,500 km highways projects in this fiscal ending on 31 March?

We have achieved the highest in construction of roads, but as far as awarding of contract is concerned, we could not meet the target because of the economic scenario of the country.

Millennium Post on 6 March in its report, Nagaland highway project’s slow pace raises eyebrows, said that the present condition of four highways in Nagaland has created a big problem for this ministry because the deadline for completion is March next year, while only 20 per cent of the work had been done. How do you plan to resolve this issue?

I am aware about this issue. I know we have problems there. I don’t deny it. Insurgency exists and there are several other factors as well. The detailed project report is not based on ground realities in the area. We are facing problems and we do intend to have effective monitoring.

How was your recent interaction with people to discuss road safety issues via Google Hangout?

It was a very good experience, enriching my interaction with people and especially gathering feedback from them. This was important, as nowadays, a large number of youngsters are using information and technology frequently. The number is mind-boggling.

Is this a decisive move? After the Chintan Shivir  held in Jaipur, has Congress stressed on the usage of social media for the party members?

As a Congressman, I will agree that my high command is considering this aspect, but as the minister for road transport and highways, I thought that in my ministry we must focus on having interaction with people via social media usage. I am of the firm view that time has come for participative democracy where you have to engage large number of people. If you engage them then you increase efficiency in governance also.

Have other ministries like yours also been told to have a better presence on social media? Also compared to your party, the BJP has a very active presence on such platforms. Does Congress also plan to increase its visibility in this space as well?

My party has always been focused on the aspirations of people who are mostly young and continuously using this space. So, social media will be a very effective tool and accordingly, we are giving it importance and space.

Recently, there have been reports saying that you might be moved to the party from the government? Will you be moving and do you want to?

I have no comments to offer on this. Whatever work will be assigned by my high command, I will be happy to do it. I am ready to take up any work which is assigned to me by my party.

What does the Congress have in mind for 2014 to bring allies like DMK, TMC and even existing ones like SP and BSP onboard?

I cannot address this issue as the final decision will be taken by the Congress president and party high command.

What are your comments on the attack which West Bengal chief minister and TMC chairperson Mamata Banerjee faced in Delhi? Her being a former key UPA ally, would relationship with Congress further be strained because of this incident?

Do not link two things together. It was a protest by CPM workers, which went out of control. It is unfortunate because every chief minister comes to the planning commission and have the right to meet the officials there. It is a constitutional requirement to have such meetings for chief ministers of every state. You have right to protest but the question is about the place of protest. That was not the place to protest for them. So it was uncalled for! I am of the opinion that in a democracy, we have to restrain ourselves. I condemn this incident.

Is Manmohan Singh the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress for 2014 or could it be Rahul Gandhi?

These hypothetical questions are not relevant. Congress is capable of taking decisions on such issues at the appropriate time. Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister now. We will see what happens in 2014. During the last election time our party president took a decision to have him as the PM and even now he is the PM of the country. These questions are irrelevant.

What is the party’s strategy for 2014, especially after there have been a string of scams during UPA-II tenure, like 2G choppergate and others?

These decisions are to be taken by party high command as these issues are discussed and addressed only at the highest level.

There has been a huge participation of youth in the party after Rahul’s efforts to include them in Chintan Shivir, is it to instill fresh ideas in the party?

Naturally, you see that Rahul took the initiative to do so. He is, in fact, the first party leader in the entire country who has addressed the democratisation of party system.

After NSUI and IYC  elections, he has given space to new and young leaders to come forward and share responsibilities in the party.

How is the decision being taken to induct new faces in the party by senior members?

This is a regular phenomenon that the Congress party always gives space to youngsters and new voices. History says that with generation change it was always the Congress party which took lead.

What do you have to say about Narendra Modi taking digs at party heads [Rahul Gandhi] during his recent speeches?

In India we have a parliamentary democracy. In this system the ideology of the party is important. The leader has an important role to play but by and large it is the ideology of the party which counts. We don’t have president system in our country. I don’t know why are we having this sort-of debate, because to me it seems that Modi is addressing the crisis of leadership in BJP. He is positioning himself as a leader within the BJP. So the issue is not that he is addressing the nation, but the leadership crisis which exists in his own party. So that eventually he can take the space of leadership within the BJP, because they are the ones facing this crisis. And this is what he has decided to resort to, in order to come to the national forefront.

How did you perceive Rahul Gandhi’s speech at CII?

I would say it was extraordinary. Very simple in thought and content. The  young leader of my party has the courage to admit that you have to improve the system form the ground level. He said that we have the potential and need to give an environment to the young people of the country as they can contribute to its development. He said that he wants to empower people, make their voices heard and in the process improve the system.  In a country of 100 crore people, there needs to be a viable and effective institutional system and not whims and fancies of an individual. He could very well identify that if we want to have a strong and vibrant country, we need to empower the institutions. We have over two lakh panchayats and large number of potential and young leaders are available at the ground level. These things, he said, need to be appreciated. He has a vision and knows how to make the country move ahead. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of the country at the same time. He has a larger goal in mind.

Shouldn’t Rahul make his views be heard more often, especially expected after his enunciation as party’s vice president at the Jaipur conclave?

Rahul is a party vice president. His first and foremost duty, which he himself has identified, is to strengthen the party and he is addressing these issues of the party. The moment he will say something, you all will say he is interfering in the government. So he has confined his role to the party, as his sole aim is to increase the efficacy of the party. And that issue he is addressing sincerely.
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