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Shri Narendra Modi spoke to ABP News’ Special Programme – Ghoshana Patra – and put forth his views on various topics doing the rounds of the political discourse in the country.

Edited full excerpts from the interview -

Q Shazi Zaman (Group Editor, ABP News): According to the format of the show, first question we put up is that why should the country vote for you?

A (Narendra Modi): 2014 poll has brought hope. There is distrust, stagnancy and immense corruption around. On one hand people are hugely disappointed and on the other hand people are thinking whether there is a place where such dirty politics doesn’t exist? Will the country run with a squabble (tu main main). BJP with its track record has developed a trust among the people. This is on the basis of good governance and other is of development. The Country needs a change and even the poor people now realise it now. This election is not of arithmetic calculation but of the chemistry feeling of 125 crore people. 232 seats which have gone to polls has exposed the body language of Congress, you can see the kind of language they use. Due to these reasons, people will make BJP & NDA victorious.

Q SZ: Will NDA attain the majority? You may get seats but what if some parties refuse to give support, then your seat count would be reduced?

A: This is good arithmetic point of view. But this election is not of arithmetic calculations and is of chemistry. Prediction of lot of political pundits would go wrong this time. I have been directly involved with people in this poll; have travelled all over the country. I was a political science student. So I believe BJP will get the clear cut mandate and come to power. With NDA we will grow stronger. In India ‘perception politics’ happens. We have a pre poll alliance of 25 parties. First time in history it has happened.

Q Rajiv Khandekar (Editor – ABP Majha): You have good relation with Mamata, Jayalalithaa but you are making personal attacks on them which you didn’t in your initial campaigning. BJP didn’t have such confidence to attack then? There were talks in Maharashtra that you and Sharad Pawar are good friends and are coming together in this election?

A: If we used such kind of a language earlier then we would have been labelled of having an arrogant approach. It could have affected us. That’s why our strategy was placid and then there was a progressive enfoldment. In the next 10 days more of such will happen which is a part of our strategy.

Q RK: Yeda Bankar Peda Khao…

A: When I will go to Maharashtra I will talk about Sharad Pawar. When in Tamil Nadu I will talk about Jayalalithaa. In West Bengal will talk about Mamata. In Orissa about Naveen Patnaik. Whichever state I go for the first time I express my thoughts. It’s not that the situation changed so our strategy changed. In elections BJP should be clear cut in their thoughts portrayed to people. We do not want to create confusion or else confusion in masses will grow. Why this hypocrisy? In elections we are actually facing a challenge from Mamata and Patnaik. So why mislead the nation?

Q RK: Is there truth that you and Sharad Pawar had plans to come together?

A: No it’s not true. As far as friendship is concerned you will be surprised to know that I have friendly relations with Lalu Yadav (RJD chief). We are in a political life and due to our ideologies our stands are different. But we are all a big family and we are not enemies.

Q Suman De (Editor, ABP Ananda): When you were sure that Mamataji would not enter NDA you became strict, your softened approach turned into a strict Masterji?

A: We knew well in hand that Mamaji would not enter NDA. There were no doubts about it. I said the way the LEFT conditioned this state; Mamataji is taking a very long time to bring the state out of it. The symptoms are not to be seen. More than being angry I am disappointed with the condition of the state.

Q SZ: In your initial campaign your tone was not like this but now it has shifted to personal attacks, why?

A: See nobody wants to make personal attacks but during heat of election such attacks do happen. You call it personal or public. But you tell me if Wall Street Journal has published then is it personal? 2G scam happened, Raja had this role, PM had this role, and so would we call it personal? Some news traders are used by them to divert the issue. I remember during Mumbai attacks these news traders refrained us from commenting on Congress. There should be political satire in the country. Once in Parliament debate, Sharad Pawar gave a speech then Sushmaji also spoke. Sushmaji said she didn’t know if it’s Sharad Pawar speaking or Lalita Pawar. All enjoyed this in Parliament, so did Sharad Pawar. If it would have happened today then news traders would have taken this joke in a completely different direction. There has to be humour, happiness, satire.

Q SZ: You called Robert Vadra jijaji (brother-in-law)

A: We have to identify the person; he is related to a family. If I had another word for it, would have said that.

Q SZ: You are also in public life, personal attack on you also?

A: Country will decide if my allegations or allegations on me are true?

Q RK: Till when this allegation will continue you must have thought?

A: Until I don’t lose, until I am not defeated such allegations will continue. People who have been trying to defeat me for the past 12 years have been using all their strength. They couldn’t give me even a scratch. This is their ego problem.

Q RK: Ever thought such a debate and criticism you will have to face over your marital status?

A: I am not surprised about it. Talks also happen of things which are not related to me also. They don’t have anybody so what to do? They will keep on doing it.

Q SD: Mamata Banerjee is going to every district talking about your marital status on your affidavit. How do you feel?

A: I don’t feel anything about it. The ploy they have let them use it. Why should I think so much about the criticism? Let people judge.

Q SZ: There are lots of talks inside & outside BJP. Even about Murli Manohar Joshi issue. With your candidature do lots of people think doors are closed for them?

A: I never proposed my candidature for anything or for any post since I have been born. Decision of me is taken by BJP. I have never asked for my position, never snatched or done any kind of scheming. Whenever I have been bestowed a work, I do it with full dedication, hard work and have sacrificed my life for it.

Q RK:  Is the RSS fighting election or the BJP? What’s your take on it?

A: Not any candidate, party or organisation is fighting elections. It’s being fought by people and the entire country.

Q SD: Do you think you have won if you become PM?

A: What is our aim, aim of the people is to eradicate this current government. That happens then the aim is fulfilled or else there is no win.

Q RK: You have been associated with RSS. Will reflection of RSS be seen in your future tasks if you become the PM?

A: I have to run the country. There is only one religion that is “India first” and we work according to the constitution. We have to take everyone together for development and that’s my only prayer.

Q RK: You and Mohan Bhagwat are both 1950 born. You have benefitted from him for what you are today?

A: His father has benefitted me a lot. His father was a pracharak in Gujarat. Lot of love I got from him.

Q SZ: Important question are Muslims scared of you? You look at people who support you and the one ones who don’t from the same lens. BJP leader Giriraj Singh said Modi’s critics should go to Pakistan. What do you have to say about that?

A:  Nobody can agree to those (Giriraj) comments. My 2002 speech after winning polls would be in your library. After 2002 victory, in Maninagar that evening I thanked the electorate. I thanked people who voted, who didn’t. This government is for the people who voted, who didn’t and who voted against. My government’s mantra is abhayam, abhayam and abhayam. You can check the 2002 tape.

Q RK: In Bunch of thoughts it’s mentioned that minorities should accept culture of majority and it will then solve a lot of problems. What’s your say?

A: Programme of Bunch of thoughts book review should be organized. Experts should be called. The country would benefit we call these experts who are for and against it. It should be aired on ABP News.

Q: SZ: You are fighting on issue of development. But there is a communal stand on your Pink revolution comments. Your comments.

A: I don’t understand why communalism angle is infused into it. Somebody just make me understand. Ones who do cattle breeding should not lose their animals. The cattle which are not in good circumstances give 1.5 litre and not 4 litre. In many states and villages farmers are dying and their cattle is also destroyed. We need to worry about milk productivity. Need to think in a scientific manner. In India it is difficult for a person to undergo cataract operation. In my state cattle are undergoing cataract operations, dental treatment. I sent team of veterinary team of doctor to US. The cattle should not lose blood. Now with their study these doctors came and now these animals are undergoing laser operation technique. We cannot neglect them; it is unfortunate that people are calling it communal.

Q SZ: Lot of families are run due to slaughter houses. Another question is the meat export during NDA rule. Why didn’t your government do anything then?

A: I will see what problems they had then. I don’t have much initial detail of it, could be that cattle which didn’t produce milk were in huge number. Today the situation is more serious. It is not right to say that just one community is linked to it. My Jain brothers are in this profession as well. If due to environment businesses flop then we don’t look at religion involved in it right? We worry about environment; similarly we have to look at the rural economy. So country’s problem is not Modi but a “stagnated perverted mindset”. They want to take every issue to that one corner.

Q SD: When you talk of Delhi sultanat, Shehzada…people say it targets a specific community? You never say Rajkumar.

A: We used to read the word Shehzada in our history books. For Soniaji I used to call her Rajmata.

Q SZ: You have been questioned a lot about riots and taking responsibility for it, your court cases and puppy remark. My question is a little different, a person loses his/her life in a state, CM takes accountability for it, and do you take responsibility for it?

A: From Day 1 I have taken. In my State Assembly speeches, in all my interviews, everything is available.

Q SZ: It feels like you are trying to increase your rapport with the Muslim community.

A: My responsibility is to reach out to 6 crore Gujaratis in the state. I am trying my best to reach out to 100 cr. This is part of my responsibility and I must do it. Primary job is to reach out to every citizen from every state.

Q SZ: In that even the Muslim community is there?

A: I understand only one language that they are Indians and are my brothers. You can look at it from any colour. This kind of language what is being used has ruined the nation. I don’t care if I lose elections but will never own such kind of a mindset.  I would request you to stop attacking me on my swatantrata.

Q: RK: Whenever 2002 question is put up, you say you have talked about it earlier.

A: Till 2007 I have responded to everyone to all questions asked. You can read it in print media, electronic media. Yes, in 2007 when UPA again tried to take all legal routes to drag me to court then I stopped talking as I didn’t want it to influence the issue because of Supreme Court ruling. Has any CM been grilled for 9 hours? SC has seen the tape as it ordered the questioning. I have been through all those hurdles and I am ready for it. Modi won’t surrender to such false political intentions.

Q RK: The demands that are asked to you are politically motivated?

A: That you decide whose agenda you have brought forward.

Q SZ: How will good days come? I have read your manifesto, lot of claims and promises are not mentioned in it, so how will it happen and when?

A: Everywhere is there an expiry date on it? Some tasks are there which are primary and some need to be addressed soon, some take 5 years. This manifesto is not for the entire century but is for a government’s 5 year tenure.

Q SZ: Will black money really come back to India? Are you raising a hope which would never be fulfilled?

A: There is a debate in the country that black money in foreign banks and no dispute about it. Lot of information channels which say there are hundreds of crores, some say thousands of crores. We will set up framework of legal team, with international relations and in accordance with international law.

Q SD: Inflation is the biggest problem which has been witnessed in our survey. How will your government control it and which sector you will give priority?

A: There are different set of problems. There is no real time data of our agriculture produce. We export pulses and then at four times the price we import pulses. Similarly we do it for sugar. In eight rupees we first export and in 80 rupees we import. This is a mess. If we have real time data we know how much wheat we have in stock, how much the requirement is? We can then analyse that if South India has started consuming wheat we should transfer then and in storage houses.

Q. SD But this is a longer term plan?

A: No this is not long term. This is done immediately. Secondly Food Corporation of India has failed miserably. They should be divided in three parts. One is farmers’ cultivation, second is storage. Our grains are being eaten by rats & gets damp. Third is distribution. In Railways marble is being loaded first and tomatoes are being ignored which get rotten. Agriculture has to be given priority. Farmer’s produce has to reach people in time. It’s about applying mind and then only can find a solution to it.

Q SZ: I heard you called us news trader.

A: Didn’t say to you

Q SZ: Ok, Thank You

A: You decide if you come in the news trader category or media. Why would I charge you?

Q SZ: If you form government, should media be afraid of you?

A: If any media org is scared of somebody then they should leave the industry itself. We don’t want a media which cornered by any force, we need media which is stronger & projects the truth. If someone is running away due to fear let me know, I will help.

Q RK: Media will be scared if a big leader in the country gives it a stamp of being a news trader.

A: Again verify. I only talk of news trader and not the media. I respect the media & it is your job to hunt such news traders. Media is the strength of democracy and should run in any kind of fear.

Q SZ: Your government will be of Ambani and Adani?

A: This is not your question. This is a myth spread by political parties which is being carried by you. We don’t expect this from you. Since 14 years people are talking about my government, that’s my identity. No middlemen roam in our corridor people say. My track record says. People say this government cannot be rushed or works under influence.

Q SZ: Rahul toffee remark. You haven’t responded to his Adani allegations?

A: I don’t have full details with me but want to tell you. Congress ruled between 1985-95 and at what price they gave away land is available. In 1997 Shankar Singh Vaghela government was there. Land was given is 25 paise and some land in 5 paise.  We came and set parameters. SC has said other states should follow our policies in land issue. Its upto you to believe Rahul or SC. I request you should send a reporter to do research and then prove that this leader is lying.

Q SD: Rahul Gandhi, your political opponent, has said that if your government is formed, it will be a government of rich people. What is your response?

A: See, you should judge this in accordance with my track record. I hold a Vibrant Gujarat Summit every year to promote investment in my state, and it has been so successful that every state is doing it now. So in a way we have set a trend. But I do this only once in two years, for two days. But every year in June, on 13, 14 and 15, when the temperature in Gujarat is 45 degrees and it is next to impossible to step out of the house; the Chief Minister, with all the ministers, all IAS officers, all IPS officers and all officials of the forest service, all of us go to the villages, from house to house, sweating in the heat to get girls to go to school, and this is the reason that today my state has 100% enrolment. Thousands of cattle camps are organised at my place, and it is the result of this that milk production has increased 85-90%. There used to be minus agricultural growth in my state, we are not an agricultural state at all, there is no water source, but every year we have a month long agricultural festival every year, that too, before the rainy season. Meaning that in the heat of May and June, the 800 agricultural colleges of the university, nearly thousand progressive farmers of the state, the government’s whole agriculture department, irrigation department, animal husbandry department, and the ministers and chief minister himself, all of us go to the villages for a whole month. We sit with the farmers and discuss how old methods can be discarded and new ones adopted, what fertilizers and pesticides should be used, what shouldn’t be used. We are the first in India who started the soil health card. In India people don’t have health cards, but in our state farmers have a soil health card. The soil health card tells him what the deficiencies of his land for his crop are and what is needed. As a result, while the agricultural growth of India is not going beyond 2.5%, Gujarat, which has never been an agricultural state, has an average of over 10% of the last 10 years. Do you call all this work, the work of the rich?

Number 2, the growth of small and medium scale industries in our country is 19%, but in Gujarat it is 85%, do you call this the work of the riche?

When I came to power in Gujarat there were 11 universities, today there are 43, do you call this the work of the rich?

When I came to Gujarat there were 13 thousand engineering college seats, now there are 1 lakh 13 thousand, do you call this the work of the rich?

When I came to Gujarat, cotton growers used to produce 23 lakh bales, today it is 1 crore 23 lakh bales, is this the work of the rich?

This politics should end; these balloons of lies should end. The country will not accept these toffee sellers now.

Q SZ: A question about your image now. Those who like you, they like you so much that they wear masks of your face when they step out, while those who don’t like you say that your face itself is a mask. What do you say?

A: If god had given me the power to know and understand myself, then I could have scaled unknown heights, which is way God has probably not given me that power to understand myself. I try to understand myself through friends like you. Sometimes you like me, sometimes you don’t, but I respect them all. Weather it is bitter criticism or blind love, I respect them all. I try to turn the criticism and opposition to love, and show truth to those who blindly love. I will not live a double faced life, I will not face the nation like a mask, I will try to live as I am.

Q RK:  Modi ji, the love for you has led to a new problem in Maharashtra. Raj Thackeray is supporting you, he says that he was the first one to say that you should be Prime Minister, but now the senior leaders of your party are calling him an uninvited guest and saying that if he wants to support then he should come in, or just leave. What is your response to all these exchanges?

A: When the results come on May 16, I am confident that we will not need any such support to form the government. But to run the country we will need everybody’s support, and I believe that in a democracy we need to rise above politics and take everyone’s cooperation to run the country. For running the government we won’t be needing any support, the people will give enough of it. But to run the country, everybody’s support should be taken. If Rahul Gandhi wins from Amethi, even though chances are slim, but if he does and sits as leader of Opposition, then his support should also be taken, that is my opinion. A country does not run like this, everybody has to be taken together to run the country. To run a government it is ok to take the verdict given by people.

Q SZ: There seems to be a difference of opinion within the party on whether action will be taken against Robert Vadra or not?

A: I think this is a very dirty question. On one hand, no one is above the law. Suppose there is an allegation against Narendra Modi, and suppose tomorrow Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister, then should the case against him be initiated or not; just because I became the Prime Minister everything be closed. It cannot be like that, right? I am not above anyone. But I am talking about myself here, not the person you asked about, don’t mix it up, I am sure you won’t play the news trader gimmick. I have 14 years to experience of running a government. I tell you, I have never opened anyone’s file ever. It is my opinion that I had gotten involved in all that then I would just have gotten more lost in it and would have been unable to do any good work. This is my personal opinion, I am not telling this as a government policy. I have separated myself from all this in 14 years and gave support only to new positive initiatives. I am not even aware of them, they are old things and must be in progress, the government knows it’s work. We come in for five years, if we start lugging this garbage around then when will we do some good work. So it is my opinion that my energies not be wasted in garbage. My energies should be directed towards good constructive work. Five years is very little time, if we get caught elsewhere then how will we do any good for the country. Rest the law should take its own course.

Q SZ: This question came up, and I asked this question, because voices within your party said that ‘the son-in-law will go to jail.’

A: See, you asked the wrong question. What is good or bad is not my issue. If you pick up things from every nook and cranny and demand answers from me, then aise kaam kaise chalega (how will we manage). Whatever my party’s official stand is, I will reflect that only.

Q SZ: Now an important national question. Is it true that you initiated a dialogue with a separatist leader?

A: I am just astounded since I heard. Where did this come from? Either way I haven’t kept track of the media today, but I think this had been cleared up, they have stated they are not Modi’s ambassadors. I don’t even know their names; these stories come on the news just like that.

Q SZ: Your party has accused UPA of having a weak stand over Pakistan. What is your definition of a tough stand towards Pakistan?

A: First of all, we want to run the country such, to make the country such, that koi hume aanken na dikhay, and hum bhi duniya kea age aanken dikha kar vyawahar nahi kar sakte hain. The world can neither function with glaring at each other, nor with keeping our eyes down. The conversations should be carried out looking into each other’s eyes, in international groupings; it is reciprocating and the best way.

Q: Did you take any initiative to talk to Kashmiri separatists as Geelani had claimed recently that two persons met him on his behalf?

A: I am surprised. Where did it come from? I do not even know their names...Now it seems it has been clarified by the persons concerned that they were not my representatives.

Q SZ: Another question related to this is, will you go to America if elected Prime Minister?

A: This is a very loaded question. The country’s people have selected me for doing the country’s work.

Q SZ: There is one aspect of your personality that we all see. The face that is visible here and on stage. But there must be another Narendra Modi as well. Once the official work ends, what does Narendra Modi do?

A: My work never ends. I am a workaholic. Other than sleeping and eating, I spend all my time working for the people. Even today, I have just come from the airport, the whole day I was in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. I held three meetings but when I left Jalgaon I found out that there is a huge storm. So started to check from there itself, what the condition is, if there were any casualties, if there had been any loss. This I why also got late in reaching here. So you see, I cannot sit still. To me I am a worshipper and the people are my god.

Q SD:  Modi ji, the moment you stepped in here it was obvious that you are a bhakt of Swami Vivekananda, and he also figures in your speeches. We have heard that you are very attached to the Bellur Math and at one time you even went there to become a sadhu. Will you share that part of your life with us?

A: Swami Apasthanand is still there, he is very old now, but I had gone to see him and stayed with him for quite some time. But it is a different world, why get into it here.

Q SD: Do you miss those days now?

A: I am still much attached to them, but now since I am unable to go, it pains me to think of them. So I just stay busy with this work.

Q SD: Now a few questions about West Bengal. The TMC has accused you of trying to break the state, that for the one seat of Darjeeling, you have assured the people that you will view the demand for Gorkhaland with sympathy.

A: In a country this big, if you try to suppress regional expressions, then it will only inflame tensions. Their emotions should be viewed with sympathy and an effort should be made to understand them. Dialogue can open up a way; I thought I should say this publically so I did.

Q SD: So you will talk away the demand for Gorkhaland?

A: No, I am explaining the meaning of my speech, if someone has challenged it.

Q SZ: A question on your manifesto. Ram Mandir and Uniform Civil Code have been on your party’s agenda for a long time, but has never been fulfilled. You are known as a sharp leader, do you think you can fulfill these?

A: The country does not function with sharpness, it functions according to the constitution, and it will continue to function according to constitutional integrity. Sharpness is for elections only, not for running the country.

Q RK: Shiv Sena and MNS both are supporting you in Maharashtra. People believe that it will be good if their two leaders, Raj and Uddhav Thackeray, come together. So, have you ever tried to do something to bring the two together?

A: See, it is not right to weigh personal relations on a political scale. Which is why I have never crossed my limits. I kept things confined to friendship only and never taken an initiative in this issue; nor has anyone ever given me this task, so why should I get involved in such things.

Q SZ: Has Bollywood gotten divided over support to you?

A: I have very little familiarity with Bollywood, I don’t know that world. A few people have come to meet me since I became CM, but that too for business reasons. I don’t really know that world. Rest, people continue to take their personal positions.

Everyone has a right to their own opinions. Do we ever discuss weather there is a division in IITians or the media? 6 media in favour of Modi, 8 against, we never do a debate like that, do we

Q SZ: If you are given the option right now of watching whether an Aamir Khan movie or Salman Khan movie, which will you choose?

A: First of all pray that I get time to watch a movie. When I do, I’ll watch the first one I get. But watching both would not be possible.

Q RK: So you don’t watch movies at all?

A: I just don’t get the time, earlier I used to watch. Once I saw Paa on its launching with Amitabh ji, and once with Anupam ji I saw A Wednesday. These two films in the past 10 years, and a film on made on Swami Vivekanand on his 150 anniversary, that I saw because I also worked to make it successful.

Q RK: So how did u like the film on Vivekanand?

A: It was good. It is good for giving a message to the young generation, on an international level too. I liked that they did not show any miracles but kept it simple, the story of a social worker.

Q SZ: So Narendra Modi never relaxes?

A: My work is my relaxation, I don’t need anything extra.

Q When does your day start?

A: Usually I get up at 5, it’s a habit I have had since I was in the RSS. I don’t need much sleep, three hours is enough for me. My friends and my doctors complain that it is too less, but it is sufficient for me. You can see, I have worked all day but even now I am sitting here easily talking to you.

Q SD: The biggest issue in West Bengal right now is the Saradha scam. You raised this issue in your Siliguri rally too. So do you think there should be a CBI inquiry?

A: A lot of very poor people have lost money in this chit fund issue. Many even went to the extent of suicide. In such a situation, steps should be taken to reinforce people’s trust, it doesn’t matter what for it takes.

Courtesy: ABP News

 

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Congratulations on completing two decades in government. Two decades is a long time. It has indeed been a long, also quite an eventful, time for someone who was reluctant to enter the electoral arena until circumstances thrust him into the office of Gujarat’s chief minister in the aftermath of a catastrophe. How has been the experience of a tumultuous journey? And what have been your most satisfying moments?

You used the word reluctant.

In a way, you are right…let alone reluctance to join electoral politics, I had nothing to do with the political domain itself. My surroundings, my inner world, my philosophy—these were very different. Right from my younger days, my bent was spiritual.

The tenet of ‘Jan Seva Hi Prabhu Seva’ (Serving people is akin to serving the divine), which was propounded by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda always inspired me. It became a driving force in whatever I did.

As for politics, I did not even have a remote connection to it. It was much later that due to circumstances, and at the insistence of some friends, that I joined politics. Even there, I was in a position where I was primarily doing organisational work.

Twenty years ago, the circumstances became such that I had to enter a completely unchartered territory of heading an administration. And this happened in 2001, when Gujarat was adversely affected by one of the most devastating earthquakes our nation has seen.

Having closely seen the deep trouble people were in, I had no time or opportunity to even ponder what the new turn in my life meant. I immediately got into relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding Gujarat.

If you were to ask me…achieving or becoming something has never been a part of my inner being.

My innermost instinct has always been to do something for others. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, there is a desire to do something or the other for people. Working for others is what has always instilled a feeling of ‘Svantah Sukhaya’ or self-fulfilment in me.

In the eyes of the world, being prime minister and chief minister may be a very big thing but in my own eyes, these are ways to do something for the people. Mentally, I keep myself detached from this world of power, glitz and glamour. And due to that, I am able to think like a common citizen and walk on my path of duty just like I would if I were given any other responsibility.

You asked about satisfying moments. Well, there could be quite a few but let me give you a recent example.

“Twenty years ago, the circumstances became such that I had to enter a completely unchartered territory of heading an administration”

In the last few months, I got to meet and interact with our Olympic and Paralympic heroes. Tokyo 2020 has been India’s finest so far. Yet, naturally there were several athletes who did not win medals. When I met them, they were lamenting their inability to win medals. But each of them only had praise for the efforts of our nation in supporting them in their training, facilities, and other kinds of assistance. At the same time, they were determined and energised to give their best to win more medals.

In my mind, I thought…see how far we have come. Earlier, our sportspersons used to worry about lack of facilities, support, etcetera. These were things they could not do anything about.

But now they feel that part is sorted and their whole focus is on things they can control and their thirst for a medal has taken centrestage. They had a sense of satisfaction that the county has supported them and the determination to do something extraordinary for the nation and bring home more medals in the times to come. This change is satisfying.

You have travelled a long distance. From someone who was forced to hawk tea and whose mother had to work in others’ homes to provide food for the family to the top political office of the world’s largest democracy, and arguably the most popular prime minister, it is really stuff legends are made of. Do you get awed by the trajectory you have traversed?

I don’t get awed by the trajectory of my own life. I get awed by the kind of country we are and our people, who can pick a poor child and make him reach where I have. I feel privileged that the people of this country have given me such huge responsibilities and continue to repose their trust in me. This is the strength of our democracy.

As for me selling tea as a child and later becoming the prime minister of our nation, I see this very differently from how you see it.

I feel that the 130 crore people of India have the same capabilities that I have. What I have achieved, can be achieved by anyone.

If I can, anyone can!

A nation of 130 crore capable people…the contribution that our country can make to humankind is tremendous!

And so, where I started, where I reached, what I did, what my individual experiences are, these things do not matter much. What matters is that this shows that any Indian can achieve anything.

“In the eyes of the world, being prime minister and chief minister may be a very big thing but in my own eyes, these are ways to do something for the people”

That is why empowering people by making upward mobility achievable has become one of the fundamental motivations for me. It is important that every youngster get opportunities. And when I speak of opportunities, I do not merely refer to assistance that keeps them dependent but the support that makes them self-reliant to fulfil their aspirations, with dignity.

You have defied the caricatures of your being a gung-ho free-market liberaliser or a champion of what your critics call RSS-endorsed upper-caste orthodoxy. Your opponents concede in private that they have not been able to figure you out completely. Were the populist portrayals incorrect to begin with, or is it that they have turned out to be incorrect because you keep changing course to meet the temper of the times or the diktats of practical politics?

The problem here is not Modi…but when any person tries to see anything with a preconceived mindset, then either he is able to see only half of the view or is inspired to see wrong things. And if he is not able to see anything as per his preconceived notion, then he creates a perception to feed his preconceived mindset.

We all know it is the nature of Man to not accept his mistakes easily. It takes courage to accept truth over your wrong notions. And it is because of this that one forms notions about a person even without meeting, knowing or understanding him. And even if they meet you in person and observe something different (as compared to their notion), they will still not accept it just to feed their ego. This is a natural tendency.

If someone had only analysed my work, he would not be under any confusion about me. After I became chief minister, the first thing which I did, about 20 years ago, when I didn’t have any prior experience of administration…I first of all went to the people affected by the Kutch earthquake. I publicly stated that this is first Diwali after the earthquake, so we will not celebrate it and I was there with the families of the earthquake victims on the day of Diwali and shared their suffering.

“Right from my younger days, my bent was spiritual. The tenet of ‘Jan Seva Hi Prabhu Seva’ always inspired me”

And the first public function which I did after becoming chief minister was the Garib Kalyan Mela. If someone would have understood all this, then the work done by me today, like building toilets in poor people’s homes or providing free ration to the poor, would have been easier for them to understand.

And it does not mean that Modi has no faults or there is no point on which Modi can be criticised.

Secondly, I feel, and this is my conviction, that for my own healthy development, I attach a big importance to criticism. I, with an honest mind, respect critics a lot. But, unfortunately, the number of critics is very few. Mostly, people only level allegations, the people who play games about perception are more in number. And the reason for this is that, for criticism, one has to do a lot of hard work, research and, in today’s fast-paced world, maybe people don’t have time. So sometimes, I miss critics.

From your question it seems that outdated theories of the last century like private sector versus public sector, government versus people, rich versus poor, urban versus rural are still on your mind and you seem to fit everything into this.

Global experience says that government should be there for those for whom nobody is there. Government’s whole focus should be on helping them. Take the example of our aspirational districts programme to ensure that no region should be left behind in India. We created an atmosphere of healthy competition, mobilised resources, enthused confidence among citizens. Even those districts that were lagging behind in several parameters have come up and improved drastically. A breakthrough has been achieved and you will see great results in the future.

Like everyone thought that sport was restricted to a certain class of society, but we have extremely talented people in poor and backward regions. If we reach them, sport can go a long way in the country and results have showed that. Kids of Tier 2, Tier 3 cities and even of villages can be seen these days competing in the playground.

“All governments were formed under a person from Congress Gotra. Thus, there was no difference between their political and economic thought”

So, I would like to say that if our work was evaluated then the question you asked shouldn’t have arisen. This question is on the basis of perception and not on the basis of the real situation.

You are seen as a risk-taker. While you chose not to press ahead with your plan for amending the land acquisition laws, you showed your readiness to venture outside the box by demonetising high-denomination notes, crossing the Rubicon on labour reforms and by refusing to roll back the farm laws. Are you not worried about the consequences of these risky, although essential, forays into the taboo zones where your predecessors feared to go?

The politics of our country is such that till now, we have seen only one model in which governments are run to build the next government (sarkar banane ke liye sarkar chalayi jaati hai).

My fundamental thinking is different. I believe we have to run the Government to build the nation (desh banane ke liye sarkar chalani hai).

The tradition has been to run the government to make your party win but my purpose is to run the Government in a way to make our country win.

And due to this basic concern, I take decisions based on Gandhiji’s talisman that sees how my decisions will benefit or harm the poorest or weakest person.

While taking decisions, I stop even if the slightest of vested interests is visible to me. The decision should be pure and authentic and if the decision passes through all these tests, then I firmly move forward to implement such a decision.

“There is a problem in the way sections of our political class view the Indian people. They only see Raj Shakti. They do not see the innate Jan Shakti”

The things that people of India are entitled to, those benefits that they should have received decades ago, have still not reached them. India shouldn’t be put in a situation where it has to wait any longer for the things that this country and its citizens are entitled to, we should give it to them. And for this, big decisions should be taken and if need be, tough decisions should also be taken.

In such a large country as India, is it possible to make a decision which is acceptable to 100 per cent people? Although if a decision is not acceptable to even a small number of people, they are not wrong. They may have their own genuine concerns but if the decision is in larger interest, then it is the responsibility of government to implement such a decision.

If a political party makes a promise and is unable to deliver on that promise, then that is one aspect which the political class must improve upon. But there is another aspect which is completely different from this and is a particularly undesirable and, I would say, detestable trait in certain sections of the political parties. This trait I am talking of is the trait of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi.

There are political parties which will grandiosely make promises before elections, even put them in their manifestos. Yet, when the time comes to deliver on the same promises, these same parties and people do a complete U-turn and worse, spread the most malicious kind of misinformation on the promises they themselves had made.

If you look at those who are opposing the pro-farmer reforms today, you will see the real meaning of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi.

These were the same people who wrote letters to chief ministers asking them to do the exact same thing that our Government has done. These were the same people who wrote in their manifesto that they would enact the same reforms that we have brought. Yet, just because some other political party, blessed by the will of the people, is enacting the same reforms, they have made a complete U-turn and in a brazen display of intellectual dishonesty, completely disregard what will benefit the farmers and only seek what they think will benefit them politically.

“If you look at those opposing the pro-farmer reforms today, you will see the real meaning of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi”

We are committed to empowering the small farmers in every way. The farm laws about which you are talking, the Government has been saying right from the first day that on whichever point there is a disagreement, the Government is ready to sit together and discuss those issues. Many meetings have also been held in this regard but no one till now has come up with a specific point of disagreement that we want this to be changed.

You can see the same rajneetik dhokhadhadi when it comes to Aadhaar, GST, farm laws and even crucial matters such as arming our security forces. Promise something and make arguments for it but oppose the same thing later without any moral fibre.

Don’t you think political parties were making a mockery of themselves when their members spoke about the need for a new Parliament, previous speakers said that a new parliament was needed? But if someone tries to do it, they oppose it by making some excuses, how correct is this?

Those who create these types of controversies think that the issue is not whether these decisions would benefit people, but the issue for them is that if these types of decisions are taken, then no one will be able to stop Modi’s success. I want to urge everyone that the issue is not whether Modi succeeds or fails, it should be about whether our country succeeds.

When analysts look at these matters, they also seem to only see it as a political matter and not as a matter of moral and political consistency. But these things are far beyond politics and have real-world consequences for the people and our country.

Many experts have come around to concede that the measures taken by you for accelerating growth, reforming the economy and governance, and strengthening infrastructure are steps in the right direction. But they also say the benefits will take time to manifest and you will not be able to reap the rewards in 2024.

This question is also the result of old thoughts of political pundits. If this would have been true, then I would not have been given the opportunity by people to work as a head of government for 20 years.

Those who think along these lines neither know the people of their country, nor their thinking. The people of the country are smart enough to understand all good work done with good selfless intentions and support it. And that is why I have been given the opportunity by the people of the country to work as head of the government for 20 continuous years.

The person who plants a seed should not bother who will get its fruits. The point is not whether I get to reap the benefits of my economic policies or not, the point is that the nation will.

“I am grateful to the experts for conceding that measures taken by us for accelerating growth, reforming the economy and governance are steps in the right direction”

I am grateful to the experts for conceding that measures taken by us for accelerating growth, reforming the economy and governance, and strengthening infrastructure are steps in the right direction.

The benefits may take time to manifest but the people of India are smart and are watching our policies and evaluating them positively. People are seeing the renewed interest among global agencies and companies about economic momentum and growth in India.

People are noting the record FDI inflows, people are noting rising exports, people are noting good GST numbers, people are noting dozens of startups becoming unicorns, people are noting the high frequency indicators showing an uptick.

The ideological play of your Government, articulated by you on several occasions, is pro-poor and pro-business. In the pro-business category, the Government has rolled out many measures like scrapping redundant laws, lowering taxes, ease of doing business and PLI, to name a few. The new economy players, particularly digital, are already running with them. Some say the old India Inc is a little slow. But there is unanimity that you are breaking into their mindset with things like the latest defence agreement with the private sector to manufacture aircraft. The pro-poor agenda is even bigger. The approach to governance has changed. You have knocked down corruption through disintermediation. You have taken forward the idea of JAM. It has given an economic GPS to the Government to locate the poor. The amount of savings from DBT is phenomenal. It has directly empowered people. Your thoughts on how things have changed.

The syllabus and environment for primary students, secondary students and the students doing PhD are different but it doesn’t mean that they are in conflict with each other.

Our country is not a developed country yet, we are still grappling with poverty. Every person in society should get opportunities according to his needs and ability. Then only, development is possible.

The poor need one type of opportunity and wealth creators need another type of opportunity. When the Government believes in ‘Sarvajana Hitaya , Sarvajan Sukhaya’, then its approach can never be unidirectional; rather it becomes multidirectional. The things in which you see contradiction, I see an inter-linkage.

“The poor need one type of opportunity and wealth creators need another type of opportunity. Why are pro-poor and pro-business mutually exclusive categories?”

Why are pro-poor and pro-business mutually exclusive categories? Why should we divide policies into one or the other of these buckets? According to me, policymaking should be pro-people. By creating these artificial categories, you are missing out on interdependence in society. Business and people are not working with opposing objectives.

For instance, don’t the poor benefit when the PLI scheme allows companies to expand manufacturing capacity and creates new job opportunities in the manufacturing sector? The objective is to create more jobs through the PLI scheme. When we save thousands of crores of rupees by preventing leakages in public service delivery through JAM, does that not benefit the middle class, taxpayer and businesses? In fact, when the poor and farmers receive direct transfer, they consume more, which in turn helps the middle class and the overall economy.

In many ways, you have changed the governance paradigm of every issue. Look at One Nation, One Card. You have made it portable. While programmes like MGNREGA stay, you have brought in accountability. You have also layered this entitlement programme with empowerment. Same is the case with Ujjwala, power, delivery of foodgrains. In all these schemes, governance is layered with actual proof of concept. Past governments faced a trust deficit on account of poor delivery. How far has the Government moved on trust in the past seven years?

You very well know that I do not come from a royal family. I have lived my life in poverty. I spent 30-35 years as a wandering social worker. I was away from corridors of power and have lived among the people and because of that I know very well what the problems, aspirations and capacities are of the common man. That is why my decisions (when the country has given me the opportunity to work) are an effort to work towards alleviating the hardships of the common man.

Toilets were never seen by anyone as a way to serve the people. But I felt that Toilets are a way to serve the people.

And that is why when I take decisions, the common man feels that this prime minister understands us, thinks like us and is one among us. This sense of belonging among them leads every family to feel that Modi is just like a member of our family. This trust is not developed because of perception created by PR. This trust has been earned through sweat and toil.

I have attempted to live a life where I walk on a knife’s edge, experiencing and living every issue concerning the people. I had promised three things to people when I came to power:

I will not do anything for myself.
I will not do anything with wrong intention.
I will create a new paradigm of hard work.

People see this personal commitment of mine even today. This is how people develop trust.

The immense mutual trust between the Government and citizens has been the foundation for whatever we have been able to achieve in the last seven years.

There is a deep problem in the way many sections of our political class view the Indian people. They only see Raj Shakti and view the Indian people only through that lens. But they do not see the innate Jan Shakti in Indians, they do not see the skills and strengths, the ability and capability of the people.

“Whether in permitting self-attestation or in reducing thousands of compliances for businesses, we have built a faith-based system”

Take the example of digital payments. I remember a speech by a former finance minister in Parliament in February 2017. In typical condescending tone, that comes to those who only know Raj Shakti, he asked: “[B]uy potatoes and tomatoes digitally in a village fair. What will the poor lady do? Does she know digital payments? Is internet there?”

The answer to him was given by the Jan Shakti when India became the number one digital payments country in the world just three years later, in 2020, with over 25 billion transactions. In just August 2021 alone, over
₹ 6.39 lakh crore was transacted using UPI, which is a completely homegrown solution by our youth.

This Digital Revolution is powered by the same people who were underestimated: the pushcart vendors, the small shopkeepers, the samosa and chaiwallas in roadside corners, the women who buy daily groceries and have found a secure way of payments. They have all not just empowered themselves but by their Jan Shakti empowered India globally by going digital.

This same phenomenon of underestimating our people happened in many other cases.

When we built toilets, they said people won’t use it and go back to defecating in the open. When we gave gas connections, they said people will use it the first time and not take refills. When we gave collateral-free loans to small entrepreneurs, they said the money would never come back. The irony was these people gave loans to their cronies and created the NPA problem but were against giving loans to small entrepreneurs.

Such an attitude towards the poor and common citizens of our country is sad and unfortunate.

We see the Jan Shakti in our people as a way to take the nation forward and bow to its immense potential.

“Our experience shows that it is the poor who get the maximum benefit of technology. They do not have to pay a bribe or stay behind in the queue to avail services”

One of the reasons we have affected a paradigm shift in governance is because of the mindset change we have brought about. Whether it be in the scope of the schemes, the scale of the delivery, or in the nature of the schemes themselves. However, the biggest mindset change is that we trust our people. Whether it be in permitting self-attestation or reducing thousands of compliances for businesses, we have built a faith-based system.

Crores of households across the country voluntarily gave up their LPG subsidy in the last few years. This happened because they knew that the subsidies forgone would ensure that crores of poor households across the country could access clean LPG fuel. The public would have never trusted us enough and given up thousands of rupees if they didn’t appreciate our performance. Similarly, tax evasion has declined since 2014. Apart from various reforms and improved oversight by the Government, there is a lower intent to evade taxes. As people started witnessing that their tax contributions were being effectively utilised, intention to evade taxes reduced considerably.

If you look back at India’s last 74 years, there have been four stages: first was Nehrunomics. Then Indira Gandhi. The Indira Gandhis of the 1970s and 1980s were different. First she talked about self-reliance and poverty programmes. Then she started diluting her stand in the 1980s, dialling down and beginning economic liberalisation. It was a period of reforms by stealth. In the third phase, PV Narasimha Rao capitalised on this strategy in a big way. Now, we have Modinomics. In Modinomics, boldness of reforms is unprecedented. That flows from your full majority in Parliament. You are someone who is using social capital for social good.

All governments formed in our country were fundamentally formed under the leadership of a person from Congress Gotra. And that is why, for each of them, there was no difference between their political thought process and economic thought process. Atalji was given an opportunity by people but he didn’t have a full majority, it was a coalition Government. I am fortunate that this is the first non-Congress Government that was given a full majority by the people. This means that the people of this country voted for complete change (Poorna Parivartan).

“If we had changed our policies on maps on time, perhaps India could have become the global leader in map technology”

I had in front of me people’s experience of the past 70 years and because of that it was easy to judge what was right and what was wrong. The successes and failures of the past seven decades were in front of me. And because of this, I adopted policies and strategies such that the common man benefited and the country also moved forward.

After years of compulsive reforms, we have brought in reforms through conviction.

We did reforms in the Covid period, something that was unique if you look at countries across the world. Whether in established sectors like insurance, agriculture and labour, or in futuristic sectors like telecom and space.

There is not a single sector where we have not brought fundamental reforms. We also created a conducive environment for state governments to introduce various reforms.

Our reforms are not only aimed at achieving our economic objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat but also focused on Ease of Living, unlike earlier governments which viewed economic reforms through a narrow prism of facilitating business ventures.

For instance, our Government gave additional borrowing facility to states if they implemented ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ which will allows crores of migrants to receive PDS entitlements. Does this not help improve the lives of crores of the poor?

But how beneficial are economic reforms if there are no matching and simultaneous governance reforms? We have worked on both in tandem and in parallel. Over 1,600 old laws have been scrapped. Multiple reforms across the board have made compliance easier for business and for people. Many more such measures are in the pipeline.

“This Digital Revolution is powered by people who were underestimated: pushcart vendors, small shopkeepers, samosa and chaiwallas”

In our entire reforms journey, we have taken people along. In our country, it is perhaps the legacy of the British that people and government are considered separate entities and governments alone are expected to work towards betterment of the country. Our model is different; we consider people as partners in the journey for developing India and hence are able to deliver better results.

Vaccination, too, is a classic governance play. You used digital technology to reach everyone. Vaccines reached people and not the other way round. This had never happened in India. And how did it reach the people? It was up to them—where they wanted to go and when. It was the same country where you could not buy ration beyond the designated shop.

Your question itself contains many answers. I would like to appreciate your understanding of the success of India’s vaccination drive. As you rightly pointed out, it is the same country where a person could not buy ration beyond the designated shop and it was our Government that brought in the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.

Imagine if our country had not come up with a vaccine. What would be the situation? We know that a large population of the world doesn’t have access to Covid vaccines. Today, our success in vaccination is thanks to India being Atmanirbhar.

Some years ago at a science conference, I said that it is time to move on from “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan” and work on the mantra of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jay Anusandhan”. We had accorded top priority to research.

“Unfortunately, independent commentators have also become accustomed to ‘silos’. They have no idea what the results are of an ‘integrated approach’”

We started planning for the vaccination drive right in May 2020 when no vaccine was even close to approval anywhere in the world. We had decided as early as then that we did not want this vaccination drive to be run in the old way where it could take decades to vaccinate people. We wanted to run this in a fast, efficient, discretion-free and timebound manner.

But as the people of our country understand, vaccinating such a large number of people comes with its own share of complexities. Ensuring proper temperature control of vaccines, cold-chain infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country, timely deliveries from the manufacturing plant to the remotest vaccinating centre, supply of needles and syringes, training of vaccinators and preparing for adverse reactions, from quick registration to certificate generation to reminder for next appointment…And [smiles] in the midst of all this, we also had people who knowingly tried to create panic and anxiety. I can go on and on. There are so many things which went on behind the scenes of such a large initiative. We need to look at the entire logistics, planning and progress to understand the success of the vaccine drive. It is a huge effort with so many people mobilised across the country. I hope the media will take out time to highlight the efforts of our people in making the world’s largest vaccination drive a stunning success.

We made sure that technology formed the backbone of the vaccination process. In the last seven years, we have leveraged technology as a means to save the poor from injustice. Our experience shows that it is the poor who get the maximum benefit of technology. Thanks to technology, the poor do not have to pay a bribe or stay behind in the queue to avail of services they rightfully deserve. They have equal rights as anyone else. Imagine a poor migrant who is now empowered to take his second dose of the same vaccine in the city he works in, even though he took the first dose in his village. Technology ensures that he gets the right vaccine at the right time and seamlessly.

“The biggest lesson from the Covid-19 fight is that India has an unparalleled ability to unite and a tremendous capacity to deliver when a need arises”

We managed to save the lives of a large number of people during the pandemic. We also cannot forget those we have lost. For their families, it would be an irreparable loss. When we compare India’s situation in the world, we have done better than many developed countries. However, we have in our midst vested interests whose only aim is to tarnish India’s name. Covid-19 was a global scourge with all countries equally affected. In this scenario, India has done better than its peers and many developed countries, notwithstanding such negative campaigns. I have trust in our people and they have set an example for the world.

And the Government is constantly challenging holy cows. Ending geospatial monopoly is one big step in that direction. Map-making was once sacrosanct. You can now map ration shops, toilets, and so on. If someone creates a GPS-controlled app which tells you about the nearest toilet, it solves a big problem. What was your idea when you thought about it? How do you plan to take this ‘triangulation of India’ forward?

I will share an old experience with you. Some 15-20 years ago, when the Sardar Sarovar Dam was being made, a lot of people used to visit it when there was a lot of water. But there were signboards there saying, “Photography Prohibited”. I used to ask what is the use of banning photography when the same dam can be clearly seen in satellite imagery. I asked the logic of such a move. The system only said that this is the law. I decided that such laws have become irrelevant and need to change. Instead, I started a photography competition at the Sardar Sarovar Dam and as a result the dam became even more popular. We also started a nominal ticket for visiting the dam. It is a very heartening memory for me that we awarded the tourist number 5 lakh at the dam and it was a young couple from Baramullah.

See, I have got an experience of 20 years in governance as a head of government. But even before that, I have travelled far and wide and observed things very minutely.

If we had changed our policies on maps on time, perhaps India could have become the global leader in map technology. Instead, our policies remained archaic and our innovation-oriented and creative youth left the country for better opportunities.

The youth of our country have an immense potential and spark in them. We must make them part of the process, part of the system, part of the decision-making apparatus.

We have often seen that the more different data sets become accessible, the more they become an asset. You can see this in our approach when we came up with NaVIC, a homegrown navigation system. Now with the reform on maps, it can significantly improve ease of living once our young innovators use them to make interesting products.

The reforms in geospatial technology will create economic opportunities for many startups and even businesses. Startups are often founded not on an idea, but to find a solution to a problem. Now, when we empower our youth to come up with their own products on maps, they will certainly solve problems being faced by our drivers and our entrepreneurs.

Our politics prioritises the divisions among Indians for electoral success. In the last seven years as prime minister, how difficult has it been for you to get unifying ideas accepted in the political system?

I would request you to hear my speeches, be it as chief minister of Gujarat or prime minister of India over the last 20 years.

What did I always say? Earlier when I was in Gujarat I said 6 crore Gujaratis…and now I say 130 crore Indians.

What does this imply? That when I am speaking, I speak for the entire population without a shred of discrimination.

Our development policies aim at complete saturation or 100 per cent—be it in electrification, housing, toilet coverage, among others. When the scale is this big, when we are aiming at complete transformation, where is the scope for discrimination? We are motivated by the mantra of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat.

Let me give you an example of a subject that has divided the nation for decades—that of reservation. Pick up the history books and you will see there were movements, counter-movements, so many painful events relating to this one issue of reservation.

“Covid-19 was a global scourge. India has done better than its peers and many developed countries, notwithstanding negative campaigns”

But a few years ago when our Government had the honour to provide 10 per cent reservation to the poor from the general category, was there any bitterness? Did anyone protest? No. The decision was hailed across the social spectrum. Such a smooth process, without any protest, is a very big thing and something that deserves greater study by political scholars.

I will give you one more example.

Over two decades ago, the NDA Government under Atal Ji created three states. This was done with a spirit of cordiality. There were celebrations in the new states and in the states out of which the new states were carved. In contrast, see how the UPA Government handled the Telangana-Andhra Pradesh issue. The bitterness of their mismanagement lingers even now.

Let us talk about language, another subject that has divided people for decades. Due to frequent politicking, the importance of one’s mother tongue kept getting reduced over the years. Our Government took a decision to impart medical and technical education in the local language. Forget causing divisions, this move was welcomed.

In the same spirit, let me mention something related to agriculture. Our Government has worked tirelessly for the small farmers. But does that mean we have taken decisions that are against the interest of the large farmers? Absolutely not.

We are striving to work for economic prosperity but we also believe in catering to the needs of ecology. Why do we do that? Because at the root of our thought process is the ideal of “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas, Sab ka Prayas.”

It is also rightly said — संघे शक्ति कलौ युगे—there is strength in unity.

What are the lessons about the state and preparedness of the healthcare system during the Covid-19 fight that you plan to now change and transform?

The pandemic started in other countries before India. I was observing the global situation and trends. I could see confusion everywhere and also a lack of seriousness at an individual level. We knew that India would also be invariably affected. I started planning on how to bring the entire country on board for this. Eventually, it would be people’s resolve and discipline that would matter and without it, it would be impossible to deal with this pandemic. It is then that the thought of Janata Curfew came to me. It spread the intended story far and wide. It is a big success story.

“There is not a single sector where we have not brought fundamental reforms. We also created a conducive environment for state governments to introduce reforms”

Similarly, in the pandemic, the biggest role was of the healthcare and frontline workers. There was a need to boost their morale. The banging of thalis and lighting of diyas became a big mass movement and it helped boost the morale of our healthcare workers. It can be a big case study. This also led to fewer cases of misbehaviour with medical personnel and respect for them went up. People saw medical personnel as gods in white coats.

My experience of 20 years as head of government says that people in government often underestimate people’s power. When we trust their power and connect with them, we get results. The country has seen this during the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Give It Up, etcetera. I have seen this in my Gujarat days too.

The biggest difficulty of the governments in our country is the ‘silos’. And unfortunately all the independent commentators have also become accustomed to silos. Because of this, they have no idea what are the results of an “integrated approach” and “whole of government approach”.

The biggest thing that I have learned from my 20 years of experience in governance is that if I start something, I do not start it in isolation. There is a progressive unfolding of the vision and in the beginning I do not tell everything. Take the example of Jan Dhan accounts, people felt that it is just a financial inclusion programme. Take the example of Aadhaar, people felt that it was just an ID card. But at the time of this pandemic, when governments across the world wanted to send money to the needy, they were unable to do so. India was able to do it in the midst of a pandemic with the click of a button, crores of our mothers got money directly in their account.

It shows how our approach is integrated, holistic and futuristic.

And just like money was sent, foodgrains were made available to the needy and this scheme is still on. I heard somewhere that in the pandemic in the previous century, a large number of people died due to starvation. So, we were very conscious of this and in this hour of crisis, from the very first day, we have been giving free ration to such a big population for many months. One could easily make headlines by quoting the total money transferred when one gives cash, but ensuring that foodgrains reach the poor without corruption, without delay and without discretion for a long period of time is a big thing.

The biggest lesson for us from the Covid-19 fight has been that India has an unparalleled ability to unite, find a common purpose, come together, and a tremendous capacity to deliver when a need arises. From being a net importer of PPE kits, we have now become one of the biggest manufacturers across the globe.

Similarly, we not only managed to exponentially increase the number of ventilators but also did so largely through domestic manufacturing. India achieved this despite limited global knowledge about the virus, the economic impact of lockdowns and existing state capacity constraints. Is there any better evidence of our ability to bring transformative change? In the last seven years, we have built a temperament of collective efforts for national goals. For us, it was clear in the last seven years that we can achieve tremendous results if we harness the latent energy of our citizens. But now, this has been a key learning for everyone I think.

Apart from this, the Covid-19 fight has also made us realise that we need to further strengthen our efforts for building world-class medical infrastructure. A lot of people today speak about the need to augment healthcare infrastructure. However, we need to remember that it cannot be merely done by adding more beds or rooms, it needs skilled and trained medical personnel. Over the last seven years, we have been actively working towards this. From six AIIMS in 2014, we are now building 22 AIIMS. From around 380 medical colleges in 2014, today we have around 560 medical colleges. From around 82 thousand undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats, we now have around 1 lakh 40 thousand undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats. Recently, we came out with a scheme to help states ramp up medical infrastructure in all categories, including paediatric facilities. We are also working on launching a massive scheme to boost health infrastructure that will address a lot of legacy issues.

Another key realisation for everyone has been to look at the health sector holistically. We are actively focusing on preventive healthcare. From improved sanitation to water supply, from yoga to Ayurveda, from strengthening diagnostic centres in remote areas, we are doing it all.

We realised the importance of Telemedicine and, at the beginning of the pandemic, we came out with a policy on Telemedicine and removed all the restrictions that it had. Recently, we have launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). It will enhance access to healthcare for the poor, boost innovation and make treatments seamless across geographies.

Source: Open Magazine