Full text of Shri Narendra Modi’s interview to Times Now:

ARNAB GOSWAMI: It's been a long election. In its last stage, the election has become bitter, negative and confrontational. Not even the Election Commission has been spared at the moment. You were named the Prime Ministerial candidate more than 7 or 8 months ago. When you look back, do you feel the election campaign should have taken this direction? Should the election have been so bitter, so negative & so confrontational? Take the example of what has happened in Varanasi.

NARENDRA MODI: You are talking of two separate issues. On September 13, I was declared the Prime Ministerial nominee. On September 15, I addressed ex-servicemen in my first rally in Rewari. I have addressed many rallies since then. I have done several 'Chai pe Charcha' programmes as well. I've also held innumerable 3-D rallies. I doubt anyone else would have travelled as extensively as I have to meet the citizens of the country. My speeches are readily available. Upon analysis, yes, there would be a small amount of political commentary, but, 95% of what I have spoken all along is about real issues. I have spoken about inflation, unemployment, farmers' problems, security, etc. I keep talking about these issues. I seeks answers from the Indian Government. After all, the election is for the formation of the Indian Government. The Indian Government must answer. In such a big election, has any member of the ruling party spoken on inflation even once? Has any interviewer raised this? Is inflation not an issue? Is corruption not an issue? I am shocked to see what has happened to this country's media too. At least the media should question the ruling party. What has happened is, even the media is asking Modi questions only about Gujarat. I have given a minute-by-minute account of Gujarat to the people of the state in 2012 elections. The accusations that the Congress leaders are leveling against me outside of Gujarat, have been leveled by them in Gujarat too. The people of Gujarat have answered all of those questions. I still had expectations from the people who have a neutral stand in the country. At least, they would steer the discourse towards real issues.

It is unfortunate that not only political parties, but even those who have a neutral stand, have fallen short. That is not a good thing. Political parties should have fallen short in this respect. Even those who profess a neutral stand should not have fallen short. But that has happened. Secondly, this is not the first election where divisive issues have been raised in a campaign. But it is unfortunate that today, from a 60-minute speech, a matter that was raised for 30 seconds is played up for 24 hours. A 60-minute speech is played once, whereas the 30 second portion plays for 24 hours. Which is why, there is a perception that politicians indulge only in such acts. That is not the reality. It would be good that when you analyse all these in the period between May 12-May 16, there would be an opportunity to correct the mistakes, as well as present the good in front of the people. I feel Times Now can do this. Secondly, you spoke of the Varanasi issue. I found out what had happened when I was travelling yesterday. I was stunned that they were talking about the security of the ground till morning. They were talking about a security threat. Seven days ago, the Home Minister of the country stated that Modi faced no security threat, that there was nothing to worry about. At a press conference, Chidambaram said that the security arrangements were done so well that Modi had addressed 400 rallies without a hitch, which is why talking of security arrangements would be inappropriate. Two senior Ministers of the Indian Government said this. And suddenly, they say otherwise yesterday. Then, one feels that there is something amiss.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: What is your grouse with the Election Commission? The Election Commission will only do what the district administration says, but this time your anger is directed even towards the Election Commission. Why?

NARENDRA MODI: I have not uttered a single word until now. Where does the question of anger arise?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But your party has said so.

NARENDRA MODI: The party has written letters to them, giving them a detailed explanation. I cannot say much about this because the development are taking shape in Varanasi. It is better that you take a minute-to-minute account from Arun Jaitley who is in Varanasi. He will give you all the details. I feel that we are people who are rooted to democracy. We feel that Constitutional institutions must be respected. The Election Commission should be given the utmost respect. That is why, we should not think of adopting unconstitutional means against the Election Commission. But, when that recourse is denied to us, we have the right in a democracy to register our protest under the ambit of the Constitution. We will never step out of that. It is up to the Election Commission to answer why we are being troubled. Specifically, why a single party is being troubled, why Modi is being troubled. A lot has happened to me, but I don't want to get into it right now. Let the Election Commission take a decision.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: When we began, you referred to divisive issues. Mr. Modi, this election has been confrontational, there is no doubt about that. My question to you is, let me take one example of the recent controversy over your comments and your tweets on caste, which happened this week. When Priyanka Gandhi responded to your Amethi rally, she said your comments on Rajiv Gandhi were low-level politics. But you chose to pick up only the words 'low level' and you made a duel or a confrontation over caste. Why did you give it a caste spin? And by giving it a caste spin, were you not aware that you would be deliberately getting caste back into this election in a big way? This election could have avoided the issue of caste.

NARENDRA MODI: I am shocked at how Times Now is so insistent on protecting a particular family. Is it not Times Now's responsibility to show what I have said about Rajiv Gandhi to the world? Even if one word is spiteful or bitter, I am willing to apologise to all. I have given factual information. That factual information is available. What I said was, that at the Hyderabad airport, a certain Andhra Minister was insulted. Can you deny that fact? Is it wrong to give factual information to the people of this country? If someone rakes up a factual error during the Nehru era today, does that amount to insulting Pandit Nehru? Will the facts of our history not be discussed? Yes, if I would have said anything bad about Rajiv Gandhi, then, as his daughter, Priyanka has the right to get even more angry. I raise no objections to that. But when you don't even discuss that, and use it to attack me, it is not right. I would like Times Now to display the courage to report to the world that I was only stating a historical fact. Sometimes, during speeches, there are slip-ups of continuity. But that has not happened in this case. You say you have the right to emotionally blackmail me, don't I have the right to at least state the truth? Is it because I come from a humble background, from a humble family? Has this country become like that? Has my democracy submitted itself to one family? And when a poor man says something, there is uproar.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But do you believe that Priyanka Gandhi was making a reference to your caste? Do you believe she was talking about caste?

NARENDRA MODI: I am most familiar with the Gujarati language. In Gujarati, the meaning approximates to the response I have given. Secondly, as I said yesterday, when there was talk of 'neech' deeds and 'neech' castes, isn't the CWG scam an example of 'neech' politics? Isn't making money off even toilet paper an example of 'neech' politics? When the Supreme Court directs you to distribute food to underprivileged children, and you let it rot, and sell grains for 80 paise to those who produce alcohol, isn't it an example of 'neech' politics? Isn't that a 'neech' act? After the massive revolution spurred by Nirbhaya, they allocated 1000 crores to Nirbhaya, for the country's women, and didn't spend a single penny all year. They only made a mention of it in the Budget. In the interim budget too, they announced a sum of 1000 crore rupees to the Nirbhaya fund, when they hadn't spent a single penny over the past one and a half years. Is this not 'neech' politics? Is this not a 'neech' act? I am responding also to the definition of 'neech' acts and 'neech' politics given by others. Take caste out of it, by all means. I have no objections to that.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Narendra Modi's stated philosophy is 'One India, Ideal India'. NARENDRA MODI: That has been my mantra.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: My question is that, Narendra Modi knows that when he talks of caste, it enters the political debate. Your accusation was on caste. 'She made a reference to my caste'.

NARENDRA MODI: Let me make it clear. I said that, it is not befitting. It is certainly not befitting. I agree that it is not befitting. The usage of the word is not good. Even the emotion behind the usage of the word is not good. Let's assume I misunderstood. But even their intention behind such usage of the words was incorrect. But this family is such that it has raised lakhs of other families. How would you have the courage to speak the truth?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: We question everyone equally

NARENDRA MODI: Ask questions, all of you ask questions but some questions are used for a single purpose while some other questions are repeatedly asked for more than 6 months. This helps us learn where you are suppressed, pressurized or have the freedom.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Modiji, there is no pressure on us and this point I am directly putting forth in front of you. I am again coming back to the first question of the issue being One India, Ideal India. Modiji, do you agree that now our country has moved 24 years after Mandal and 22 years after Babri Masjid demolition. Many people felt that this election was the real opportunity to move beyond caste and to move totally beyond religion and you could have played an active role in making sure that the focus totally moves away from caste and religion. My question to you Mr. Modi is that when people like Amit Shah said 'Mullah Mulayam' there was a religious symbolism to it. When Giriraj Singh says those who don't vote for Modi should go to Pakistan as it is their 'Mecca-Madina', there is a clear religious overtone to it. You did tweet against it. You indicated that you disapprove of it, but you could have come out much stronger. You could have publicly taken a position, being tougher, being harsher and you could have done that.

NARENDRA MODI: If I didn't protest. If I didn't oppose it through the internal mechanism, don't you think it would have continued. Hasn't it stopped? Did it stop or not? That means I have taken action and you can understand. But does it mean that I convey it to the media and make my actions clearer?


ARNAB GOSWAMI: Do you think you could have been tougher?

NARENDRA MODI: I was tough against this issue and that is why it stopped right. I can handle such things and you will be surprised in today's scenario, the media has got all the information. I have been into social work since 45 years and at an average everyday for one or two hours, I have been engaging in social discourses. It is not a small thing. Discourses in a small or a large group. You will not be able to force me to say a single word but whatever someone else says anywhere in the world, and if you can't resist to link it with Modi for the sake of your TRPs, is that right?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But, do you believe these leaders were trying to give a religious spin? Were they trying to exploit sentiments?

NARENDRA MODI: No, I don't think so. I will only have to say that this shouldn't happen. I don't think anyone planned to say such things.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But, Mr. Modi, you yourself have also said something which had religious overtones and can be considered that you were favouring one religion. I am not saying that you were opposing any one religion. In Bengal too, you said that. And I have an English translation of it and it clearly means that those who celebrate Durga-Ashtami and those who speak Bengali, they are all Mother India's children. Why should it be the case?

NARENDRA MODI: Yesterday, I said something else so that even you people understand it. See, I think you need to consider Supreme Court's judgment too. I only said what the SC says. I said the same thing what Mamata Bannerjee had said in the Parliament on August 4, 2005. I said the same thing what Indrajit Gupta as a Home Minister and as a Leftist said in 1996. I am repeating the same thing what PM Sayeed, our MOS Home said in 1995 or 1996. There are two things to this. You tell me in any country in this world, if there is an Indian origin and the natives of that country have an issue with it. Any country like Africa, Fiji, Sumatra etc., where will that Indian go? His passport is of that country and he's been staying in that country since 100-150 years. He will return to India and isn't it India's duty to accept that person because he is in trouble? He's not coming here to loot India. How can they be denied justice? And if in Bangladesh, just because of religion, Hindus are thrashed and forced out. The Hindu population which was 35% at the time of separation and is now only 7%. Such people have nowhere to go and if they want to return to India as they hail from our nation.

Now, if you felt bad about Durga, then forgive me but those who hail from India and want to return, should this country leave them for the dead and behave as if we have nothing to do with them and let them die on their own? Only because of our political decisions, these people will have to die. Secondly, if such people have come to Assam and Bengal, then should the concern be limited to Assam or Bengal only? Gujarat should also take care of them, even Rajasthan and the entire country should take care of them collectively. Infiltrators come with a political agenda and no political parties in India before this has ever spoken in the favour of infiltrators. Some parties openly objected to it and some kept quiet. This is the first time, it has been noticed that infiltrators are openly invited to India. I ask one question to these parties who are openly inviting infiltrators who are coming here. Why is their attitude different towards Taslima Nasreen. Taslima wouldn't be allowed to stay in Bengal. Why did they start an agitation then? Why are there two sections to this? And because of that I clearly say that and it is not related to Hindu or Muslim. Thirdly, thousands of families from Pakistan have migrated to Rajasthan since Partition, they have embraced our country and need our love but no one is ready to accept them. In Bengal, there is a caste, which migrated from Bangladesh and they hail from our country, poor people and they have nothing to do with politics. 40 years have passed and they have not been given the citizenship of India. Now, infiltrators are being given everything but the people who have embraced our land are not yet accepted wholeheartedly. This is all due to votebank politics and someone should oppose it or not? If someone speaks for the benefit or the country, I am surprised, if one speaks against terrorism, you people call me communal. Voice for population control methods, again termed communal. Protest against infiltrators, again called communal. Who will speak for my country then?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: No Modiji, India is not a one religion country and India has never advocated any particular religion. Hinduism has gone from India to the world. There are several religions that originate in India. My question to you Mr. Modi is when on April 7, you released your manifesto and what you are saying is that I am not giving it a religious colour. I am only talking about people who are persecuted and I am welcoming people who are persecuted. In your manifesto, you mentioned good governance and development but in your manifesto you also mentioned that India should remain as a natural home to persecuted Hindus and these persecuted Hindus will be welcomed to seek refuge here. My question to you is why only persecuted Hindus, Mr. Modi and why not persecuted Buddhists, why not persecuted Sikhs, why not persecuted Jains, why not persecuted Muslims or persecuted Christians? Because if the BJP speaks the language of inclusion then Mr. Modi your manifesto should have included all religions.

NARENDRA MODI: I am ready to accept whatever you are saying.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But, it is not in your manifesto.

NARENDRA MODI: What we believe is, all of them are our people only. All who are born and brought up here. As per the SC's judgment, Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. You went into the religion and we work according to the judgment of the SC and according the judgment of the SC, Hinduism is a way of life. In that, no Buddhist is opposed, nor a Sikh is opposed, In fact in Kerala, even today we have Christian followers, who live their life like Hindus. So, we don't discriminate but you all do.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But, in your manifesto, there was a mention of only Hindus.

NARENDRA MODI: Hindus were mentioned as it is in the SC's judgment. Hinduism is as a way of life and not a religion. We have nothing to do with it. We don't expect that Hinduism is a religion. Hinduism is a way of life.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: You said in your first answer and you said it's an issue of inviting infiltrators. There is one follow-up question to this Modiji. In Bangladesh there is 8 to 10% population of Hindus which means 150 lakh Bangladeshis could be Hindus. Are you not giving an open invitation to all these Hindus by saying that those who celebrate Durga Ashtami and who are persecuted can come to India?

NARENDRA MODI: I think linking it to this is wrong because people who have come here were forced to. They couldn't live there and I would suggest that Times Now do an extensive research in Bangladesh to find out the troubled issues in that country and expose it to the world. It is not mandatory to take Modi's version on this.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But this clarification is very important. With reference to the persecuted Hindus because this has been a subject of discussion for a long time and I am sure you are aware of it.

NARENDRA MODI: What I meant is, the SC has said this and it has also said that we have to do it but their votebank politics is not letting us do it. It becomes difficult when you get marginalized to Bangladesh. Consider other countries like Fiji, Java, Sumatra, and Africa. Why don't you do that?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Because in your manifesto-

NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you. When there were terrorist attacks in Africa, all the people of Gujarati origin, who can't even speak the language now, called us for help asking where can they go. What will you do, tell me?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So, you are saying all persecuted people who are of Indian origin, irrespective of them being Hindus, Jains, Christians and Muslims can return.

NARENDRA MODI: That is obvious. But now don't link all this to Partition. Or else you will link everything to the 1947 Partition and draw a conclusion. Please don't play this game.


NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you. I don't have any regret. I don't resort to votebank politics. Votes come and go. Governments come and go, but the nation is important. A person living anywhere in this world, whose passport may be of any colour but if his blood is similar to ours, then he is invited.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Modiji, whatever questions that I have asked. My Hindi is not so good but the central line is this whether it is Amit Shah's 'Mullah Mulayam' comment, Giriraj Singh's comment or the Durga Asthami comment or the manifesto. If one puts it all together, do you feel the BJP and the BJP of today especially under the leadership of Narendra Modi is still seen to be a right-wing religion based party that leans more. This clarification of yours on the manifesto is important that this election, did it give you an opportunity to break away from the mode of being a right-wing religion based party & did you take up that opportunity?

NARENDRA MODI: Firstly, we have mainly concentrated on governance and development. We have strived to plan how a 21st century India should look like and this election works towards achieving that goal. We have made an attempt by including all the youngsters as our centre of attraction and accordingly run our election campaign. And I can confidently say that because of all this we have a got a clear majority. We are committed to what we have said and the people of this country have not questioned our vision and plan. For these people also to come out of 60 years rule of a vested interest group is difficult. But the people of this country have finally come out of it.



ARNAB GOSWAMI: I interviewed Rahul Gandhi in January. When the campaign had begun, I interviewed him. He was then being projected, not as the Prime Ministerial candidate, but as the party's principal campaigner. I asked him one question in the context of the 1984 riots. I asked him, 'do you think any Congressmen were involved in the 1984 riots?' My question to you is this, that in your view, were any members of the Sangh Parivar, VHP, or the BJP involved in the 2002 riots?

NARENDRA MODI: I feel that on the subject of the Gujarat riots, the Judiciary has been vibrant and has exhibited its activism. The media too has been vibrant on the subject and the NGOs and international agencies have been overactive. After all this scrutiny, I feel, let them draw their own conclusions. They don't need a certificate from Modi. They shouldn't even bank on a certificate from Modi. They shouldn't have the slightest shred of belief in a certificate from Modi. Only Constitutional authorities should be trusted. They have done so in the past, they will do it in the future as well.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: One side is the legal process.

NARENDRA MODI: Secondly, I would like to say that your name will go into history books, from your first interview to your last. Times Now has got that credit.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: I don't want any credit, Mr. Modi. My job honestly is to speak to all the people in this election and ask them all the questions that I possibly can. Mr. Modi, I know that you have been given a clean chit by the Courts and I know that the Courts have found nothing against you in the Gujarat riots. But, in the spirit of my questioning, there are just one or two more questions that I'd like to ask. You know, the question is on Mayaben Kodnani. I was reading quite a few books which actually say that Mayaben Kodnani was more a supporter of Keshubhai Patel, certainly, not politically, in the Narendra Modi camp. Yet, despite the charges against her, which were quite serious, you brought her as a Cabinet Minister in 2007. When you look back, Mr. Modi, given her conviction, do you regret it?

NARENDRA MODI: Who has given you this information? At least do your research. I thought Arnab does his research well. For your information, she was not facing any charges at the time. Later, when UPA-2 was formed, political games were at play. An SIT was formed, after which she faced charges. When I made her a Minister, she was not facing any charges, for your information. But still, I feel she has the right to get justice for herself from many courts. As a citizen, she has that right. Let her have it.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Do you believe, in retrospect, that she could have been protected by the state agencies or the police in this case?

NARENDRA MODI: That sort of work was has been done a lot in Delhi after '84. It is my view that the law must be allowed to take its course. The work of my Government is neither to aid someone nor to torture someone. I have to distance my Government from such things. I have always done so. I have kept it away even for myself. You will not believe this, because there is so much filth on your mind. By 'you', I don't mean Arnab Goswami, I mean a particular clique of people. For them to understand this, it will take them 25 years, know and accept the truth.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: In my mind, I have no filth or biases or prejudices. I am just asking you, Mr. Modi, after the clean chit you got, you wrote a very detailed blog post, in which you said, "I had repeatedly reiterated the same principles in my daily interaction with the media in those fateful days of February-March 2012 as well, publicly underlining", and I'm reading from your blog, "the political will as well as the moral responsibility of the Government to ensure peace, deliver justice, and punish all those guilty of violence." Mr. Modi, do you feel that your Government fulfilled this moral responsibility to ensure peace?

NARENDRA MODI: Yes, yes. There is no need to cite me further.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Let me complete.

NARENDRA MODI: You are an editor. After this, you can give an hour long speech. I don't have a problem. It's your channel; you can say whatever you want. You can speak as much as you want, I have no problems. See; take 10 riots of your choice from the history of India. Select any 10 from across the country. You can include 2002 as well. You can present the data of how many FIRs were registered, how many people were arrested, how many cases were lodged, how many were punished in these riots in front of the whole country. If out of all of this, you feel that Modi has not fulfilled his responsibilities, then give it prime time coverage for 6 days. I have no problems. And if Modi is honest, then with integrity, present the correct news, if only for 30 seconds.



ARNAB GOSWAMI: We have covered all sides of the story, including when you were given a clean chit by the courts, Mr. Modi. On that, we maintain absolute objectivity. Mr. Modi, my next question to you is on the question of allies because it's a very significant question, it's a political question. Are you absolutely sure, are you 100 per cent sure, that you will cross 272 by yourself and that you will need no other party's support to form the Government in Delhi?

NARENDRA MODI: There is an arithmetic needed for the Parliament. That is in its own place. There is an arithmetic needed to form the Government. But, there is no arithmetic needed to run the country. A spirit is needed to run the country. The spirit is all inclusive. Therefore, hypothetically, even if I and my party get 300 seats, then it is my duty in a democracy to respect all parties, even my political rivals have a purpose, even those who severely criticize me have a purpose. That is how a democracy functions. The country will give me the numbers needed to run the Government. To run the country, I need everyone's cooperation. I will do all I can to get everyone's cooperation, even if it's the Congress. Running a country is different from running a Government. That is why you must not view the two in terms of statistics. We will know the numbers on the 16th. Even if we get 350 seats, every single MP from a single party is as valuable to me as 125 crore citizens.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So your answer is that, respect the importance of everyone and the importance of taking everyone along.

NARENDRA MODI: It's a responsibility.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But I also know that Narendra Modi is a very savvy politician. Mr. Modi, you must admit it, you also know the importance of political arithmetic. Let me bring you back to my question, Mr. Modi. Everyone is watching this interview. What they want to know from you is that, are you saying that in a post poll scenario, and please restrict your answer in the context of political arithmetic, I know you spoke about chemistry, and I also know, having interviewed you in the past, that, if you want to, you are very good at avoiding the question. I want to bring you back to the question. Mr. Modi, tell me are you absolutely sure, there are all these parties that you have severely criticized, and they have severely criticized you, you will not seek the support of these parties who have bitterly criticized you and whom you have severely criticized in the course of these campaigns? I am talking about parties like Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, even Jayalalithaa to some extent, even Naveen Patnaik to some extent. Can you do business with them?

NARENDRA MODI: Politics isn't conducted on the basis of what is said in the course of election campaigns. Look at ancient history. Elections bring about a different kind of atmosphere. Every party spreads awareness about itself. The day Modi was declared the Prime Ministerial nominee, the mainstream media across the country had only one centre story- that the BJP would find no allies. It was the centre story. For the first time in India's political history, the BJP has 25 parties in a pre-poll alliance in the electoral fray. Even during the NDA regime, we didn't have a pre-poll alliance. The Congress too has never had a pre-poll alliance on this scale. If you just analyse the track record, setting aside talk of arithmetic and chemistry, then you will find that the answers are self evident.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi, when you spoke in Amethi in your campaign for Smriti Irani, you referred to her as your younger sister. You also said something else. You said, if needed, you could get work done in Amethi. Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party would do it. There are two things. One is working with someone to run the country. The other is political arithmetic. This is the third time I am attempting to ask you this question. To bring the numbers together, are you willing to reach out to Mayawati? Because the BSP and the BJP have worked together in the past. Are you willing to reach out to Mamata Banerjee? Are you willing to reach out to Jayalalithaa if required to form the Government?

NARENDRA MODI: Let me explain two issues to you. You can conduct the entire interview on the basis of these, I don't have a problem. Let me tell you. What did I say in Amethi? In Amethi, the issue was that Rahul ji said that development is not happening because the state Government is not responding. That was his statement. I replied to that. I said that is not how it works. If that is the case, you must make public how many letters you wrote to the state Government. Disclose that to the public, if you claim that the state Government did not help. I only said why would Mulayam Singh Yadav object to a road being constructed in his own region? Why would he object to hospitals being constructed in his own region? I only said that despite my political differences with Mulayam Singh, if I went to him with development work, he would accept it. There are three SP MLAs, two BSP MLAs who would support Smriti Irani in the field of development. This was the practical issue I raised. As far as your second question is concerned, it is irrelevant because the people of the country are giving all their support to the BJP to form government. But when the people give their support, there is little room for arrogance. The people have entrusted us with a responsibility. Arrogance takes me away from that. Responsibility brings me closer to my duties. I reiterate that a single MP is also a representative of 125 crore people. Running a country may be a number game, but it also means taking everyone together. I don't believe that it is just it the BJP that wants to work for the country, and not other parties. They may have differing ideologies, but everyone wants to work for the country.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Modiji, why did you antagonize so many parties? Let me take the example of Mamata Banerjee with whom now you have your greatest war. You are having a great war with Mayawati now, but before this you had a greater war with Mamata. In one interview Mr. Modi you said, I think it was to ABP, and you said that your decision to change the pitch of the attack as the campaign progressed was a strategic decision. But, on April 9, since I have been following your rallies and speeches very carefully and on April 9 you said that Mamata Banerjee was trying to clear the potholes of Bengal which were not cleared up for 32 years. In other words you were saying that she was doing development work, later, as the campaign progressed, you were extremely critical of Mamata Banerjee. You said that, you understood my question. Why did you change the line of attack? Did you change the facts?

NARENDRA MODI: I believe that for 35 years, Left destroyed Bengal, the entire Eastern India belt, if you look at it. If Kolkata was economically vibrant, it would have benefitted the entire Eastern part of India. But unfortunately, West Bengal which can play a decisive role in the development of East India became only an Island and was cut-off from the development work carried out in the rest of India. When Didi came to power, what I thought was that she can contribute in a large manner. I had positive hopes from her. When I went there, I hadn't done full research. Whenever I met Didi, she was very cordial and I really thought she will do something for Bengal. So I praised her and said that she working towards a change that Left parties had merely promised for 35 years. But, then I started receiving numerous mails and information I was stunned and felt that I should have said things after a thorough research. I believe if you want to bring about development in Eastern India, then Kolkata should be developed into a powerful and vibrant city. Rapid progress needs to me made economically which will result in the development of the adjoining areas. If we are not able to provide good administration to Bengal then other areas in the eastern part of India will also get affected. There are four to five centers like Patna, Ranchi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Bhubaneshwar. All these centre's need to be developed very quickly for the progress of our nation. And in the middle of this, if Didi wastes her time in politics of revenge with the Left, it doesn't impress me. My Bengal is getting destroyed and I am hurt because of this. During this election, I felt that I should speak the truth and in democracy, elections is one time when people should be made aware of their leaders. It is up to the people if they want to believe us or not, but we shouldn't be betraying them.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But this change of heart. In 3 weeks your opinion was changed?

NARENDRA MODI: It's not 3 weeks. I had gone in April that time.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: April 9 to May 4.

NARENDRA MODI: I went now only right. On May 4, I went there and made the reference about 'two laddoos'.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Wasn't this a political strategy. Modiji don't you feel you should have kept the door open with Mamata and Mayawati?

NARENDRA MODI: This can also be a strategy to keep the door open.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I didn't understand.

NARENDRA MODI: Whatever I wanted to explain, I have. This can also be a tactic to keep the door open.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Can you elaborate on this.

NARENDRA MODI: I won't explain it now but will do it after May 12.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So, you will change your line after the elections?

NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you this time; the people of this country will give the strongest government since the demise of Rajiv Gandhi.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: Modiji, What about Jayalalithaa? She has been attacking you by punching holes into your model of development but I have seen that except for an instance during a rally in mid-April you have not criticized her. It was felt for a long time that if required Jayalalithaa will be the one. She also came for the ceremony when you were sworn-in. It was believed that she will be the one who will be a natural ally. One who can work with your government?

NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you, don't waste your time in finding allies. You have already asked me 6 questions related to this. I have explained everything clearly that BJP is winning with a clear majority and we will be forming the strongest and most stable government since Rajiv Gandhi's government. Second question is of running the government, I have already said this that any MP belonging to any political party and from any part of the country, even if it's an independent MP for me he is the representative of 125 crore Indians. For me he is a respected parliamentarian and my behavior with him will be as good as possible. I have said this 50 times now. If you don't understand tell someone to translate it for you.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: When you said that this is also a strategy, did you mean that there is a possibility to work with all of them in some way or the other in the future?

NARENDRA MODI: This is not an issue for your personal benefit. If there is my personal benefit, I will go with you and if it is not, I won't. The best way to run a country is to take everyone together. During elections, I may have differences with Times Now, but to run this country, I will have to involve Times Now also. This is my responsibility, Please come out of politics now, its enough.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: It's election time so it's natural that I ask about politics.

NARENDRA MODI: Let us handle the politics.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: Elections are underway and hence political issues will inevitably be raised. Mr. Modi, one controversy that is there is that of Snoopgate. On snoopgate my question to you is, you have worked with Amit Shah for a very long time. Do you believe that the voice is that of Mr. Amit Shah? Can you identify the voice of Amit Shah in that tape? Mr. Modi, do you believe that having worked with Mr. Amit Shah for so long and so closely that he could have broken the law without official clearances to deploy state machinery on one person?

NARENDRA MODI: Supreme Court is monitoring at the case. Supreme Court is examining the issue.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: What is your view?

NARENDRA MODI: What can I say and why should I interfere into the matters looked at by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court is looking into it. I trust the Supreme Court.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: As far as the Commission is concerned; the commission that has been set up by State Govt under a retired High Court judge on Snoopgate, Mr. Modi one of the issues which is there is, how is the conspiracy over how the tapes came out? I am asking you this question in the context of Tehelka. In Tehelka also it was asked whether there was a conspiracy behind why the Tehelka tapes came out and what was exposed in the tapes. In this case what is more important? What is in the tapes or the conspiracy on why the tapes came out?

NARENDRA MODI: I am not aware of the Tehelka case. As far as the issue that you wish to have more information on is concerned, even if you ask the same question repeatedly, you will get the same answer. The Supreme Court is looking at it. Let the Supreme Court decide.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Why are you opposed to a Central probe into this case? On most cases, Mr. Modi you have been quite transparent. When you had given an interview to India TV, you were asked a question about your election expenditure. You had then said that let there be any investigation by any Central agency, including the Election Commission. If I am not mistaken you had said that to Rajat Sharma about your election expenditure. Why not a Central investigation into Snoopgate as well?

NARENDRA MODI: I haven't opposed anything. The case is in Supreme Court. I don't want to play any role. I never opposed anything. People are saying this unnecessarily.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But then why did you feel that Kapil Sibal and the Central Govt have other intentions, in a recent interview you said, Kapil Sibal had political malice on the question.

NARENDRA MODI: There were Parliamentary elections held in 2009. That election took place in May 2009. That time Mr. Kapil Sibal had come to Gujarat. And in his public speech he had said that Modi would be sent to jail during the tenure of UPA II. They had made up their mind that they wouldn't give up before sending Modi to Jail. He only said it. And since then all their activities are somewhere linked to their efforts to fulfill this wish. This was the context in which I had given that answer.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So do you feel this was a part of a campaign?

NARENDRA MODI: They have said it. I am not saying it. They have said it. It's all said by them.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Do you believe that Snoopgate is also a part of that campaign?

NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you to leave Snoopgate to the Supreme Court. Do not bring it here. I have told you this already. And your job is not to trap me like this. This is not why I have given an interview to you. Your job is to ask me questions, and my job is to give you answers. And if your intention is to trap me or target me, please tell me accordingly, as I am well prepared for that as well. You can do that if you want. You can call as many people as you can for that. I am ready to face it. But this is not the right way. This is not the right kind of approach. Secondly, if you are asking someone, the person is telling you that the matter lies in the domain of the Supreme Court. I respect the Supreme Court. If you think that you are greater than the Supreme Court then it is your choice to think like that. What can I do about it? However I quoted Kapil Sibal after what he had said in 2009. Now all of you are very intelligent people. If you want to use the quote against me, then do so. If you want to use it against him, then do it or if you wish to suppress it, then do it.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi were you surprised when your Doordarshan interview was censored? When the interview was censored and when the interview was given, I have two questions to ask. When you had given that interview, were you surprised that it was censored? When it was censored, your office released the original tape only after the fact that it was censored was highlighted by the media. Were you surprised when you came to know that the interview was censored?

NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you. First of all, I got a request from Doordarshan. Then I thought it's not a problem and I agreed to their request. I made time for it. I found time for it and even my party records the interview. My party had also recorded it. Then I wasn't aware of what was telecast on Doordarshan. I didn't even know that it was censored or not because we never have so much time. But suddenly this issue of my comments on 'daughter' became very prominent. I never said anything like that. Then I asked my party members to show me the interview. I asked them if I have really said something like that. Then they showed it to me and told me that this wasn't what I had said. Then I realised that it wasn't just censorship but it was a conspiracy. Censorship is fine. Like for example, if I say something wrong about you and unacceptable and if you remove it then what's wrong in that?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: We don't edit our interviews.

NARENDRA MODI: Even if you do I don't have a problem. But the way it was manipulated to make specific conclusions in a bid to target me is what surprised me. Then I told my party members to release the original video on YouTube and that is how we released it. Then later on those who were targeting me for 48 hours over the 'daughter' issue suddenly became quiet after the original tapes were out. Everyone invested their machinery in protecting that family. I was targeted unnecessarily. Now why are they helping that family I don't know. I don't know how far they will go to repay the debts of that family. Then the matter got more complicated as it was a matter between Govt and Prasar Bharti. They felt it would be better to avoid dragging Modi in it and telecast the interview and conduct discussions on Govt, Prasar Bharti and autonomy of Prasar Bharti. Then the aim was to keep the discussion neutral.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi as far as the neutrality of media is concerned, though I would not want to talk about it now, but I can definitely say about Times Now's neutrality that all the interviews telecast on Times Now - be it edited, unedited, censored or uncensored.

NARENDRA MODI: Yes in this case, I would like to thank Times Now for the fact that they telecast the unedited version of the Doordarshan interview and that is how I came to know. I wasn't able to watch it initially. I am not able to watch my own interviews. I have heard a lot. You have done good work.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi I would like to ask you about a specific answer that you gave during the Doordarshan interview. You had specifically said that you wouldn't respond to Priyanka Gandhi because you do not consider her as you political rival. My question to you is.

NARENDRA MODI: No, no I never said anything like that.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: No you said that. Let me tell you...

NARENDRA MODI: Your translation is not proper.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: What you said that whatever she is saying is as a daughter. It is her right to work hard for her mother. Even if she gives you ten more abuses you are willing to listen. I cannot raise any objection as she is fulfilling her role only as a daughter. Am I right in my translation now?

NARENDRA MODI: Yes, yes, absolutely.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Then my question to you is, why then in recent days have you reacted to what Priyanka Gandhi had said. When you reacted, you said without taking her name you had raised the issue of 'Smriti Who' and then you raised the issue of 'neech rajneeti' and also 'RSVP'. So while you said that you won't respond to Priyanka Gandhi because she is only fulfilling her role as a daughter, why have you responded to the things that she has said?

NARENDRA MODI: No it isn't like that. If you are raising serious allegations against me then can I not respond? Shouldn't I respond? If Arnab Goswami is not into politics, and if he raises serious allegations against me in future, then will I not react? That day my answer was that nothing is wrong if a daughter wants to work for her mother. My response was a very mature one.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Why is there such an animosity, the translation of animosity is...

NARENDRA MODI: I understand what it means.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Why is there so much animosity between you and Gandhi's? Why has it got so personal with the Gandhi's? You have made so many remarks in these elections.

NARENDRA MODI: What kind of remarks?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So many remarks

NARENDRA MODI: Why don't you cite a few?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Every speech of yours is filled with such remarks

NARENDRA MODI: You please be specific. It doesn't work like that. Be specific. You ask me specific questions, I am ready to answer every question of Times Now. I am ready to hear specific examples in your presence.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I am never beat around the bush, Mr. Modi. In every speech you keep saying 'Mother-son got'. You have said that 'Mother-Son got' will no longer exist.

NARENDRA MODI; You tell me whether there is any question on that after the book of Sanjay Baru? I started saying that after that book was released. I never said it before that. Go ahead. Ask me questions. I would appreciate?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Oh would you? Since 2013 I have been following every sentence, and every speech of yours. In November 2013 you had said, 'Madam you are ill. Let the 'shehzada' take over. Let us see if he is able to deliver round the clock electricity to Chhattisgarh'. Why did you say that?

NARENDRA MODI: I will tell you. You listen to the entire speech. I said that if she is not well she should ask her son to take care about the electricity. It was a very simple and pure statement. When I saw the debate over it on TV, I was very surprised. Similarly I have been targeted now very recently. Media was silent. I have forgotten what exactly it was. I was targeted exactly in a similar way and the media in the country kept silent. I was very surprised. I said it very casually. Like for example if say, 'Mr. Arnab if you are ill, why don't you get that done from some other person?' It was that simple. But you must know that when the news of Sonia Madam being ill came to light, I was the first person, not even senior Congressmen, I was the first one to send her a 'get well soon' message with a bouquet. Whatever it is, and whatever anybody's ideologies are, I respect those who work hard to do good for their families. You are saying this because you don't know me well. You are not aware about the facts of my life.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: A press conference had taken place related to Robert Vadra. The Press conference was about 'Damad Shree'. I think it was about two to three weeks ago. So isn't that an indication of the BJP and since you are their Prime Ministerial candidate, your personal vendetta against the Gandhi family?

NARENDRA MODI: You can see my track record for last 14 years. No one can accuse me of vendetta. No one can think of it. I have spoken many times about this. Corruption is a major issue this election. It is a major issue this election. So many cheap and false allegations have been leveled against me. You have no time to acknowledge them. But if BJP reveals all the facts to the nation, you call it vendetta. What kind of justice are you doing?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Is the Robert Vadra issue an issue to keep the Congress on the backfoot? BJP Govt was formed in Rajasthan in December. Since then there has been no formal probe initiated against him. Is it just an issue to keep them on the backfoot?

NARENDRA MODI: This is the proof of the fact that we work on the basis of facts and with a judicious mind and we don't take political decisions in a haste. What Kapil Sibal and company is doing against us, we could have done the same thing in Jaipur. But we don't believe in that. We are proceeding based on facts and we are following the judicial process. If it's not proven then its fine, and if it's true then the country will come to know. This proves our credibility. If we haven't taken such an approach it proves our credibility. You call it a crime. What kind of an approach is this?


NARENDRA MODI: If Vasundharaji would have done that in January, would you have called it vendetta?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: No why would we do that?

NARENDRA MODI: You would have done that. What else would you have done? They are peacefully following the Govt procedures. When the truth has to be revealed, it will be revealed.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But Mr. Modi every time the Vadra case came up, the Congress Party kept responding by asking the questions on Adanis. Mr. Adani himself came out and gave a series of press conferences. He also gave a series of interviews. Now I know Mr. Modi what you will say and I know that the Supreme Court has praised Gujarat model for land acquisition. But I have just one question for you on that. One part that I find difficult to understand and I want clarity from you as a Chief Minister for more than ten years in Gujarat, is that how that land was given at rates of Rs.1 to 31 per square metres to Adanis but were sold at different rates to Tata Motors. For Ford India it was given at Rs. 1,100. So why is there such a difference in the rates at which other corporates are being given land as opposed to Adanis.

NARENDRA MODI: Firstly, if you go to Ahmedabad to buy a piece of land, and if you go to Kutch to buy a piece of land, will there be no difference? Tata is in Ahmedabad. Kutch is a desert area. Mass land near the sea also needs to be considered. Thirdly Arnab, this is a matter of numbers, do you want our Govt to give you all the factual information and then you will show it to the country? Will you do this? Because here Congress Govt has given land at the rate of 20 paisa. Not just that but at this very same location, at the same rate, the Gujarat Govt gave 1,000 Bigha land to Indian Govt. It's at the same location as that of Adanis. Adjoining to the land given to Adanis. Such a large area at this rate only because it's a marshy land. Only water is visible in this land and it has to be filled. And that land is completely barren land. Nothing can be produced there. Not just that, the total area of land that Adanis have got in the entire country, shouldn't you do some research on that? Shouldn't you do some research on the land given to Adanis by the Congress Govt? Yesterday the Commerce Ministry also said that Gujarat Govt's Land acquisition policy is very transparent. The policy does not favour anyone. The policy is not going against anyone. Now Indian Govt's own report says that. This is a political gimmick. Adani himself has responded. Gujarat Govt has responded. You will find my detailed presentation on this on my social media platform. You please see it

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I will surely watch it but I would just ask one follow up question on it. You said that one piece of land is in Gandhi Nagar and the other is in Ahmedabad. But the land of Tata Motors was in Sanand and Maruti Suzuki's land was in Hansalpur.

NARENDRA MODI: These two places are 20 km away from each other. They are just 20-40 km away from each other.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I would like to ask you say that there should be a debate between your Industry Minister Saurabh Patel and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

NARENDRA MODI: I have no problem at all. I have no problem at all.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Are you ready for an open debate?

NARENDRA MODI: Absolutely. I have no problem at all. Instead of a debate I would suggest, you set up a team that is knowledgeable about revenue laws. You just do one thing. Find out the presence of Adanis across India. Find out in what regions they are present and what they have got. Secondly find out if the Gujarat Govt have given anything that's not a part of the policy. Whether my policy is faulty can be debated. A policy can benefit even Arnab and even Tata. Even Vadra can benefit from a policy.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi on the issue of economy, I think there is a need for some clarity. I'll take a few moments. My first question is when the price of petrol is increased, the BJP calls it 'betrayal of the people'. Now, crude prices continue to increase, this will be your real test. You have been critical of subsidies in the past, Mr. Modi can you afford to pull back subsidies given your own political positions on issues of price rise?

NARENDRA MODI: Who has told you this? When have I said anything to this effect?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I can quote you Mr. Modi.

NARENDRA MODI: In my opinion, I will say that the first right to the country's coffers belongs to the poor. The government should cater to the poor. A government should listen to the poor and cater to their needs. These are my exact words.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: What is your take on subsidies?

NARENDRA MODI: Firstly, even in Gujarat, the central government has reduced our quota. I am fending for 11 lakh families from the state government's budget. Can I let the poor people in my country starve to death? Will I ever let that happen? What use is the Government's funds? It's for the poor and we are committed to using it for the same. A country cannot run this way.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I asked you the question because you said on January 19th that 'Congress party offered doles to win the elections'. That was seen to be a reference to subsidies.

NARENDRA MODI: Both are completely different things. If you announce freebies during elections, it gives out a different meaning, while within the economic policies, the schemes allotted for development of downtrodden people is a different thing altogether. These are two different matters.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi, your manifesto says barring the multibrand retail sector, FDI will be allowed in all sectors which are needed for job and asset creation. Does that mean you will revoke FDI in retail? What signal will that give out for investors?

NARENDRA MODI: The government is a continuous process. But, it is very unfortunate when SP creates a district and BSP comes and destroys it, AIADMK takes some decisions and then DMK comes and overrules it to make another. The country cannot run this way. Mature decisions must be taken. BJP has never spoken words of hatred. All we have said is, that the country is now going to face a huge shock in the manufacturing sector, and our youth will lose jobs. Therefore, the country's priority must be to ensure job creation. Our policies must be implemented for job creation, and that will be our priority. For example if they try to trade umbrellas in India from the international market, as a result of which small umbrella-making organisations in our country lose their purpose and are forced to shut down, how are our people going to make their living?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: The basic question is this, Mr. Modi, the question is because of all your years in the RSS and the influence of the RSS and the Andy Marino book on you, which is your political biography, I do not know if it is authorised or unauthorised biography which has just come out, seems to indicate that you were completely not in agreement with the RSS on their economic views. So my straight and simple question is will you be guided more by the pro market reformist approach which you have shown a lot of enthusiasm for or will you be guided more by the Swadeshi RSS approach?

NARENDRA MODI: Firstly all the books that have been written on me, be it a political biography or a biography or an autobiography, or whatever, I have neither asked anyone to write it nor have I authorised it. Some people have very unscrupulously also misused my name, but I have said nothing in the past. I do not give anyone undeserved attention and I believe only in the last 30 days, maybe some 250 books have been published, so I cannot take responsibility for that.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Let's leave that aside.

NARENDRA MODI: As far as RSS thinking on economic issues goes, all they believe is doing good for the poor. When it comes to me, and if I am in power I believe that I cannot contradict anyone who thinks on the lines of improving the country's economy.


ARNAB GOSWAMI: On the issue of Pakistan, because your foreign policy will be central on Pakistan. You have said now in a recent interview that a confrontational approach is not the best approach in foreign policy relations, so will you allow talks to continue despite ceasefire violations? Despite infiltrations, because these ceasefire violations and infiltrations have really crossed all limits especially in the last 5 years of the UPA. In your speeches you have taken a very strong view on it. Can talks and terror continue?

NARENDRA MODI: Is it possible to have discussions amidst bomb blasts and gunshots? Do you think it is possible to have a discussion amidst the deafening noise of bomb blasts and gunshots? So to have a reasonable discussion, first the blasts and gunshots have to stop.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So you say these things have to stop to hold talks?

NARENDRA MODI: There can be no talks till all this comes to an end. You tell me, we are sitting here but can we continue our conversation if we are surrounded by the noise of bomb blasts and gunshots?

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So you are saying that the export of terror from Pakistan, infiltration cannot continue.

NARENDRA MODI: The Indian Parliament holds a unanimous opinion and no political party has the authority to change this opinion.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But my question is can talks continue? My question is on talks, can talks continue? They have not moved one inch on the 26/11 trial…

NARENDRA MODI: All these issues continue to stay as it was, today.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But if you become the Prime Minister and Pakistan does not change its stance, if there is no progress in the 26/11 trial and infiltration and export of terror continues, then will your government continue talks?

NARENDRA MODI: Why do you think negative? If the country looks strong, then even its companions will change, neighbours will change and the atmosphere will change.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But if it does not change, will talks go on? It is a very straight question.

NARENDRA MODI: Your question is born out of disappointment, whereas my answer has a positive outlook to it.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But, why don't you say talks and terror cannot continue? That was the position of the BJP in these last few years?

NARENDRA MODI: If the country's Government is strong, then the solutions will be found automatically.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: That was the position of the BJP when it was out of power.

NARENDRA MODI: I have given you the answer in other words when I said discussions amidst bomb blasts and gunshots is not possible.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: So you and I are basically saying the same thing. Recently, the interior minister of Pakistan reacted and some say overreacted to your comment on Dawood Ibrahim. Now my question is, considering the UPA government has completely failed to bring back Dawood Ibrahim, we keep giving them files on Dawood Ibrahim and if I am not mistaken, we gave them another file a few days back. Will you adopt the same tactics of asking and pleading with Pakistan to cooperate on Dawood Ibrahim because all the intelligence proof says that he is in Pakistan and that he lives in Karachi and he has the support and the patronage of the Pakistan government and the ISI?

NARENDRA MODI: I believe you are making a non-issue an issue here. Non-issue in the sense that it is not an issue of greater importance.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: But, he is India's most wanted.

NARENDRA MODI: But at this stage of the elections, it is not right to play with this topic. What was my point of debate? I was asked a question on Shinde. My answer was regarding India's Home Minister. My answer was not regarding any terrorist or underworld person. He wanted to talk about it in a press conference and all I said was that such issues cannot be dealt with during press conferences. Did Obama call a press conference before conducting the operation? All I said is, during the elections, such big talk by the Home minister does not show well on him. I am not referring to any other particular person, or should I disturb the current scenario with this kind of a talk. There is government machinery in place and it will do its job.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: I know what you said, you said did the Americans talk with Bin Laden, my question is can the old policy continue?

NARENDRA MODI: I asked, did he hold a press conference before the operation? These were my words. Why does Shinde always need to do a press conference first? During elections, will this type of a press conference now show well on him? My issue was Shinde, my issue was a statement. My issue was not with a concerned person.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: On America, I know you have been asked the question on the visa ban and you have given a reply and I do not want to repeat the same question and give the same answer. I just want to ask you one question to get your full sense on foreign policy. There has been a view that the UPA government has been soft on foreign policy issues and you have talked about it yourself and also specially there has been a view that the Manmohan Singh government has been too soft towards America. I will give you one example and I want an answer, which I think will allow our viewers to read your mind. Recently the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called off a state visit to the United States in September last year because there were news reports that America had spied on her communications and that of other Brazilians. Mr. Modi at the same time, it was also revealed that the United States snooped on the Indian embassy as well and India was the 5th most tracked country by the American intelligence agencies and it was revealed offically. In such a scenario, I want to know from you, would you have reacted in the way that the Brazillian president did or would you have reacted in the way that the UPA Govt reacted?

NARENDRA MODI: When we get first hand information, we will analyse it and will come to a conclusion on what to do.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Would you have been tougher?

NARENDRA MODI: My simple answer is I do not have any information, I cannot go through media reports. Once we form the government, we will get the correct information, analyse it and formulate our strategy.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi, two more questions, one which you have been asked very often. In a Narendra Modi Govt, will Rajnath Singh or Sushma Swaraj be in the Cabinet? Will they find space in the Cabinet?

NARENDRA MODI: Thank you for already forming the Government for me, please do leave some work for me to accomplish too. Leave some decisions for my party, our team will sit and decide on these things.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: You know the context of my question, will they find space in your Cabinet?

NARENDRA MODI: The team will decide, the whole team will discuss and decide, what should be done and how it will be done.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: One view is that you have run a very effective campaign, a very tough campaign and a very aggressive campaign. When and if you form a government Mr.Modi, the same strength of yours where you can take a lot of responsibility, some critics say could be your weakness where you over centralise, I want you to give your clear view today before we wrap up this interview.

NARENDRA MODI: Instead of taking my view , it would be better if you check my 14 year track record first. You will be surprised to see that all the credit that I am being given for the development of Gujarat is wrong. In reality it is a team that is working. You will be surprised to see that I essentially do not have any work in the Government. For 14 years, I have had no work. I do not have to do any Government work, I delegate it to my team, all the ministers have their professional freedom, but yes we do sit down every week for a discussion where we evaluate our situation and then move ahead. I do not have any other role apart from this. So the success in Gujarat is because all the teams are empowered. Also, secondly by God's grace I still believe that every idea must be institutionalised and then that institutionalised activity will work. In 2002, when there were talks of Gujarat being in a desperate situation, where there was no investment in the state, I decided to tackle the situation head on.

By 2003, I got everything ready for heavy publicity, with a view that I will bring investors back into Gujarat. The entire media was up in arms against me and the situation was made to be like, if somebody invested a rupee into the state it would have been a big crime. We worked hard for some 8-9 months at a stretch, everyday we would hold exhaustive meetings, and even my officers in Vibrant Summit were very enthusiastic about it. In 2005 I would attend about 2-4 meetings I would enquire about all that was happening, in 2007 they would come and brief me about the ongoings. But by 2009, 2011, 2013 I have only gone to Vibrant summit for its inauguration and I did not have to look into how things were being done, and it was being done better than ever before. I hold a month long 'Krishi Mahotsav' where I go to the fields of the farmers with all my Government officials. In the beginning, it took me around 15 days to conceptualise this, but for the last 10 years I am just informed and I go for the event, all the other institutional work gets done. So basically, I am a team worker and human resource management is in my blood and so optimum utilisation of the resources be it human, time or monetary resources, I am gifted by the Almighty in that respect. I myself do nothing. You will be surprised and I am sure in the entire country no other politician will ever admit to something like this. I do nothing, everything is done by my team and I believe that the team must work this way in unison.

ARNAB GOSWAMI: Mr. Modi, thank you very much for talking to me.

NARENDRA MODI: My greetings to all the viewers of Times Now and I would like to tell you that 8 phases of polls have been completed and the 9th one is to begin and the power of democracy is its people and I revere them.

Courtesy: The Economic Times

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October 29, 2020

1.It’s been seven months since India launched its fight against coronavirus through the first lockdown in March. What’s your assessment on how we have fared?

I am sure we all agree that this virus is something unknown, nothing like what has happened earlier in the past. So, while tackling this new unknown enemy, our response also evolves

I am no health expert but my assessment is based on numbers. I think we should assess our coronavirus fight against the metric of how many lives we are able to save.

The virus is proving to be very fickle. At one time, some places like Gujarat were seen as hot spots while the situation seemed to be under control in Kerala, Karnataka etc. After a few months, things have improved in Gujarat but turning for the worse in Kerala.

This is why I feel there is no room for complacency. I stressed the same in my recent message to the nation on October 20 that the only way forward is to take precautions such as wearing mask, hand washing and social distancing because ‘Jab tak dawai nahin, tab tak dhilai nahin.’

2. But has it broadly panned out the way you expected or have you had to improvise and innovate constantly?

We decided to be proactive and introduce a timely nationwide lockdown. When we introduced a lockdown, the total number of cases was in a few hundreds, unlike many countries that adopted a lockdown when the cases were in the thousands. We imposed lockdown at a very critical point in the pandemic trajectory.

We not only got the broad timing of various phases of lockdown right, we also got the unlock process right and much of our economy is also coming back on track. The data for August and September indicates that.

India has taken a science-driven approach in response to Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Such an approach proved beneficial.

Studies now show that this response helped avoiding a situation which could have led to rapid spread of the virus with many more deaths. In addition to the timely lockdown, India was among the first countries to mandate wearing of masks, use a contact-tracing app and deploy rapid antigen tests.

For a pandemic of this dimension, it would not have been possible to manage if the country was not united. The entire country stood together to fight this virus. The Covid warriors, who are our frontline healthcare workers, knowing well the threat to their life, fought for this country.

3. What’s your biggest learning?

One positive learning in the past few months has been the significance of delivery mechanisms that reach the last mile. Much of this delivery mechanism was built in the first term of our government and it has helped us immensely in facing this once-in-a-century pandemic.

I will give just two examples. First, through the Direct Benefit Transfer regime, we were able to transfer cash straight to the bank accounts of millions of people almost instantly. This entire infrastructure to enable this was built in the last six years. Earlier, even in relatively smaller natural calamities, relief did not reach the poor and there was massive corruption.

But we were able to reach relief on a massive scale to people in a very short time, without any complaints of corruption. That is the power of technology in governance. To give a contrast, perhaps you could enlighten your readers on how India fared during the smallpox epidemic in the 1970s.

And second, the behavioural change that a billion-plus people had adapted to in such a short span of time — wearing masks and maintaining social distance — is a world model of public participation without any coercive enforcement.

Union and state governments have been working in a seamless manner as one team, public and private sectors have come together, all ministries converged to shoulder diverse responsibilities, and peoples’ participation ensured a united and effective fight.

4. What’s your assessment of the state of spread of Covid-19 in India?

The pro-active measures taken in the early stages of the virus has helped us prepare our defences against the pandemic. Though, even one untimely death is extremely painful, for a country of our size, openness, and connectivity, we have among the lowest Covid-19 mortality rates in the world. Our recovery rate continues to be high and our active cases are significantly falling.

From a peak of almost 97,894 daily cases in mid-September, we are reporting only around 50,000 new cases in late October. This has been made possible because entire India came together and worked as Team India.

5. Recent trends suggest a bending of the curve both in active cases and fatalities, raising hopes that the worst may be behind us. Do you also share this view, based on data available with the government?

This is a new virus. Countries which had initially controlled the outbreak are now reporting a resurgence.

The geographical spread of India, population density, the regular social gatherings must be kept in mind when we look at these numbers and seek to compare with others. Many of our states are larger than countries.

Within the country, the impact is very diverse — there are some areas where it’s minimal, while there are some states where it’s very focused and persistent. Yet it must be kept in mind that in a country with more than 700 districts, the impact is seen only in some districts of a few states.

Our latest numbers of new cases, mortality rate and total active cases do indicate a lower phase than some time ago, yet we cannot be complacent. The virus is still out there. It thrives on our complacency.

I feel that our response should be focused on increasing capabilities to handle the situation, make people more aware, create more facilities etc in keeping with the dictum ‘Hope for the best but prepare for the worst’.

6. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a debilitating impact on the economy, which you have sought to address by aiming to strike the right balance between lives and livelihood. How successful do you think the government has been in this endeavour?

It has been more than seven decades since we got Independence, but still some people have the colonial hangover that people and governments are two different entities. The perception that this calamity has fallen on the government emanates from this mindset. The pandemic has affected 130 crore people and both the government and the citizenry are working together to combat it.

Since the time Covid-19 started, it was frightening to witness scores of people dying in various countries all over the world. Their health systems were crumbling under the sudden load of patients. Both old and young were dying indiscriminately. At that point, our aim was to avoid a similar situation in India and to save lives. This virus was like an unknown enemy. It was unprecedented.

When one is fighting an invisible enemy, it takes time to understand it and evolve an effective strategy to counter it. We had to reach out to 130 crore Indians and make them aware of the dangers we are facing from the virus and the manner in which we could save ourselves and our family members.

It was a very challenging task. It was important to awaken Jan Chetna. Awakening of Jan Chetna becomes possible only through Jan Bhagidari. Through Janata curfew, signifying the collective national resolve by banging of thaalis or by coming together by lighting lamps, we used Jan Bhagidari to bring all Indians on one platform. This is an incredible example of mass awareness in a short span of time.

7. And what was the economic strategy?

Saving lives was not limited to saving lives from Covid-19. It was also about providing enough food and essentials to the poor. Even when most of the experts and newspapers were asking the government to release an economic package for the corporate sector, our focus was to save lives among the vulnerable populations. We first announced PM Garib Kalyan package to alleviate the suffering of the poor people, the migrants, farmers.

One special insight and understanding that came early to us was that the agriculture sector is one where the rule of social distancing can be more naturally maintained without compromising on productivity. So, we allowed agriculture activities almost from the very start. And we all see the results today with this sector doing exceptionally well despite so many months of disruption.

Record distribution of foodgrain, Shramik Special trains and proactive procurement were undertaken for both the immediate and medium-term needs of the people.

To ameliorate the hardships being faced by people we came up with an Atmanirbhar Bharat package. This package addressed issues being faced by all sections of the society and all sectors of the economy.

This also provided us an opportunity to carry out reforms that were waiting to happen for decades but no one earlier took the initiative. Reforms across sectors such as coal, agriculture, labour, defence, civil aviation and so on have been undertaken which will help us get back on the high growth path that we were on before the crisis.

Our efforts are bearing result as the Indian economy is already getting back on track faster than expected.

8. Your government has initiated two key second-generation reforms — the farm and labour reforms. How optimistic are you of these initiatives delivering the desired economic dividend, especially in the light of overall economic slowdown and political opposition?

Experts have been advocating these reforms for a long time. Even political parties have been asking for votes in the name of these reforms. Everyone desired that these reforms should happen. The issue is that the opposition parties do not wish that we get the credit.

We also don’t want credit. We brought reforms keeping in mind the welfare of farmers and workers. And they understand and trust our intentions because of our track record.

We have gone about reforming the agriculture sector step by step in the past six years. So what we have done today is one piece in the chain of actions that we started in 2014. We also hiked MSPs multiple times and in fact, we procured many times more from farmers at MSP than earlier governments did. Both irrigation and insurance saw huge improvement. Direct income support was ensured for farmers.

What has been lacking in Indian farming is commensurate return for all the blood and toil put in by our farmers. The new structure brought by these reforms will significantly increase the profitability of our farmers. As in other industries, once the profits are earned, it is reinvested back in the sector for generating more produce. A virtuous cycle of profit and reinvestment emerges. In the farming sector as well, this cycle will open doors for more investment, innovation and new technology. Thus, these reforms hold immense potential to transform not just the agriculture sector but the entire rural economy.

On MSP, in the just completed Rabi marketing season, the Central government has procured 389.9 lakh MT of wheat, an all-time record, with 75,055 crore going to farmers as MSP.

In the ongoing Kharif marketing season, up to 159.5 lakh MT of paddy has been procured, compared to 134.5 lakh MT at the same point last year, an increase of 18.62%. All this happened after we brought the three ordinances, which have now been passed by Parliament.

MSP payment to farmers for paddy has gone up by 1.5 times, wheat by 1.3 times, pulses by 75 times and oilseeds by 10 times during the last five years compared to five years of UPA-2 (2009-10 to 2013-14). This proves the lie and dishonesty of those who are spreading the canard about MSP.

9. And what about labour reforms?

These reforms are very pro-worker. They are now entitled to all benefits and social security even if hired for fixed term. The labour reforms will help create significant employment while also protecting the worker by ensuring minimum wage reforms, provision for social security for workers in the informal sector, and minimising government interference. It will ensure timely payment of wages and give priority to occupational safety of the workers, thus contributing to a better working environment.

In the last few weeks, we have finished what we had set out to do. The 44 central labour laws with over 1,200 sections have been assimilated into just four codes. There will now be just one registration, one assessment and one return filing. Along with easier compliance, this will lead to a stable regime for businesses to invest and create a win-win situation for the employee and the employer.

For manufacturing sector, in the last six years, we have taken a number of reform measures from cutting down corporate tax rate to 15% for new manufacturing units to raising FDI limits and allowing private investment in strategic sectors like space, defence and so on. Essentially, reforms for the manufacturing sector were in place with one piece of the jigsaw remaining — the labour reforms. We have done that as well. It was often jokingly said India had more labour laws than labour in the formal sector. Labour laws often helped everyone except the labour. Holistic growth cannot happen until India’s workforce gets the benefits of formalisation.

I am confident that these reforms undertaken in the last few months will help increase the growth rate and returns in both the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. Moreover, it will also signal to the world that this is a new India which believes in markets and market forces.

10. One criticism is that the flexibility to lay off employees has been extended to factories employing up to 300 people. But giant factories in electronics, garments and other sectors employ many more. Why not extend this flexibility to all factories while sharply increasing compensation for those laid off? Also, what are your views on the criticisms around curtailment of the right to strike?

India was suffering from a twin problem: Our labour laws were such that most workers did not have any social security. And companies did not want to hire more workers for the fear of labour laws, which disincentivised labour-intensive production. The inspector-raj system and complicated labour laws had a strong deterrent effect on employers.

We need to come out of the mindset that industry and labour are always in conflict with each other. Why not have a mechanism where both benefit equally? Since labour is a concurrent subject, the law gives flexibility to state governments to modify the codes further as per their unique situation and requirements.

The right to strike has not been curtailed at all. In fact, trade unions have been conferred with a new right, enabling them to get statutory recognition.

We have made the employer-employee relation more systematic and symmetrical. The provision of notice period gives an opportunity for amicable settlement of any grievance between employees and employers.

11. The GST system has come under considerable stress from Covid-19. The Centre has for now agreed to borrow money and pass on to states. But looking ahead, how do you foresee the situation for state governments?

The last six years have seen the spirit of competitive and cooperative federalism in all our actions. A country as large as ours cannot develop only on the one pillar of the Centre, it needs the second pillar of states. The fight against Covid-19 also got strengthened because of this approach. Decisions were taken collectively. I had video-conferences with CMs multiple times to hear their suggestions and inputs, which has no parallel in history.

On the GST, this is by all accounts an extraordinary year. Most assumptions and calculations did not take into account a once-in-a-century pandemic. Yet, we have proposed options to move forward and most states are fine with them. A consensus is evolving.

12. You have been a chief minister for many years. What kind of collaboration do you propose with states on the economic side in the current context?

It’s important to remember that the Centre-state relationship is not limited to GST. Despite the pandemic and the fall in gross tax revenue, we have provided enhanced resource transfers to states. Between April and July, the sum total of devolution of taxes plus grants-in-aid to states, including centrally sponsored schemes, increased by 19% to 4.06 lakh crore from 3.42 lakh crore in the same period last year. In short, while our revenues fell, we sustained the flow of funds to states.

In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the central government also allowed additional borrowing limit of up to 2% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) to states for the year 2020-21. This amounted to 4.27 lakh crore being made available to states. The Centre has already granted permission to states to raise the first 0.5% in June 2020. This made an additional amount of 1,06,830 crore available to states. On the request of states, the limit of using the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) has been increased from 35% to 50%. This was done to ensure more finances with states to fight Corona.

13. Many argue that the Centre passes its troubles to states. Your thoughts?

Let me give you an example of what used to happen earlier. When VAT replaced the CST under the UPA government, they had promised to compensate states for any revenue shortfall. But you know what UPA did? They refused to compensate states despite their commitment. Not just for one year but continuously for five years. This was one of the reasons why states did not agree to GST regime under UPA. Despite the fact that it was a different government which made that commitment, we took it upon ourselves to clear those dues when we assumed power in 2014. This shows our approach to federalism.

14. The government’s critics have said India ended up high on both columns — number of infections and economic contraction. How do you respond to such criticism?

There are some people who are so intelligent that they use absolute number of cases to compare our country with other countries which have population similar to our states.

However, I expect The Economic Times to do better research and not regurgitate such arguments. While looking at our current numbers, we should also look at what kind of huge numbers were forecast by experts in March.

15. What are the five economic parameters you would point to as clear indicators of a bounce back? Specifically, what kind of a rebound do you expect next year?

We are on our way to economic recovery. Indicators suggest the same. First, in agriculture, as I said earlier, our farmers have broken all records and we have also done record procurement at the highest ever levels of MSP. These two factors — record production and record purchase — are going to inject significant income in the rural economy which will have its own virtuous cycle of demand generation. Second, record high FDI inflows indicate India’s growing image as an investor friendly country. This year, despite the pandemic, we received the highest ever FDI of $35.73 billion for April-August. This is 13% higher than the same period last year, which was also a record year. Third, auto sales along with tractor sales are either reaching or surpassing previous year levels. This indicates a strong resurgence in demand. Fourth, a steady recovery in the manufacturing sector helped India climb two notches to the third position among key emerging markets after China and Brazil in September. The manufacturing growth is reflected in the first year-on-year rise in exports in seven months. E-way bills and GST collections growth has also been healthy.

Finally, in terms of new net subscribers of EPFO, the month of August 2020 registered a 34% jump compared to July 2020 with addition of more than a million new subscribers. This shows that the job market is picking up.

Other than that, foreign exchange reserves have touched a record high. Key indicators of economic recovery like railway freight traffic increased by more than 15% and power demand by 4% in September over the same month last year. This shows that recovery is broad based. Plus, Aatmanirbhar Bharat announcements are a big stimulus to the economy, particularly to small businesses and the informal sector.

16. What’s your plan for further stimulus?

We will take all measures needed to constantly stimulate the economy in a timely manner while ensuring overall macro-economic stability. Remember, we are still not over with the pandemic. Yet, our economy has shown a remarkable capability to bounce back, largely because of the resilience of our people. This is something which is not captured in these numbers, but is the reason behind those numbers. The shop-owner, the trader, the person running a MSME, the person working on factory floor, the entrepreneur, all these are the heroes responsible for the strong market sentiment and revival of the economy.

17. You seem to believe that India can still emerge as a major world hub for manufacturing, especially by becoming part of global supply chains at a time when companies are looking to de-risk their exposure to China. What is the progress in this regard? Can India emerge as a credible alternative to China in global supply chains?

India has not started speaking about manufacturing only after the pandemic. We have been working on increasing manufacturing for sometime now. India is, after all, a young country with a skilled workforce. But India doesn’t believe in gaining from the loss of others. India will become a global manufacturing hub on its own strengths. Our effort is not to become some country’s alternative, but to become a country which offers unique opportunities. We want to see the progress of all. If India progresses, 1/6th of humanity will progress.

We saw how a new world order was formed after World War II. Something similar will happen post Covid-19. This time, India will ride the bus of manufacturing and integrating in global supply chains. We have specific advantages in the form of democracy, demography and demand.

18. So, what are the policy measures you propose to enable India take this giant leap?

India’s pharma sector, during the past few months, has already demonstrated the way ahead. India has emerged as a key player in global pharma supply chains. We have become the second largest manufacturer of PPE kits in a very short duration. India is also making a mark in manufacturing technologically advanced items like ventilators and from almost negligible capacity earlier, we are now manufacturing thousands of ventilators in quick time.

From independence till the pandemic started, around 15-16 thousand ventilators in working condition existed in government hospitals across India. Now, we are moving rapidly towards adding another 50000 ventilators these hospitals.

Now, that we have successfully established this model. We can emulate it in other fields. Our recently launched production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes for mobile manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical devices are good examples of this focused and targeted approach to attract internationally reputed investors to create capacities with global scales and competitiveness, as well as make India their export hub. In the mobile phone segment alone, it’s expected that production worth over 10 lakh crore will take place over the next five years, of which 60% will be exports.

According to Moody’s, 154 greenfield projects from the US have come to India in 2020, compared to 86 in China, 12 in Vietnam and 15 in Malaysia. This is a clear indication of global confidence in India’s growth story going forward. We have laid strong foundations to make India the foremost manufacturing destination.

The corporate tax cut, introduction of commercial mining in coal sector, opening up of space sector for private investment, lifting defence restrictions on air routes for civil aviation use, are some steps that will go a long way in boosting growth.

But what we should also understand is that India can grow only as fast as our states do. There needs to be healthy competition among the states in attracting investment. States are also competing on the Ease of Doing Business rankings. Incentives alone may not be enough to bag investments, states will need to build infrastructure and follow good development-related policies.

19. There is fear in some quarters that the Atmanirbhar initiative marks a return to the days of autarky. Some say there is a contradiction between India seeking to become part of global supply chains while restricting imports. Your views?

It’s not in the nature of India or Indians to be inward looking or self-centered. We are a forward-looking civilization and a vibrant democracy that looks to interact with other countries to build a better world. Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not just about competition but also about competence, it’s not about dominance but about dependability, it’s not about looking within but about looking out for the world.

So, when we say Aatmanirbhar Bharat, we mean an India that is, first of all, self-reliant. A self-reliant India is also a reliable friend for the world. A self-reliant India does not mean an India that is self-centred. When a child reaches the age of 18, even the parents tell him or her to become Aatmanirbhar. This is natural.

Today we are using our aatmanirbharta to help the world in the medical field. For instance, we are producing vaccines and drugs without increasing costs or putting restrictions. A relatively poor country like ours incurs a huge cost to educate doctors, who are today spread across the globe, helping humanity. We never stopped them from migrating.

When India becomes Aatmanirbhar in a certain field, it always helps the world. If someone doesn’t understand the ethos and spirit of India, they won’t understand this concept.

20. So, there’s no contradiction?

Confusion among experts is not necessarily a contradiction in our approach. We have just eased restrictions for FDI through reforms like you see in agriculture, labour and coal. Only a country that believes in the power of international trade and commerce would go on opening up more and more avenues to work with the world. At the same time, it’s also true that India has been unable to realise its potential in sectors where it has inherent comparative advantages. Take coal for instance. India imported nearly 1.5 lakh crore worth of coal in 2019-20, despite having one of the biggest reserves in the world. Defence is another area of import dependence for us. While we have increased the FDI limit from 49 to 74%, domestic production for 101 items worth 3.5 lakh crore over the next five years has also been announced.

In the past, while opening our markets, we also signed 10 free trade agreements (FTAs) and 6 preferential trade agreements (PTAs). The assessment of existing FTAs should happen on the metric of how they have benefited for India and not on the basis of ideological standing.

India is keen to be part of global value chains and wants to do trade deals but they have to be fair and non-discriminatory. Moreover, since India would be providing access to a large market, the agreements must be reciprocal and balanced.

We gave preferential access to our large market under our FTAs. However, our trading partners have not always reciprocated with the same treatment. Our exporters have often faced ill-intended non-tariff barriers. For example, while our trading partners can export steel to India, few trading partners don’t allow the import of Indian steel. Similarly, Indian tyre manufacturers are unable to export due to technical barriers. While India remains committed to openness and transparency in trade, it will use the measures and instruments at its disposal in ensuring free and fair access for its exporters.

In the case of RCEP, India made its best efforts for a final conclusion. We wanted a level playing field based on fair trade practices and transparency. We expressed serious concerns over non-tariff barriers and opaqueness of subsidy regimes in some RCEP countries. India took a considered position not to join RCEP, highlighting the fact that the current structure did not reflect RCEP guiding principles nor address outstanding issues.

21. It appears from government assessments that FTAs have not worked in India’s favour. We also walked out of RCEP. How has your thinking evolved on subject? Do you think we should pursue FTAs at all?

The guiding principle behind International trade is to create win-win solutions for all countries involved. And I am told by experts, that ideally trade deals should be global and multilateral through the WTO. India has always adhered to global trade rules and stood for a free, fair, equitable, transparent and rules-based international trading system, which should fulfil the intended developmental objectives and aspirations of developing countries, as envisaged under the WTO.

22. India has emerged as a major producer of PPE and masks. Pharma has emerged as a strategic sector. Going forward, how do you strengthen our advantage in this area?

We realised at the start of the pandemic that we were dependent on imports for PPEs. The problem aggravated after countries imposed lockdowns, which affected manufacturing, resulting in disruption of global supply chains. This essentially meant that the country was to quickly think of ways to become self-reliant in the time of crisis.

We followed a very focused hands-on approach, identifying and sourcing each and every raw material for this purpose. We worked 24x7 with the industry and state governments to meet the objective of making and procuring PPE Kits, N-95 masks, ventilators, diagnostic kits etc. Once these issues were sorted, indigenous production started and orders were placed on domestic manufacturers for procurement. India is now in a position where we are not only meeting our domestic demand but are also capable of meeting the demand of other countries.

India lived up to its name of being the Pharmacy of the World in the last few months, supplying drugs and medical equipment to around 150 countries. The Indian pharma sector has a size of about $38 billion. To strengthen this advantage, government has approved an outlay of 1,40,00 crore for production of medical devices and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Bulk drug parks and medical devices parks are being created for attaining global leadership position.

23. A vaccine is likely to become available next year. Is there some thinking on distribution and priorities in terms of who will be vaccinated?

First and foremost, I would like to assure the nation that, as and when a vaccine becomes available, everyone will be vaccinated. None will be left behind. Of course, initially we may focus on protecting the most vulnerable and the frontline workers. A National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 Vaccine has been constituted to chart the way forward.

We should also realise that vaccine development is still work in progress. Trials are on. Experts can’t say what the vaccine will be, its dosage per person, periodicity or how it’s to be administered etc. All this, when finalised by experts, will also guide our approach on taking the vaccine to citizens.

On logistics, more than 28,000 cold chain points will store and distribute Covid-19 vaccines to ensure they reach the last point. Dedicated teams at state, district and local levels will see to it that the vaccine distribution and administration is done in a systematic and accountable manner. A digital platform to enroll, track and reach the beneficiaries is also being prepared.

24. Given the setback on account of Covid-19, where do we stand on the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024?

Most people who are pessimistic remain in doubt. If you sit among them, you will hear only things of despair and despondency.

However, if you discuss with optimistic people, you will hear ideas and suggestions on how to improve. Today, our country is optimistic of the future, it is optimistic of reaching the $5 trillion target. And this optimism gives us confidence. Today, if our Corona Warriors are working 18-20 hours to serve patients, it also inspires us to put in more hard-work.

So what if we could not move at the desired pace this year due to the pandemic! We will try and run faster in the next year to make up for the loss. Nothing great ever gets done if we get deterred by obstacles in our path. By not aspiring, we guarantee failure. India is the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. We want India to become the third largest in terms of current US dollar prices as well. The $5 trillion target will help us achieve that.

Also, our government has a track record of meeting our targets. We met the rural sanitation target before the deadline, we met the village electrification target before the deadline, we met the 8 crore Ujjwala connections target too well before the deadline. So, going by our track record and continuing reforms, people also have confidence in our abilities to reach the target.

We have given a fair chance to those who have invested in India, shown their trust to expand their capacities and become globally competitive. The Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative is about unlocking India’s latent potential, so that our firms can serve not just domestic markets, but also global ones.

Source : The Economic Times