The wave in the country is unfavourable to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had lost credibility, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said Saturday. In an interview to PTI, the Maratha strongman cited the BJP's losses in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the assembly polls held in November-December last year.
Pawar said these states were ruled by the BJP for 10 years and nobody could have predicted the party's drubbing. "Modi himself concentrated on and campaigned extensively in these states. But what was the ultimate result? It is a clear indication that the wave in the country is not favourable to the BJP, particularly in rural India," he said.
He said people in rural areas were miffed with the Centre over farm distress, farmers' suicides and other agrarian issues. Pawar said during his term as the Union agriculture minister when he learnt of a farmer's suicide in Yavatmal in Maharashtra, he brought then prime minister Manmohan Singh to meet the distressed family.
The NCP chief said he had found at the time that the cause of the farmers' suicide was an agrarian crisis, financial burden and notice by banks for defaulting on loan repayment. "Within one week, I gave a proposal to the Cabinet to waive agriculture loans. Loans worth Rs 70,000 crore were waived. Not only that, interest rates were substantially reduced," he said.
He said during his tenure, India became the largest exporter of rice and second largest exporter of wheat, sugar and cotton, stressing that it was the outcome of the UPA government's actions like loan waiver. Pawar said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced a Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver but farmers were still waiting for their loans to get written off.
"Since January 2015 to 6 March 2018, 11,998 farmers committed suicide...(It is) a total failure of the BJP-Sena government in the sector," Pawar claimed. Slamming the prime minister, Pawar said Modi, during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, had promised to bring back black money from foreign accounts and deposit it into people's accounts but they were still waiting for it.
Pawar claimed that at least 100 people died and more than 15 lakh lost their jobs due to demonetisation. "The RBI said all the money in circulation finally came back. Only last week, there was a statement from the RBI that demonetisation has not helped remove black money or improve the economy. Not only that, it created a serious impact on trade, agriculture and other sectors," he said.
The former defence minister said while Rafale is a good aircraft, the Indian Air Force first suggested them to the Cabinet when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister. "But an appropriate decision was not taken due to polls. In 2007, there was a request for 126 Rafale aircraft and the purchase price quoted by Dassault was Rs 350 crore per aircraft. In November 2016, MoS Defence (Subhash) Bhamre gave a reply in Parliament that the price is Rs 670 crore per aircraft," he said.
"In February 2017, Dassault and Reliance Defence made a joint statement where they mentioned the price as Rs 1660 crore per aircraft," Pawar said. The former Maharashtra.chief minister claimed that apart from price inflation, one of the clauses UPA government had put in the Rafale purchase was of a guaranty, which was waived by the NDA government.
Another condition was that a certain number of aircraft would be purchased and the technology not available in India would be produced in France, and the rest of the assembly work will be done in government-owned factories in Nashik, Bangalore, Lucknow, he said. "This condition also has been waived and the entire responsibility has been given to Reliance Defence of Mr Ambani. The company was registered two weeks ago before the agreement. It has acquired land in Nagpur and only the foundation stone ceremony has been done. There is no factory, infrastructure, technical support or machinery and such a company has been given the job," he claimed.
The government and Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group has dismissed allegations of corruption and denied any wrongdoing. "When the Supreme Court asked for documents, it was told by the AG that documents of the agreement were lost. He then corrected his statement and said someone copied them. The documents, which the defence minister refused to give to Parliament in the name of secrecy, were copied from the Defence Ministry and appeared in newspapers," he said.
He asked how the BJP-led government if it cannot protect sensitive documents from its own ministry's office, can protect the interest of citizens. "The government's performance has not been up to the mark anywhere and they have lost their credibility," he said.
On another query, he said after the Pulwama attack, there was an aggressive campaign by the PM and BJP leaders that the IAF strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan was the party's victory. He alleged the BJP was trying to politically exploit the situation. On another query on Union minister Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claiming that Pawar was not contesting the upcoming polls sensing defeat, the NCP chief said, "They are making childish statements."
"They are making childish statements. I do not even need to take cognisance of them. That shows their immaturity," he said.
(With inputs from agencies.)