Ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the country would face a setback of 50 years if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not return to power.
"If we are laid back and if you lose the momentum for having a strong good majority government, we will be facing a setback of 50 years at least," Sitharaman said while speaking at an informal interaction organised by Thinkers Forum in Bengaluru on February 24.
Sitharaman added that India would be disfavouring first-time voters if the BJP's work is not recognised.
"And for those of us who were born in the 20th century, we will be doing a disservice to those who will be voting for the first time. Are we going to do disfavour for the youth of this country by bringing back forces that have absolutely no delectation to this country and dedication to clean politics and dedication to putting the nation before themselves?" she asked.
Lauding Prime Minister Modi, the Defence Minister said, "In the history of any nation, it's not very often that you get a leadership like what you have got know."
She claimed that there was not even a whisper of corruption from 2014-2019.
"Last five years have been intense working. You see the Prime Minister without a day's break working and all of us from our ministries being pulled up and inspired. One very obvious and noteworthy difference between the previous and current government is that there was not a whisper of corruption under Modi ji's tenure. So that's why the Congress president (Rahul Gandhi) probably feels the need to point out or pick issues," she said.
Stating that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were essential for India, she said, "2019 elections to the Lok Sabha is certainly not just any other election. And in this election, we really cannot take it lightly. We each will have to be a campaigner. We have to do 10 times more than what we have done in 2013-14. The BJP will fight an election. Particularly, under the leadership of Modi ji, we will definitely give a very good fight and win."
Sitharaman also said that the opposition's allegations were not based on facts and they could stoop to any level to levy allegations on the BJP government.
"All facts checked, it is true that between 2014 and today vis-a-vis 2004 and 2013, except for Kashmir, has there been any terrorist/minor bomb attack anywhere else in the country? Let's talk on facts. Opposition allegations are not based on facts and they could stoop to any level to make allegations."
"There could have been truth in the allegations that India would run out of ammunition if there was a continuous war for 10 days. But in the last five years, things have changed. The problems of the defence sector were so severe that the forces did not have bulletproof jackets, ammunition for tankers and technology upgradation for the Air Force. For the first two years, Mr Manohar Parrikar spent time understanding the problems of the forces. Next, Mr Arun Jaitley prepared a report on that. After I took over, I could take it forward, as the report was ready"
Responding to a question on the dastardly Pulwama terror attack, Sitharaman said that the anger, disappointment and the emotions of the people to strike back are well absorbed by the government and the Prime Minister.
"Pakistan is the fountainhead of terrorism not just against India but many parts of the globe. Pakistan feels very much under stress since it had been economically isolated by the world community. More can be done on this front," she said.
Attacking Congress President Rahul Gandhi over the Rafale deal, Sitharaman said that during 10 years of UPA rule, not even a single aircraft was added to the Air Force, and added that during Prime Minister Modi's tenure, a due process was followed and all the details were given to the Supreme Court and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) regarding the Rafale deal.
"September 19 your first Rafale is coming into this country," said Sitharaman.