The day after BJP and TMC supporters clashed on the streets of Kolkata following a massive roadshow by saffron party chief Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat down for an exclusive interview with News18 India. The prime minister touched upon the violence in West Bengal, the Opposition attacks on the Election Commission and electronic voting machines (EVMs), and the BJP's chances at forming the next government.
Edited excerpts follow:
On Opposition’s attack:
They should be asked what their helplessness is. What kind of a bankruptcy is stopping them from presenting their vision in front of the country? What do they plan to do for the farmers? What do they plan to do for the youth? What do they plan to do for women? What do they plan to do for the villages? What should India of the 21st Century be like? What should its prime minister be like?
They don’t have any slogan They only have one way to garner publicity: abuse Modi. The only tool they have is my name. If you abuse Modi, you will get media attention. This is the first election, where Modi is also the theme of the Opposition. It is understandable,if Modi is the theme of NDA, but Modi is also the Opposition’s theme. There probably hasn’t been any election in the country, where Modi is in people’s minds and all those who want to defeat him at all costs.
On being attacked for his caste:
I have lived in Gujarat for many years and no one knows my caste. I have never been concerned with caste myself and I believe that if someone says that my caste is of the poor, I belong to the poor caste and every poor belongs to my caste, I totally agree with that view.
The condition of our poor people, even after so many years of independence pains me deeply. It’s not like we couldn’t have done anything about it. In their (UPA) 10 years of governance, 25 lakh houses were built whereas in Modi’s five years in power, 1.5 crore houses were built. If this work was done earlier then Modi wouldn’t have needed to build toilets, houses and he wouldn’t have needed to build roads in villages. This work should have happened within 25 years of independence, but unfortunately it wasn’t done
On the violence in West Bengal:
The silence of the people who believe in democracy and the ones who are neutral is the most worrisome aspect because the pattern of forgiving everything else due to a blind hatred for Modi can cause a lot of damage to the nation. Just consider two things: When the topic of violence and terrorism is discussed, Kashmir’s name comes up but no violence of any sort took place when more than 30,000 voted in one polling booth for the panchayat elections in the Valley.
At the same time, hundreds were killed in the rural areas during West Bengal Assembly elections. Houses were burned of the people who emerged victorious, forcing them to hide in states like Jharkhand and several others for three months. Their only crime was that they won. During all this, the people who talk about democracy remained silent. The BJP constantly raised its voice, even the Congress and other Left parties also raised their voices. The BJP, Congress, Left protested against this in Parliament, but the people who call themselves ‘neutral’ remained silent which gave them strength. The helicopter of a BJP chief minister was not allowed to land before the elections, public assembly was forcefully cancelled at the last moment and on Monday, my rally was cancelled. Permission was granted at 9 pm and 2 days before it Amit Shah’s rally was cancelled. This is totally anti-democratic.
The reason for this is not that they fear the BJP, Congress or Left but that Mamata and Trinamool fear the power of the people of Bengal. They know that if the people of Bengal recognise the truth and turn their backs to them, their future will be in jeopardy. Thus, the Bengal government, Trinamool and the goons of Mamata’s party have all teamed up in their fight against the people of Bengal.
What do you think is the forecast now that the last phase of elections is here? Do you think the BJP will be able to form a government on its own or will you need support?
The BJP will emerge victorious with more seats than the last time. The vote share will also increase, as will the margin. Besides, the area that the BJP covers in the country will also increase. This will be a very glorious entry of the BJP in some ways. What is the reason for that? It is not because the BJP has any strategy, but because the public is fighting these elections. You will be surprised to know that all the slogans used in this election have come from the public. The party or a PR agency didn’t come up with any slogan. I heard the ‘Ayega to Modi hi’ slogan from the public. It is unprecedented that the public wants to fight the election. The credibility of NDA partners will also increase along with their seats, their margin and their power. This will create a good atmosphere for regional aspirations.
Attempts are being made to create your image as a polariser and a divider. Why do you think attempts are being made to create such a narrative?
I believe that the people are trying to mould my image… they have been working day and night for 20 years in order to destroy my image. Their own images have been destroyed in the process. I pity them, but is this divide horizontal or vertical? and if it is I don’t believe it is. Today, the poor has become polarised, he is directly identifying with Modi. If the poor wants to benefit as well as the nation, what’s wrong with that? Why do such people get sad? If the poor thinks beyond race, religion, sect and caste, and comes forward for his children’s future and sees the country’ future in his children’s future, we should feel proud.
The Congress has a family. On the one hand, we saw Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s children who have grown up and were around for the filing of nominations of her brother and mother, and on the other hand… there is your family that no one knows about. Is keeping family away from politics a difficult thing that you have been able to do but the Gandhis haven’t?
You should ask this question to them. The family is not my issue. I am a student of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and as a student I have understood something that he always used to say. He always said that the biggest enemy of democracy is dynasty politics. Dynasty politics is very dangerous. Unfortunately, the Congress followed the path of dynasty politics and everyone who came out of the Congress dynasty further followed the same path and this is the biggest danger. This is a threat to democracy. The process of political democracy should get enhanced and anyone deserving should be allowed to lead the party… such a situation should be created.
Why this narrative?
Look at the modus operandi of the people who are indulging in this in the name of vote bank politics. They found various characters, organisations and people to scare the Muslims for 70 years and they abused them and created terror using their name to scare the Muslims. Their idea should have been to create great Muslim leaders similar to how we brought Abdul Kalam forward and made him president. If we had moved ahead in the same direction, the country’s unity would have been strengthened. Modi’s name is just being used for vote bank politics and as far as I am concerned, I have come here with just one mantra: ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’
When I provide electricity, I give information to the government to start from house 1 in the village and proceed to house 2, house 3 etc. If the budget allows only 25 houses, then provide it those 25 houses and the rest of the houses will be provided next year. Don’t ask who belongs to which caste or which religion, just work for the nation’s progress.
On making Varanasi a VVIP seat...
The VVIP word is not correct. If you want to work for the country, you need to create models. The strategy should be the same. For example, I created Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat, which became a model and attracted a diverse range of people to the country. If you want to change the country, how will you do it? We should think in that direction. My efforts are towards working to create a nation according to 21st Century norms. The old-fashioned thinking will not work anymore.
You are set to form the government again, but the Opposition is attacking the use of EVMs. Accusations are being made that the EC takes action against everyone except the BJP...
Our Election Commission is praised all over the world. Anyone in the world who believes in politics looks at our election process, Election Commission and EVM machines with pride and respect. It is the bad luck of our country that if you win, Election Commission and EVMs are great, but if you lose then they are bad.
In the first three phases of the election, EVMs wasn’t an issue, only Modi was abused. In Phase 4 it became 50-50, 50 percent abuse was directed at Modi and 50 percent at EVMs. After Phase 6, this figure has become 30 percent. So, it is 30 percent abuse for Modi, 30 percent for EVM and 30 percent for the Election Commission. They are preparing a ground for their defeat and are planning who to blame for the loss.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: May 15, 2019 22:05:19 IST