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 02, 2021

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