The Opposition has been targeting the government on the ground that it has failed to deliver on the promise of jobs.
It is not right to say that we haven’t delivered. Sincere efforts have been made to ensure that the youth get jobs. This government’s two most important initiatives — Make in India and Skill India — are youth centric. Our focus has been to elevate the youth from the position of job seekers to job givers. If you compare the current situation to the pre-2014 position, there has been a significant improvement in skill sets in the labour sector. We might have lacked in developing the correct perception, but we’ve delivered. We are on the right track.
Congress, in particular, is targeting BJP.
We’ve noticed reluctance among youngsters from remote parts to relocate to cities for work. This has created some hurdles. But these can be overcome by promoting local employment. In Nandurbar, for instance, we’ve taken initiatives to engage women self-help groups and the young unemployed in the production, packaging and selling of local produce such as amchur and the manufacture of jam and energy drinks from mahua leaves. We are also setting up a milk chilling and storage plant.
Nandurbar has the poorest human development index in state and is among the most backward districts in India.
Maternal and child health has been one of my focus areas. We’ve succeeded in significantly reducing malnourishment and child deaths. Accessibility and availability of resources in remote hamlets has improved. The Prime Minister has identified Nandurbar as an ‘aspirational district’ and a programme for rapid transformation of the region’s human development index, in collaboration with NGOs, has been initiated.
But some of your hamlets lack basic facilities such as power supply.
Electrification of villages has been one of my big successes. It was one of the first issues I took up. But in 2015, when we first submitted a Rs 200-crore proposal for electrification of 86 villages and 763 hamlets in the region to the Power Ministry, (Union Power Minister) Piyush Goyalji showed me a report from the state (Fadnavis) government , which had claimed that 100 per cent electrification had already been achieved in Maharashtra. I was shocked. When a fresh survey was ordered later, a proposal of Rs 400 crore for pending electrification in Nandurbar and Rs 1,200 crore in Maharashtra was submitted. The fund sanction came last year. When we started work, we found that 20,000 households had yet again been left out. The Centre was willing to release funds, but the Maharashtra State Electricity Board is to be blamed.
The Marathas are angry over the police complaint you filed last year after your car was attacked in Dhule during the quota protests. There is a talk that this might work against you.
The Opposition is deliberately politicising the issue, since they have nothing concrete to target me. When my car was attacked, I didn’t even know that those responsible belonged to a particular community, or the fact that they were a part of the reservation stir. My complaint was for action against those responsible for the attack. It wasn’t the right way to protest, but if I have hurt the sentiment of anyone from the community, I’m willing to apologise.
There was opposition to your candidature from within BJP. Dr Suhas Natavadkar, who has contested two Lok Sabha polls for the party, is challenging you as a rebel.
Would infighting not hurt your chances?
This happens in every party. It is a part of politics. When you do work, there is scope for someone to criticise you. But I enjoy the support of everyone in my party. After being elected in 2014, I was made the party’s district president. I happen to be youngest district party president in India, and the only woman to currently hold such a post in Maharashtra. I’ve ensured that the party’s agenda spreads to the remotest of villages and have carved out an independent space of my own. This is bound to hurt some people. Old-timers like Natavadkar only bloom during the elections.
You hail from an established political family. It is alleged that your family constantly craves positions of power.
It is fair to say that I won the first election because I was Dr Vijay Kumar Gavit’s daughter. But this won’t help me the second time. In today’s politics, each one has to prove himself. And I’ve done that. I’ve a lot of work to show for my first five years in office. My Congress opponent has been a six-term MLA, but does not have a lot of show for it.
Has the Modi wave subsided?
It is quite the opposite. In 2014, the Modi wave wasn’t so strong in tribal belts. This time, it is stronger in these areas too.