BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi on Tuesday responded to a questionnaire sent by HT. Excerpts:
Did you expect this kind of response when you set out on your role as PM candidate?
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Kutch to Kohima I am seeing unprecedented support for BJP and NDA. This election campaign is very unique. Never before has so much groundswell of support and enthusiasm been seen for the BJP even from areas where we have not been traditionally strong. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have seen in the northeastern region, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha, apart from of course our traditional strongholds.
The two recent books by Sanjay Baru and PC Parakh reveal India has not had a functioning prime minister for nearly a decade. What Baru calls an "Accidental PM" has presided over a "detrimental government" for India. In the NDA, the youth and the voters of this country have been presented with an alternative that connects with their dreams and aspirations. The response we are seeing is a reflection of that.
This election is seen as more of a vote for Modi than BJP. Is it so?
It is a vote for India. It is a vote for the aspirations of our youth. It causes me a lot of pain when some people say that Modi has become bigger than the party. I have always maintained that a son can never grow to be bigger than the mother. This has been the way I have grown up and this is the way I think. Our guiding mantra remains "nation first, party second, self last" and each and every one of us are living by this ideal.
Why are some people spreading fears about you becoming the PM?
This is a question you should ask those people but yes, I can say that spreading such fear is the last refuge of a vested interest group, whose survival is at stake in these elections. For the last decade, Modi has been a source of employment for these people--- abuse Modi and receive patronage. The mood of the people tells you this time it's going to be different. Thus, it has become a question of their survival and that explains their actions.
For too long, our opponents have stoked fears to communalise elections in the name of secularism. Today I am proud that we have changed that. They are no longer able to do so. Hence this stop-Modi project. They fear the change that is coming.
What will be your first priority if you become the Prime Minister?
We are a large nation and so it would be very unfair to call any priority first or second or third. Development of India is our only priority. And that will begin by ending the trust deficit that has crept-in since the last decade.
Employment creation is a major focus area for us. We have a very talented, but unemployed, pool of youngsters. We want to change that. We need both a skills revolution and a manufacturing revolution.
Just this week you would have read how even the American president announced measures to invest in skills development in their economy. Some people say that the next international competition is going to be a jobs war. China has understood this and it is better we also understand it sooner rather than later.
We must look at opening up our economy so every possible opportunity is tapped into to create jobs in India for our youth. All of this will happen when you have a strong government that is capable of taking strong decisions. The mantra is that of skill, scale and speed. the same time, we need a government that is going to walk the extra mile to bring a definite change in the lives of the farmers. The suffering of the farmers and neglect of the agriculture sector has been one of the biggest failures of the UPA.
What can we look for in your new team? On what basis will you choose your top team?
We in the BJP and the NDA are blessed with many experienced leaders many years of experience in governance both at the Central and state levels. We have top notch talent in our team and I expect this talent to make a big impact if we are chosen by the voters to form the next government. This is not the appropriate time to speculate on what the team will look like but I can tell you this much that it will be a team that will work day and night round the year to fulfill the dreams of 125 crore Indians.
How will you strike a balance between youth and experience?
As I have said, it is slightly premature to talk in detail about government formation.
How will BJP change under you?
The BJP has moulded me and shaped me over the decades. I grew upholding the hand of the many senior stalwarts. I am what I am today because of the BJP. The party has been built brick by brick by the sweat and hard work of the millions of BJP workers across India. We are not a dynastic party but we are a dynamic party. We are not controlled by one single family. It is not for me as an individual to change it. It is the workers who will continue to take the party forward in the years to come.
You have already spoken of action against those guilty of corruption. Should the top Congress leaders fear action against them?
I have never believed in being vindictive nor will I be vindictive against any person, party or organisation. For nearly a decade, vested interests have hounded me with a vengeful agenda. I know what that feels like. It is not in my political culture to indulge in such a vindictive brand of politics. There are a lot better things to do like tackling the problems India faces. As far as corruption goes, we have a judicial system that ensures justice is done. The corrupt and criminal elements in every party must be punished within a year, for which we will create special courts. In this, no party will be excluded.
There are concerns about how this election has polarised the people. If the BJP gets to form the government, how will you heal the wounds and reach out to minorities?
Yes, we surely have polarised people between those who want development and those who are against development and for corruption and misgovernance. The polarisation is between those who want the politics of development and good governance on the one hand and those who are stuck up in the politics of vote banks on the other hand.
Your manifesto talks about making India a global manufacturing hub. With China decades ahead of us, how will you manage to compete?
Firstly, in this ever expanding world, there is room for everybody. But if there is a specific comparison to China, our nation has three distinct advantages over them. These are the three Ds as I have often spoken about i.e. Demography, Democracy and Demand. The first is the demographic dividend. We are a very young nation with 65% of the population below the age of 35. This demographic dividend can not only help provide a skilled, effective work force, but will also act as one of the world's largest consumer base.
Media and other forums abroad have expressed concern about the direction India is taking? How do you plan to reach out to foreign governments to tackle this perception?
We stand for engaging with the global community to work together for achieving a peaceful world. At the same time, we are committed to safeguarding India's interests. I am not sure what perception you are talking about. If you are referring to vested interests in some sections of foreign media, then it is a many decades old problem, nothing new about their fear mongering. Similar fears were raised by them when Vajpayee ji became prime minister but you have seen how NDA proved them wrong.
We will continue Vajpayeeji's foreign policy legacy and work in the direction he showed us a decade back. I would urge you to not get carried away by motivated propaganda by certain vested interests in some sections of foreign media. As a responsible Indian newspaper it is important that you make the distinction between propaganda of a few in foreign media and the long history of engagement we have had both at the Center and state levels with many foreign governments over the years.
There are some people globally who cannot reconcile themselves to the possibility of a strong and resurgent India.