‘I am asking for votes on basis of development I have brought to Gadchiroli’

The Hindu | Sharad Vyas | April 9, 2019

BJP MP refutes allegations of not visiting constituency in five years; wants to introduce tax holiday package for industries

The inaccessible terrain of the Naxal-hit Gadchiroli district poses a challenge to every politician looking to cover the last mile before the elections. The BJP’s sitting MP from the district, Ashok Nete, not only faces the onerous task of reaching his voters in remote regions under control of the Left Wing Extremism, but he must counter the anti-incumbency wave to win a second term in the Lok Sabha. Here he counters the charges:

Villages in remote areas claim to have not seen your face for the last five years. Where have you been, if not in the constituency?

My area is not only the most backward but also the remotest with a terrain spread over 720 km. While it does not take much time to go to Mumbai and come back, sometimes it takes longer to reach parts of my constituency with 2,600 of the remotest villages of central India. It is impossible to cover all, and visit the interiors. One hopes to cover the bigger tehsils, and has some impact on the rest. I also have to spend considerable time in the Lok Sabha sessions and on Parliamentary Committees. As opposed to my alleged absence, my opponent from the Congress has never been seen before, and voters are asking where he has been instead.

Why should people vote for you if they say they have not seen you for five years?

I am only asking for votes on the basis of development I have brought to this region. The total worth of works has been close to ₹15,000 crore. Works related to bridges, roads, national highways from Gadchiroli to Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli to Nagpur, and the Warsa-Gadchiroli rail line are some of the major projects approved and ongoing.

Rahul Gandhi had said in a recent rally that industries in the region were systematically destroyed by ‘incompetent’ MPs.

It is Mr. Gandhi’s party’s doing, which has been in rule for many years. Since my (BJP) government came to power, a historic development has taken place. There is a heavy mineral presence in this region, and once the rail links I have gotten approved are complete, the industries too are expected to arrive in the next two years.

Did you put in any efforts to ensure a fair implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) and the Forests Rights Act?

The rightful implementation of the Acts has brought development to several tribal villages. But I would say PESA has definitely led to some injustice on both the tribals and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). There are a lot of tribal villages who have fallen into non-PESA zones and vice versa with OBC villages falling into PESA. I have raised this issue in Parliament, demanding a survey to end this divide.

If you claim to have done ‘historic’ work for the constituency, what else would be left to do if elected back to power?

Once the projects are complete in two years, I want to introduce a tax holiday package — on the line of the one introduced in Jammu and Kashmir — for the industries, who are scared to come to this region due to security reasons.

Is there a nationalistic fervour in these insurgency-hit parts post the Balakot air strikes by the Indian Air Force?

This will have a huge impact as this is related to our national pride. Once there arises a question of national pride, it will create a wave resulting in a record win for my party and me. I had won by 2.36 lakh votes, and I am confident of increasing that margin to 2.5 lakh this time.