Interview/ M. Venkaiah Naidu, minister for urban development and parliamentary affairs
What are the main achievements of the NDA government?
Addressing the leadership deficit, arresting the drift on all fronts, arresting corruption, amplification of the message of development as an adjunct to welfare of people, articulating the Team India spirit, adding to economic growth, adding to self-worth of youth and articulating effectively India’s economic and geo-strategic interests across the world.
How successful was the government in taking forward the reforms agenda?
About 15 reform bills could be passed including the insurance bill, insolvency and bankruptcy code, apprentices bill, industries bill, factories bill, real estate bill and Aadhaar bill. Several sectors have been opened to foreign direct investments. Considerable progress has been made towards ensuring better reach of benefits to the beneficiaries.
What progress has been made on two of the big ticket projects—smart cities and housing for all?
Smart City Mission has galvanised the enthusiasm of the people and political class like no other urban innovation so far. The launch of Smart City Mission has made the urban local bodies rediscover themselves and think and act differently. The element of competition has unleashed new energies. Housing for all mission is equally satisfying. As against 13.70 lakh affordable houses sanctioned during 2004-14, we have already sanctioned more than 50 per cent during the last one year.
Was Parliament a stumbling block for the government?
Yes and no. Yes, in respect of what could not be done as intended, like introduction of GST and enabling hassle-free land acquisition for rapid socio-economic development. No, when we look at the legislative work done in the last two years, during which about 15 reform bills were passed.
The government has called the Congress obstructionist. What have you done to reach out to them?
The government has been very sensitive to the concerns of the opposition. Quite a few bills like the insurance bill, and the real estate bill were referred to the select committees even though it was not required. We maintained sustained communication lines with leaders of the Congress. I have been all the time talking to the Congress leaders. The finance minister did so on GST. The PM invited Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for talks. Unfortunately, Congress sought to make issues out of non-issues in the name of polarisation and stifling freedom of speech. People of the country have seen through all that.