Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday in an exclusive interview with CNN-News18 acknowledged the contributions made to the country by Indians living abroad and said they have a lot of affection for India.
Speaking to Rahul Joshi, group editor of Network18, also touched upon the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the situation in Jamu and Kashmir and the declining corruption at the higher levels. Edited excerpts:
I think you are the first Prime Minister.. who has had a direct communication with Indians abroad...how has this benefitted the country?
Everything should not be measured on a scale of profit and loss. In any other country in the world, who is Indian.. at whatever post he may be.. he has a feeling in his heart..that my country must progress. And if they get unfavourable press about their country then they are the most upset. Because they are away, it pricks them even more. We get used to a lot of things. They get affected. They have a lot of affection for India. But they don't get an opportunity or a channel. We have acknowledged the power of the diaspora in Niti Aayog. In its basics. This is such a global strength. They have global exposure. They have academic quality and qualifications. A zeal to work for the country. And wherever they are, their love for the country has not diminished. Why should we disassociate with them? We must establish a link with them. And there will come a time, when they will be a true ambassador of the India. And I have seen that more than the government's mission, India's strength is largely due to their (diaspora) attitude and contacts. Mission plus diaspora, when they get together our strength grows manifold. So this was my role and we are getting good results.
Entire country is keenly looking forward to the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. It is being dubbed as mini national elections. What do you think are the key issues and what are the BJP's prospects in UP?
Firstly, it's unfortunate that in our country everything we do is immediately linked to elections. UP elections are a year and three months away, still all our elections are being linked to that. Super political pundits can't get politics out of their minds. Their minds buzzinn\g with politics run faster in AC rooms. ... Again, in our country there are frequent elections. Elections here, elections there...elections, elections, elections. Every decision is weighed in the election balance. There will only be adverse for our country impact till the time we continue to keep linking issues, decisions to elections. It's high time we de-linked the two. Parties will come up with their manifestos after polls are announced. Why link them now?
Leaders of political parties, when they meet me, emphatically tell me let us please keep elections aside. They tell me why don't we club assembly elections with Lok Sabha polls. And why don't we hold local body elections as well during that time, so that the entire election process gets over in a week to 10 days time and the for five years the country runs uninterruptedly. There will be decisions, momentum and the bureaucracy will work effectively. Every party is saying this but no single party can decide this. All parties will have to unitedly do this. Government alone can't do this. Election commission has the lead this effort and all parties have to agree on this. I can have my own ideas but I can't do anything about it. This has to be done democratically. But I do hope, some day, there will be comprehensive discussions, debate. Time has come to discuss what good things to add and what to remove from this process.
There will be elections in five states in coming days and Uttar Pradesh is one of them. As far as the BJP is concerned, we will fight on development issues only. Our focus will be welfare of farmers, villages, jobs for the youth and we will stay committed to the cause of social justice. Our focus will be to maintain peace, unity and brotherhood in our country. We will take steps in these regards and move forward.
There is apprehension that there could be an environment of polarisation in Uttar Pradesh.
The poison of casteism and communal vote bank have caused enough damage in our country. The biggest obstacle to strengthening our democracy is the vote bank politics. There was no atmosphere of vote bank politics in last general elections, there was the atmosphere of development of politics. After 30 years people of section of our society unitedly voted for a majority government. An entire section of our society has made a shift. It's possible that the people of UP will do a similar thing for betterment of UP, they will vote keeping development in their mind.
J&K is burning now. Your party is part of the state government there and the situation is worsening there. What should be done done according to you to improve the situation there?
Whenever we talk about J&K, we should take the entire picture of Jammu, the Valley and the Ladakh region into account. The seeds of the problem was sown ever since independence and division of our country. Every government had to battle with this problem. This is not a new problem, it is an old one. I believe, the youth of Kashmir will not be distracted. We will proceed together maintaining peace, unity and goodwill so that the heaven called Kashmir will remain heaven. Problems will also get solved. That's why I always maintain that people of Kashmir need both development and trust. And the billion strong Indians has always stayed committed to both development and it has never wavered from its commitment of trust. This belief is still there today and it will always be there in future as well. We will march on the path of development and trust. And we will succeed.
It's widely believed that high level corruption has come down drastically under your rule but low level corruption is still rampant. What will be your strategy to check this?
I'm grateful to you that you have accepted that there is no high level corruption. If Ganga is clean at Gaumukh then Ganga will gradually become pure while flowing down. You may have noticed that we have taken many steps which have neutralised chances of any corruption. For instance we have shifted the gas subsidy system into the Direct Benefit Scheme. Ghost clients who used to wrongly enjoy the benefits of gas subsidy are no longer there. Chandigarh was being supplied 30 lakh litres of kerosene. Using technology we stopped providing kerosene to those houses which have gas connection and electricity. And we provided gas connections to those who earlier didn't have. That's how we made Chandigarh kerosene free and saved 30 lakh litres of kerosene from being sold in the black market. The Harayna chief minister was telling me he is going to make eight districts kerosene free by this November. You would know our farmers used to be desperate for urea and used to buy from black market. Black marketeers ruled. In some states the farmers buying urea from black market were even lathicharged. You must have noticed there is no news of urea shortfall these days. No queuing up of farmers anywhere, no lathicharge anywhere and black marketing has stopped. And why it is not happening anymore.
Earlier the urea meant for farmers used to land up in chemical factories on the sly. Chemical factories used to process this as raw material and brought out finished products. They used to get urea cheap. Chemical factories and middlemen enjoyed the cream. We started neem coating of urea. As a result even one gram of urea cannot be used by chemical factories and now entire urea is 100 percent being used for cultivation only. Additionally, we raised production of urea by 20 lakh tonnes. We also neem coating imported urea. No only that, tribals in Gujarat who were engaged to collect neem seed for this purpose have started extracting neem oil while neem coating and they have earned up to 10 to 12 crore rupees . This is a win-win situation. Corruption and difficulties both gone. Likewise we can do away with low level corruption through policy decisions and using technology. You will start liking at low level what you liked at top level.