Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and BJP candidate from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, Arun Jaitley, says India needs to boost its low-cost manufacturing for growth. Hitting out at the Manmohan Singh government, he cites the example of coal prices spiralling in the aftermath of the coal allocation scndal. Speaking to RSTV’s Neelu Vyas, Jaitley says cluster development is the key to industrial growth. Excerpts from the interview:
This is your first election. Before this, you have seen elections from back room…
No, I have not only seen it from the driver’s sit, I have also sailed many ships. I have organised elections. I have been part of mass campaigns. It is just that I am contesting myself for the first time, so that you have to personally look after the nuts and bolts of the constituency, which I earlier never used to look at.
Captain Amarinder Singh is your opponent; how it is the fight shaping up?
Well, it is a keen contest. I have a clear advantage in this contest and we will win comfortably.
What makes you so confident?
There are two factors; the entire national trend is against the Congress. The whole country wants to see Narendra Modi as PM. This is not an island which is not influenced by the national mood. If you have a former CM contesting then it becomes a heavyweight battle. But that’s only marginal and at the end of the day it’s a candidate to candidate comparison. Amritsar has a distinct preference for me. When I was interacting with people, the kind of response I got makes me extremely confident.
Is it a local versus national contest?
That’s because I am contesting for India’s parliament and Captain sahib is contesting for municipal polls. That’s how we see it. He has no vision on India’s Parliament or on national issues. He is reluctant to speak on them, and prefers tu tu main main debate.
Some people say you are an outsider in Amritsar…
I have my roots in Amritsar. Amarinder Singh is an outsider here. People will have to go to Patiala to meet him. As I have said, he is most inaccessible.
In the manifesto, Modi has talked about trade, talent, tourism. You are promising to bring all that for Amritsar?
This is a holy city. It is the centre of religious tourism. Therefore if we can double or triple tourism inflow, we can double or triple incomes. Similarly, the border of Pakistan is the disadvantage for the city. If we could open up border trade, we can give a boost to the economy. I called tourism and trade as two low hanging fruits which are easily achievable for the constituency.
But why there aren’t many industries in the Amritsar city?
Industries have been closed down all over the country because of one issue. Unless India goes in for low-cost manufacturing, India will not grow. The cost of electricity goes up because of coal scam. If infrastructure is not improving then obviously the products are going to cost more and if products are going to cost more then you lose out to competition. India has to go for low-cost manufacturing; I have a vision that India must have clusters. But clusters will only survive if interest rates are made reasonable, and if power costs are lower.
Are we talking to the future Finance Minister of the country?
No, you are taking to a candidate from Amritsar and that’s all I have at the moment.