New Delhi: Saying he was no know-all leader, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has disclosed that he relied a lot on “professionals and domain experts” in governance and believed that the “single-minded focus” on attacking him was what “brought a lot of support from the people of India to me”.
He also said “the best thing” to come out of the 2014 general election was the “welcome change” in people’s attitude towards politics from the earlier one of disinterest and contempt.
“We have been able to move away from a feeling of cynicism and pessimism to a feeling of hope and optimism. This is the single biggest achievement of our campaign so far,” Modi told IANS in his interview in which he gave detailed responses to 30 written questions which, his aides said, was “perhaps the most detailed and comprehensive interview till date”.
Q: With less than a fortnight to go for D-Day, how is the feeling? Is it one of anticipation or anxiety?
A: There is no anxiety; but yes, there is a sense of anticipation. Change is in the air. And I think the results are going to be as unprecedented as this election has been in every way. I think finally the BJP and NDA may end up doing better than the best predictions among all opinion polls. The best thing is that the entire country is interested in the results. It is a welcome change from the feeling of disinterest if not contempt for Indian politics and Indian elections.
Q: India — and possibly the world — is widely expecting a change of guard in New Delhi and the anointing of Narendra Modi, a complete outsider to Delhi’s power corridors, as the prime minister of a country of 1.2 billion people. Did you ever expect or dream that you will reach this stage in national politics? Or was it always your secret ambition to lead this country?
A: I never dream about becoming something. I always dream about doing something. I have always believed in doing every job entrusted to me by the party or the nation to the best of my ability. I always believe that I should give my best to every job that I do.
Q: There is huge expectation from a Modi government. People expect you to tame inflation, accelerate growth, create jobs, improve infrastructure, build better roads, fix Pakistan and China, root out corruption and the list goes on. Are you not daunted by these expectations and that people might be disappointed if the government is unable to quickly fulfil these expectations?
A: Yes, I agree that for the first time we are having an election based on the positive idea of development and good governance and this is happening despite the efforts of the opposition to divert the attention of the nation and take the debate back to the issues of divisive vote bank politics.
Due to this positive conversation with the citizens, we have been able to generate hopes and expectations. We have been able to move away from a feeling of cynicism and pessimism to a feeling of hope and optimism. This is the single biggest achievement of our campaign so far.
Yes, I agree that at times the expectations may be large, but India is no longer a poor country. The minimum our people can aspire to is having a good standard of living and an opportunity to build their own lives and careers. They have a right to dream and they have a right to get the enabling environment to fulfil their dreams. They have a right to elect a government which delivers.
We will give a government which will work hard, work day and night to fulfil these expectations. We are confident that we will succeed in our endeavours. It will be a government that will not hesitate in taking decisions. Our government will be a truly representative, transparent and sensitive government.
Q: A lot of people fear that the extremist elements in the Sangh Parivar, like Pramod Muthalik, Praveen Togadia, might rule the roost once the BJP comes to power and this is the part of the Hindu right that many among the middle class and young are finding it difficult to accept. Comment.
A: These are not genuine fears, but exaggerated analysis by vested interest groups. Those who have seen my government function in the last one decade in Gujarat would agree that we believe in the rule of law and the majesty of the judicial process. I firmly believe that this country has to be run as per the constitutional framework and the statutory provisions. Our motto is clear: “Be you ever so high, the law is always above you.”
Q: There is apprehension among Muslims about BJP which has been further fanned by recent comments by some of BJP/VHP leaders. You had asked them to “refrain” from making such comments. Do you really think BJP would be able to gain the confidence of minorities, particularly Muslims?
A: I would only request all the people of this country to judge me and my party by the work we have done. I would appeal that nobody should judge us by the allegations levelled against us by our political opponents.
I will only add that we are committed to provide a government where nobody needs to be apprehensive or fearful. We are committed to go the extra mile to ensure that not only are we fair and just, but that we are also perceived to be fair and just.
Q: Many people think that riots will break out once Modi comes to power. How will you allay their concerns and fears in this regard?
A: As I have already said these are the kind of fears expressed by the fear-mongers whose only hope is to create insecurity in the minds of people and somehow get their votes. They do not realise that today’s India no longer responds to such fear-mongering.
Q: Despite the BJP’s efforts to reach out to Muslims, why has the party not given ticket in a sizeable number to members from the community that comprises 15 percent of India’s population?
A: During elections ticket distribution is done by the Central Election Committee of the party after taking into account all aspects. However, it would be wrong to say that the BJP has not given representation to the minority community.
Besides, I don’t think it is a correct yardstick to define a party’s stand on such matters. You cannot forget that it was the NDA government which had proposed the name of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the post of president even as the UPA had opposed his candidature.
Q: Coming to policies, how will you step up manufacturing that has been steadily on the decline? Are you ready to adopt any changes in the land acquisition policy?
A: In the last 10 years, our economy has seen a sharp decline in its growth rate. And whatever little growth we are having can also be called jobless growth. This is because the UPA government has never given adequate emphasis on the manufacturing sector. We are very clear that we have to revive growth in the manufacturing sector. That is the only way to generate adequate employment for our youth.
To step up growth in manufacturing, we have to revive investor sentiment. We have to clear projects in a fast-track mode. If there are environment related concerns, they need to be suitably addressed, but all decisions must be taken in a time-frame. We cannot permit the present state of policy paralysis and indecisiveness to continue for long. Our procedures have to be made more transparent and swift. We have to move towards a single-window clearance system. We have to also ensure that in all such decisions, the state governments are taken together so that lack of coordination between central and state governments does not lead to undue delays in clearing project investments.
As far as the land acquisition policy is concerned, we are very clear that the first priority has to be to protect the interest of the farmers whose land is being acquired. They have to be adequately compensated as per the market rates. As far as possible we should go through the private purchase route rather than compulsory acquisition. Even where compulsory acquisition is resorted to, the compensation should be decided in consent between the farmer and the acquiring authority.
I believe that there is a win-win situation possible here. The farmers should get adequate compensation and should also benefit from the development that comes. However, all this need not come at the cost of delaying projects.
Q: What would be the focus of international policy, something the world is waiting for? It is said that, because of the US’ past attitudes to you, Indian foreign policy in your government would be less pro-West and more oriented towards China, Japan, Korea, Israel and other emerging powers. Comment.
A: I have made it clear several times in the past that relations between two nations should not and cannot be influenced by incidents related to individuals.
Similarly, relations between India and another nation cannot be predicated with our relations with other countries. We have a right to conduct our foreign policy affairs guided by the supremacy of national interest. We will continue to do so.
Q: Your critics slam you as a dictator, compare you to Hitler and say you tend to be a know-all leader. How do you respond?
A: I am essentially a team man. Those who have worked with me know fully well that I work by achieving maximum consensus among all stakeholders. Even when it is difficult to achieve unanimity on all issues, I always try to have maximum consultation with all stakeholders.
By no stretch of imagination I can claim myself to be a know-all leader. On the contrary, I believe that professionals and domain experts have a role to play in governance. It is better to be guided by expert advice wherever it is available.
Q: What kind of books do you read? Who have been your favourite authors? Do you listen to music?
A: Of late, I hardly get time to read anything. I certainly like to listen to music, but again for the past several months, my schedule has not permitted me to relax in any manner.
Q: Can you please clarify once and for all your approach to FDI? The Swadesh Jagran Manch, which is part of the Sangh Parivar, has come out against blanket approvals to FDI.
A: I have categorically stated that apart from FDI in retail for which we have expressed certain reservations, our party is in favour of FDI in all sectors wherever such investment leads to growth, employment opportunities and sharing of new technology. I would reiterate our party’s commitment to encouraging FDI in various sectors to boost economic growth and to create employment opportunities for our youth.
Q: Your party opposes FDI in retail but Gujaratis in the US are all for it and have been lobbying for opening up the retail industry to international chains, saying it makes the supply chain more efficient and provides lots of jobs to young people. There is talk that you will moderate your stand on this once you come to power.
A: Our opposition to FDI in retail has been consistent. We have stated our position on this issue very clearly in our manifesto.
Q: The Pakistan army chief has described Kashmir as his country’s “jugular vein” and said they would be prepared to deter any aggression. Their interior minister sees your rise as a “threat to regional peace”. How would you respond to these provocative comments, coming as they do on the heels of a very conciliatory and welcoming remark by their new Pakistani envoy in Delhi?
A: I see these comments as highly provocative and I think they amount to interference in the internal affairs of our country. I wish the Government of India takes a stronger stand on this uninvited interference.
Q: Why are many countries in the region worried about the “rise of Narendra Modi”? What would you say to them?
A: This is a perception being held by a handful of vested interest groups, both within India and outside the country. I do not understand why the perceptions of these vested interests should be owned up by a news agency. I can only say that all such perceptions are either misguided or arising out of malafide intent on the part of certain vested interest groups inimical to the progress of India. Apparently, there are several people who cannot reconcile themselves to the emergence of a strong and resilient India.