In a wide-ranging interview, Union Finance Minister Arun Jai Italy spoke to Rajbeep Turdesai at his private residence over a glass of fine vintage scotch on economic matters, the rising instances of intolerance in the country like ‘Gharwapsi’ and allegations against his government of encouragement to minority prostitution.. Excerpts from the interview:
First of all, Mr. Jai Italy, I’d like to thank you for finding the time – which, if the time you spend at NDTV studios is any indication, you have a lot – to talk to an esteemed and well-known journalist like me. While the Modi government has brought much-needed energy to the economy, the optimism which was clear in the beginning of the term is now missing. A year on, reforms are still being awaited. And to add to that, the Prime Minister’s extensive foreign tours haven’t increased his popularity back home. How concerned are you about this?
I take offense to your pointing out only one of the many studios where I spend my time. I’d like to point out I have given at least one interview to every single major media house in this country. Now back to more mundane matters such as the Indian economy, India remains one of the last bright spots for investment considering the global slowdown. I have reason for optimism that in the days to come, growth is only going to improve – possibly in sync with the number of interviews my party colleagues give to media outlets strongly hateful of the cause we (party) are all supposed to espouse.
One common complaint against your government is ‘tax terrorism’. Rules and regulations introduced by your own ministry have inconvenienced the salaried class. One such example is the host of changes in the Tax Audit Report in April this year and that’s one of the lesser draconian examples. What do you have to say about this?
Well, we did promise to go after black money holders, did we not? We need something to show for it at the end of our term, even if it means a simple process such as having a bank account becomes a huge pain in the ass.
But aren’t you concerned about the negative political implications?
That’s the Prime Minister’s problem. It’s not like I’ll have anything to lose if my party is voted out of power.
You are also accused by critics of lacking creative thinking, especially when it comes to your handling of the finance ministry.
That is most untrue – I don’t lack creative thinking. But I understand why many would get that impression: I spend all of it playing the Game of Thrones which, by the way, as the latest controversy over Lalit Modi shows, I am winning. Poor Sushma! *chuckles*
Recently, a huge controversy was created when hitherto unknown with ‘Hindu’ in its name> held a “Gharwapsi” event in Uttar Pradesh wherein Muslims were converted to Hinduism. Some would say such Hindu extremist elements are being emboldened by your party being in power at the Center. How do you respond to such criticism?
Utter rubbish. People can follow any religion they want. Moreover, I don’t see how the Center can be held responsible for a state subject.
*gasps in shock* With all due respect, how can you say such a thing, Mr. Jai Italy? Many will say that with Congress and other secular parties in power, India was a secularist heaven where people could follow any religion of their choice as long as the choices were Islam and Christianity, and the addition of Hinduism too as an option heralds the coming of Hindu fascism in this country, a country which, for decades, has bathed in its Mughal values of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb.
I assure you, we are as secular as they come. Name one tangible thing my party has done for these unwashed natives aka Hindus when we have been in power, besides empty statements from time to time. I repeat: we are as secular as they come.
Your government is also being accused of encouraging minority prostitution.
No, my government is not encouraging minority prostitution.
Does that mean your government is encouraging majority prostitution?
What? No! You know what; I think we are done here.
I hope you are still up for the interview you have scheduled with my wife Saga Rita Ghost tomorrow.
You bet. *smiles*