Gujarat has achieved many milestones in development. Still there are many challenges. Both, political and administrative. Chief minister Vijay Rupani talks about it all to Panchjanya Editor Hitesh Shankar and Associate Editor Alok Goswami in an interview. Excerpts;
How was it that in the last Assembly elections you not only fought anti-incumbency but also got 1.3 per cent more votes than the last time. How do you make it possible?
People of Gujarat have reposed faith in the BJP for the last 22 years. First Modi ji led it, then Anandi Ben was the chief minister and then I got the responsibility. I made sure that the government worked with transparency and honesty. We put the state on the fast track by implementing decisions quickly for the development of the state. In addition, we made sure that the government was sensitive to the problems of the people. All this helped to ensure people's support for the BJP at a time when most of the states were swept by the anti-incumbency factor to see the change of governments.
In the fields of governance and investments Gujarat has done an outstanding task, but how would you fit the BJP's political thought and integral humanism in it?
The state government in Gujarat has been working on the principles of integral humanism given to us by Pt Deendayal Upadhaya. We have tried to ensure prosperity and happiness of each section of the society. After all, just infrastructure is not important. Keeping social equality in mind we have ensured "sabka saath, sabka vikas".
But still, the government has been facing many challenges. For example, Gujrat is still facing the problem of malnutrition. Even in education, there are many problems. How do you take that?
In fact, all government face one or the other challenge. If you overcome one problem, there is another one coming up. But we are focussing on removing malnutrition from the state. In the field of education recently Rs 25,000 crores were allocated. There used to be just seven universities in the state 15 years ago, now there are 60 universities. We have an IIM, Petroleum Universtiy, the forensic science university, Sports university and Yoga university.
The state has been facing an acute problem of drinking water. What has the government done for that?
A lot of work has been done for that. The government has laid down 1.25 lakh kms long pipeline to take drinking water from the Narmada river to far off areas of Kuch and Saurashtra. We have constructed canals on the stretch of 500 kms. In Surendra Nagar, we have set up Asia's largest pumping station to provide drinking water. We have provided water from Narmada river to about 3500 villages and more than 100 towns.
We are also using Israel's technology for the purpose and we hope to provide 100 MLD water from the sea after purifying it. We also propose to set up 10 desalination plants to use the sea water.
There have been attempts in the state to create caste conflict, particularly during the last Assembly elections. What are you going to do to prevent its recurrence?
It is not just in Gujarat. The Congress has tried to do this all over the country. Now people have turned their back on the Congress. It has no policy, no leader. So people have started disliking it. It fought the last election on casteism and social disharmony. I believe that for 2019 Lok Sabha elections the Congress would create this atmosphere all over the country. It would be a challenge for the whole country. It would play politics on the name of Dr Amedkar also. All nationalist forces would have to join hands to fight it.
In Gujarat, we saw how in the name of OBCs and Patidars there were attempts to disturb the social harmony. Yet those forces faced defeat in the last elections. Can we presume that Gujarat has become a model of the Opposition-free nation?
A; I don't think so. But the people have reposed faith in the BJP, though the party got a few less number of seats. The Congress, in spite of getting some more seats, has to remain an opposition party. That way Gujarat has shown the way to the nation that the Congress must remain in the opposition. People in the country should understand it well.
How is Gujarat model helping the common man?
We have adopted two three different models. We are running a Seva Setu programme under which we try to redress common man's problems of ration card, widow pension, old age pension etc. In a cluster of 10 villages, the government officials go to solve the problems. Last time this way we had helped more than one crore applicants.
Similarly, we have completed one round under which all the ministers went to villages, where our party workers would come in a group of about 250 and apprise the officials of the regional problems. I also went to one district to cover all the villages. It helps quick resolution of problems on the spot in coordination with the party workers.
Gujarat is self-sufficient in power generation and electricity supply has reached almost all villages. What are the future plans for power generation?
We have just announced to set up the world's largest solar power park of 5000 megawatts in Dhalora at the cost of about Rs 25,000 crores. It would be set up along the coastal line in the next three years. We are already running a massive solar park in north Gujarat. We are going to work more on solar power and renewable energy.
The prime minister's call has been to develop green energy and renewable energy. What is Gujarat going to do in this direction?
We are going to start new schemes for farmers under which we would give Rs 5000 crores worth subsidy to farmers to help set up solar pumps and solar energy plants in the agriculture fields. This would help farmers increase their income and get up to 12 hours of power supply. it would also help farmers to work during the day, instead of waking up at nights in the present system.
What is Gujarat going to do for cultural preservation and tourism?
Recently we made learning of Gujarati language compulsory up to 10th class in schools which was a big decision. We have a department Pavitra Yatra Dhaam under which religious-cultural places like Somnath, Dwarika, Palitana, Junagarh, Ambaji are being looked after. For example, we have started light and sound programme in the Somnath temple which has become a major attraction for tourists.
There have been large-scale conversions in south Gujarat. How is your government dealing with it?
We have made strict laws against conversions which have been mostly taking place in tribal areas in the southern parts of the state. We have addressed this problem both socially as well as from the government's point of view as a result of which it has come down substantially. In fact, it has stopped altogether.
Mr Vijay Rupani has a different personality from being a politician that of an emotionally sensitive person. Do you do anything at the personal level to serve people?
I have been a full-time worker of the ABVP. Social service is an integral part of the ABVP and the RSS working. For the last 22 years, we have been adopting 400 children from the families of garbage collectors under the Street Children Project to provide them school education. Today some of them are occupying good positions in the government.
Under the Gyan Prabodhini scheme, we have been picking up bright children from slum dwellers and give them education up to the 12th class. This scheme has provided new jobs avenues to many children from the poor families. One of the children from the first batch is now working in Infosys. He brought his first salary to us and sought our blessings. We are running seven eight similar projects.