He can fly a plane, he plays golf, organises car rallies and, with equal ease, can spend nights at the thatched-roof mud huts of his voters in Bihar. In 2014, Rajiv Pratap Rudy defeated wife of the RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister, Rabri Devi, from Saran Lok Sabha constituency. Leading the ministry for skill development and entrepreneur, Mr Rudy speaks with Sanjay Basak and Ashhar Khan on Bihar politics, his image and job.
You are one of the prominent leaders from Bihar. At this juncture the unity of the grand alliance seem to be shaky. Do you think the alliance will continue?
The alliance between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav is unnatural. Besides fodder scam, Mr Yadav is enmeshed in benami deals and the Railway scandal. Can Mr Kumar survive or continue his alliance with Mr Yadav merely to stay in power? The question can best be answered by Mr Kumar himself.
Do you foresee a split in the RJD or the JD(U) in Bihar?
As I said, it is not a natural alliance. It is an alliance of compulsion to stay in power. This is just to keep the BJP out. If this is the philosophy of governance, then what can one say. If Mr Kumar overcomes this, then things could be different.
Why is it that Bihar has suffered for the lack of development over the years?
Bihar is an interesting state. Caste is above development, caste is above religion and caste is above economy. It defies all logic. Development has never been a priority in Bihar in the last three decades. Out of 11 crore, over four crore people from the state have migrated to other states for jobs.
Do you see the entire Opposition coming together and ganging up against the BJP in the 2019 elections?
Well, that’ll be an unprincipled alliance with the sole objective of keeping the BJP out of power. I think this will not cut much ice with the electorate. The narrative of this government is a clean government, modest government — a government fighting against corruption.
How do you see the future of the Congress Party?
They have to pull up their socks because regional parties are virtually eating into them. It is unfortunate that a national party is being decimated. Their leadership has to take a call. We are no one to suggest what they should be doing.
You are in-charge of one of the crucial ministries. This ambitious project is very close to Prime Minister’s heart. What is your emphasis on with regard to Skill India?
The biggest challenge in this question is for me to define what is “skill”. Skills for whom, how to do it, where to do it, what should be the curriculum, what should be the qualification, what should be the benchmark, what should be the system of testing, assessment and certification? After certification, how should the skill be linked to a job? These have been the challenges for me.
Skill is nothing new, but to create a formal, structured ecosystem so that these activities, which I have mentioned above, are formatted has never been done. As a result, over the years, when the industry said we require trained, hands-on manpower, we were producing engineers in the country. Now this resulted in a situation where out of 18 lakh engineering seats about eight lakh were vacant. Only seven per cent of engineers coming out in this country are employable. The aspiration of an engineer was not in sync with industry’s requirement. Now, under Skill India, we are making people employable. So I am very happy to work with a Prime Minister who is focused and believes in delivery. Mine is a new ministry; we are working hard to deliver.
You have changed the guidelines of Industrial Training Institutes. There were protests outside your office.
We have more than 6,000 national occupation standard (NOS). National inspection for ITIs have begun in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among others. There’s a huge uproar. They are not allowing our inspectors to visit. All this is happening because there’s a huge flaw in the system. The ITIs there exist only on papers. Certificates being issued are mere papers. I am going after them. We have revised the norms. For the last 68 years, no one bothered to find out how ITIs are functioning in this country. We are plugging the loopholes in the system.
And the protests…
Yes, there were protests. There is a tremor because we are trying to put things in place. We are insisting on quality. The protests were against the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) centres for short-term skill development. This is 100 per cent grant based. We found training partners who do not have any PMKVY centres but are acting as middlemen by subletting their contracts. When I checked these, these people organised protests. This entire protest was in favour of the franchisee or the people they sub-let their contract to.
Why have you stopped targets for creation of new ITIs in some states?
Why does Jaipur need 260 ITIs, why does Gwalior, in its district headquarter, have about 60 ITIs, why does Patna have 107 ITIs? There is something wrong somewhere. When, in this country, 2,500 blocks have no ITI, how come Bhopal has 300 ITIs? We need to find out what is wrong. That is why new guidelines for ITIs have been rolled out. We are bringing in radical reforms and I don’t mind the protests. It’s a job and someone has to do it.
What do you have to say about lynchings in the name of cow protection?
There are people who are trying to whip up communal passion. Prime Minister has categorically said that we will not allow this to happen. On the issue of cow slaughter, there are rules and laws in place and the state will have to act. But no one is allowed to take law into their own hands. Rule of law will prevail; there will be no compromise. This country belongs to everyone.
You are the product of grassroots politics. Yet, you have an image which seems contrary to your political background and struggle.
I am a pure grassroots-level political worker. There is perhaps a different image in Delhi. I should not be deprived of my due as a grassroots politician merely because I am a sportsman, I can fly a plane, I come on TV and speak English, dress normally, address conferences in English, be a minister-in-waiting for foreign dignitaries. I have been an MLA, MP, a minister from Bihar. I have been contesting against Mr Yadav and his team for 30 years. I have survived that politics.