In a 95 minute interview to the news agency ANI, the PM Narendra Modi spoke at length about his tenure and what he feels will set the tone for the next general elections in 2019. In his first interview on the first day of the new year, he said, the elections that are due in the next 100 days will see a direct faceoff between the coalition and the public.
During the course of the interview, he spoke on various issues—ranging from RBI governor Urjit Patel’s resignation to demonetisation and a mahagatbandhan, or Grand Alliance, of opposition parties against the Bharatiya Janata Party and its NDA allies in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Modi quashed predictions by political pundits saying that BJP will do much better than those who believe that they will not get more than 180 out of 543 seats in Lok Sabha.
His response came as a rebuttal to questions on whether the public was largely considering a Mahagathbandhan aa an alternative to the Modi regime.
His view was that the upcoming elections will see the public repose faith in Modi much like the past four and a half years. He went on to say that let the public decide whether the regime has delivered or not.
Modi was also questioned on whether he believed that India was heading towards a US style election which would see Modi and Rahul clash for the most coveted post.
He said, public will decide the agenda, who is for the aspirations of the people, who is against the aspirations of the people.”
He further stated that whether supremely corrupt forces will be given importance will be decided by the people of the nation. He was speaking on the coalition sought to be formed by some anti-BJP parties.
Responding to the sticky 180 club reference, he was candid to say, “Is there any scientific study? In 2013 too, the same set of persons used to talk the same thing about BJP getting less than 180 seats. That narrative continues.”
He also cleared that his hunch was that one must not downplay the intelligence of the common man.
Referring to fissures within the grand alliance, he said, there is no unity among them in any way, nor any articulation about what to do for India.
He rubbished the combined effort of the grand alliance.
Modi made it known that the anti-BJP coalition failed during its experiment in Telangana Assembly elections and local polls in states like Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Prime Minister was asked about unhappiness expressed by some BJP allies, like Shiv Sena, from time to time and whether they were indulging in “muscle flexing”.
His attention was particularly drawn to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s apparent attack on him,. He was also reminded of the ‘chowkidar chor hai (guard is the thief) jibe , echoing Rahul Gandhi’s oft repeated line of attack on Narendra Modi.
He emphasised that he was “committed to give importance to regional aspirations” .
The Prime Minister noted that the BJP, despite getting full majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, took every ally along, adhering to the coalition dharma. “Even today when we run the government, there is consensus in decision-making,” he said.
Asked whether he expected more parties to join the NDA, Modi said that process has been continuing since 2014.
Asked whether any move of film stars-turned-politicians Rajnikanth and Kamala Hassan want to join NDA and improve NDA’S footprint in South India , he said, “We are continuously striving to expand our base.”
Asked about the heated Ram Mandir debate, he said any decision on bringing an ordinance on Ram Mandir can be considered only after the judicial process gets over.
When questions were shot at PM Modi on demonetisation disaster, he said, “ demonetisation wasn’t a jolt. We had warned people a year before, that if you have such wealth (black money), you can deposit it, pay penalties and you will be helped out. However, they thought Modi too would behave like others so very few came forward voluntarily.”
Taking a dig at Pakistan, he said, “Ek ladai se Pakistan sudhar jayega, yeh sochna bohot badi ghalti hogi. Pakistan ko sudharne mein abhi aur samay lagega.
Clearing the air around surgical strikes, he added, “I gave clear orders that whether you get success or failure, don’t think about that but come back before sunrise. Don’t fall for the lure and prolong it (the operation). “
Speaking on the triple talaq ordinance he said it was brought after the Supreme Court verdict. We have said in our BJP manifesto that a solution would be found to this issue under the Constitution. Most Islamic countries have banned triple talaq. So, it is not a matter of religion or faith.
On Sabrimala he said, India is of one opinion that everyone should get justice. There are some temples, which have their own traditions, where men can’t go.
On Ganga, he said that as a son he had done an honest effort to cleanse Ganga of all the ills that it faced.
Rubbishing claims that Ayushaman Bharat was a failure, he said, “The poor are (being) given insurance of up to ₹5 lakh under Ayushman Bharat Yojana. A large number of people were suffering (for want of healthcare), today they have got treatment. How can I consider this a failure?”
India should be judged on the basis of its response in Doklam. And nothing has happened with India that can be considered as deceit, he said.
If a Congress worker turns up to be Christian Michel’s lawyer, then it is worrying, he added.
Referring to the recent assembly election losses, he said, in Telangana and Mizoram, nobody gave the BJP any chance. In Chhattisgarh, a clear mandate was given, the BJP lost. But in two states (Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh), there was a hung assembly. We are discussing what we lack.
Talking of a broader coalition dharma, he said, in 2014, we took everyone together. Even today when we run the Government, there is consensus in decision-making. We do not want that we should grow at cost of allies.
Taking a jibe at Congress, he said, “It is a speciality of Congress-led alliance that allies are those who have come out of Congress after raising their voice against the Congress.”
INPUTS FROM ANI