At the half-way mark of his tenure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview to CNN-News18 spoke about a whole range of important issues like the Kashmir strife, the communal politics across the country and and his party’s chances in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.
Here’s the full transcript of his interview with the Network18 group editor Rahul Joshi:
NM: My namaskar to all your viewers
RJ:My first question. Two years ago you came with a historic mandate. How do you view the last two years and What do you think has been your biggest achievement?
NM: After getting the responsibility of becoming the Prime Minister it has been about two years and three months. India is a democratic country and the people evaluate governments regularly. Media also evaluates. And these days professional survey agencies also do this.
And I think this is good thing and that’s why I leave it to the people to evaluate how my government has performed. But I will definitely want that whenever my government is evaluated, the situation of the government before we came to power must be kept in mind, what the state of the country was, what the media was discussing.
If we keep that in view, newspapers were filled with news of corruption, despair. People had lost hope, they thought everything has sunk. If a patient, however good the doctor, is despondent, medicines will not cure him. And if the patient is hopeful, then even an average doctor can cure him. The reason for that is the patient’s inner belief.
My first priority after forming the government was that the atmosphere of despair should be removed and create hope and belief in the country. That doesn’t happen with speeches, steps need to be taken, it has been shown to be done. And today after more than two years, I can say with certainty that there is hope not just in the people of this country, the trust of the entire world in India has grown
There was a time when we were being seen as a sinking ship. In the BRICS, the I was seen as if it had toppled over. Today it is said that if there is a bright spot, it is India. I think this in itself will be a good way to evaluate.
RJ: You had come to power on the issue of development, so a question on the economy. After a lot of effort you succeeded in passing the GST bill. How big a success do you see this as and what is the common man going to gain from it?
NM: This is perhaps the biggest tax reform since the independence of India. This reform will bring a big change in India. Very few people in the country pay taxes. Some people pay taxes because they are patriotic, they want to to do something for the country. Some pay taxes because they don’t want to break the law. Some pay to avoid any trouble. But most don’t pay because the process is no complicated, they think they might get stuck in the process and won’t be able to come out.
GST will simplify tax payments so much that anyone who wants to contribute to the country will come forward.
Secondly, today if you go and eat at a hotel, the bill will come with this cess, that cess... And people send on WhatsApp, so much bill and so much cess... all this will end. And then we see at octroi and state to state (border) check posts, miles of vehicles standing. When vehicles are standing, it hurts the country’s economy. Now all of it will become seamless, movement of goods from one state to another.
Taxation systems will also be simplified and this will not only benefit the common man, the revenues will help develop the nation. Today there are sometimes incidents of mistrust between states. This will end that situation, it will be transparent and strengthen the federal structure.
RJ:After coming to power, your biggest challenge was the economy. You not only had to bring back on track but also increase the pace of growth. How do you assess the situation and your own achievement?
You are right, there was a negative atmosphere and that had an echo effect. The country’s traders and industrialists had started looking out. There was a paralysis in government. On one hand it was this situation on one hand. On the other we had to face two successive droughts.
Third, there was a slowdown in the global economy. So there were a series of challenges. It wasn’t only after we came to government, even after that there were challenges. But our intention were strong, policies were clear, there was decisiveness... because there was no vested interest. The result of this was that positivity spread very quickly.
Today, we have the most amount of foreign direct investment after Independence.
The entire world says that at 7% growth, we are the fastest growing economy, whether it is the World Bank, IMF, credit agencies, even UN agencies, they all say India growing rapidly.
So those policies which are helping growth has been emphasised. All obstructions are being removed with policies. All this has resulted in speeding up the economy.
This time the rains have been good and this helps agriculture, which is driving force for the economy. This has raised hopes that the coming days will be much better.
Usually it is one or two things that are talked about, but today growth has being talked about in all sectors.
Electricity production has gone up and so has demand.
Infrastructure work is also growing rapidly and that happens when there is demand in the economy. From all this it looks like we have moved ahead to better days.
RJ: You are absolutely right that the monsoon is very encouraging and stock markets are also up. Would you like to tell us what the next wave of reforms will be?
First of all, in our country, whatever is talked about is seen to be reform. If it isn’t talked about, it isn’t seen as reform. It shows our ignorance.
Actually, reform to transform. I say in my government: Reform, Perform and Transform. And since I am siting for an interview, I would say Reform, Perform, Transform and Inform.
Take ease of doing business. Our ranking is improving very quickly. This is not possible without reform. Our systems, processes, forms were so complicated. Now there were reformed, so our rankings are going up. A UN agency has said that from 10 in the next two years, we could be at number three.
These small things need to be improved. Even today there is licence raj in some areas, that needs to go. This is an important reform that is happening at every level, administrative, governance, legal. Like we removed 1,700 laws that were from the 19th and 20th centuries. I have asked states also to do so.
These are very big reforms that people, because of lack on information, don’t consider reforms.
Take education, where we have taken an important step that no one gave attention to. We have said that 10 government and 10 private universities will be freed of all University Grants Commission rules. We will give them money and they must move towards becoming world class universities. If rules were holding them up, we will remove the rules, now do it and show us. This is a major reform but doesn’t get people’s attention.
Direct benefit transfer is a big reform. Earlier who knew where MNREGA money was going. Now it is sent by DBT. So is gas subsidy and student scholarships. All these for me are reforms in governance, transparency. We are getting in more technology. These have to be done at a larger scale. At the centre of this is the common man.
How to make life easier for the common man, how they will get what is their right, we want to stress on these.
RJ: There has been economic growth and improvement but private investment is still a little slow. Some sectors are still in trouble, like real estate. Venture capital funding of start ups has slowed. What message would you like to give to private industry and foreign investors?
I see that because of your integrity and decorum, you didn’t ask me this question bluntly. Most people do... Modiji in the last two years what mistake did you make? Today I think, before presenting the first Budget, I should have placed a White Paper in Parliament on the economic situation in the country.
This thought had come to me. I had two paths. Politics told me that I should put out all the details. But the nation’s interest told me that this information would increase the hopelessness, the markets would be badly hit, it would be big blow to the economy and the world’s view of India would get worse... it would have been very difficult to get the economy out of that... I chose to stay silent at the risk of political damage in the national interest.
At that time the situation in public sector banks was coming out and how budget numbers were moved around... I didn’t put these details out in public. It hurt us, we were criticised, it was made to look like it was my fault. But I took the political damage in the country’s interest and the result of that I am being able to fix things, despite shortcomings.
The impact of all these issues from the past have impacted private investment, like non-performing assets of banks, that I am trying to fix now. I held a session with bankers and told them there will be no call from the government to you. These things would have tightened the screws.
Despite that, the pace at which roads are being made, railways is expanding, six fold increase in electronic goods manufacturing, these things show we haven’t taken short cuts.
And my motto is, as it says on railway platforms, ‘short cut will cut you short’. We don’t want to take any short cuts and the results are showing.
Anyway the situation has improved, we don’t have to worry about these things but let me tell you about the days in the beginning, in May 2014, I chose the tough path. And when unbiased people analyse the situation, I am confident they will be surprised.
RJ:Modi Ji, you seem to have cracked down. In fact, it is reported that because of your crackdown on black money, small businessmen are hiding either in Dubai or London. you haven’t spared political dynasties either. will this process continue?
First, from a political standpoint, i have neither thought about this and nor will I do so in the future. I have been a state CM for 14 years. And history is testimony to the fact that I have never opened any file due to political considerations. I have never been accused of this either. It has been over two years here too. the government has given no instruction to open any file. The law will take its own course. I have no right to indulge in any cover up. You saying that we haven’t spared any dynasty isn’t correct.
On his ‘Black Money’ warning window: Don’t blame me if I act after Sept 30th
“We have made requisite legal changes so that the black money circulating inside the country can also be curbed. There’s a scheme which is running till the 30th of September. For all those who are still willing to come in the mainstream. I have said this in public, that 30th of September is your last date. You may have made mistakes with whatever the intention may be, whether it has been done willingly or unwillingly, here is your chance. Come in the mainstream. I have this plan for people to sleep peacefully at night. people must accept this. And no one should blame me if I take tough decisions after the 30th. This money belongs to the country’s poor. No one has the right to loot this. This is my commitment. I am working with full force and will continue the effort.”
To BJP leaders making reckless comments: Be extra vigilant
And I want to tell the politicians also..I will ask my party leaders also.. reckless statements, saying anything about anyone or any person’s community...media will come to you... they need their TRP.. but you are answerable to the nation... and that is why, all those living in public life.. whether political or social workers.. even if we are representing a particular community... for the benefit of the country’s unity, society’s unity... for the sake of bonhomie.. we must be extra vigilant
On violence against Dalits: Self-appointed guardians creating trouble
All those who were self appointed guardians were trying to create tension in the country did not like this. That Modi is with the Dalits. That Modi devotes himself to tribals. I am. I am devoted to the development of all the dalit, oppressed, underpriviledged and deprived. Those who see this as an obstruction to their politics are the ones creating trouble. And this is why they are levelling baseless allegations. All those who have fed this country the poison of caste divide have destroyed this country. They must stop giving political tones to social problems. We must go forwards with a purpose. And I want to ask the society also...are these incidents befitting of a civilised society?
RJ:Modi Ji, you seem to have cracked down. In fact, it is reported that because of your crackdown on black money, small businessmen are hiding either in Dubai or London. you haven’t spared political dynasties either. will this process continue?
First, from a political standpoint, i have neither thought about this and nor will I do so in the future. I have been a state CM for 14 years. And history is testimony to the fact that I have never opened any file due to political considerations. I have never been accused of this either. It has been over two years here too. the government has given no instruction to open any file. The law will take its own course. I have no right to indulge in any cover up. You saying that we haven’t spared any dynasty isn’t correct. Second point, The first decision of my first cabinet immediately after assuming office...a matter stuck for 4 years in the previous regime... a matter that was raised by the SC also...the matter of setting up an SIT on the issue of black money. We have constituted the SIT, it is doing its work also. The SC is monitoring the progress also.
Another important work that we have done is to have such a strong black money law that no one dare send black money abroad. So this is a job that we have done. No new black money. Secondly, we have made requisite legal changes so that the black money circulating inside the country can also be curbed. There’s a scheme which is running till the 30th of September. For all those who are still willing to come in the mainstream. I have said this in public, that 30th of September is your last date. You may have made mistakes with whatever the intention may be, whether it has been done willingly or unwillingly, here is your chance. Come in the mainstream. I have this plan for people to sleep peacefully at night. people must accept this. And no one should blame me if I take tough decisions after the 30th. This money belongs to the country’s poor. No one has the right to loot this. This is my commitment. I am working with full force and will continue the effort.
RJ:Mr Prime Minister, let us move away from the economy and talk a little about politics. Many states go to polls next year. Social discrimination and fundamentalism is raising its ugly head again. Dalits and members of backward classes have in fact started saying that the BJP and Sangh are anti-Dalits. How will you assure the people that your agenda is development and development alone?
The country has full faith. That our agenda is only development. There is no confusion in the minds of countryfolk. But all those people who never wanted that a government like this come to power.. those who never wanted the previous regime to go.. they are the ones who have trouble. So, development is our only issue and it will remain so. And this is not a political issue. This is my conviction. If we want to free this country of poverty then we need development. We will need to empower the poor. As far as some incidents are concerned, they need to be condemned. It has no place in any civilised society. But we must not forget that law and order is a state subject. Some are selectively picking issues and blaming Modi for it. I don’t know what purpose does it serve for those who are doing this. But this is surely hurting the interest of the country. such incidents must not happen. From a statistical point of view.. whether it is communal violence...quomi hullad...atrocities against Dalits, atrocities against tribals...data shows that such incidents have gone down in number as opposed to the previous government. But the issue is not of what happened in their government and our government. The issue is that this is not befitting as per our society. We have a culture dating back thousands of years.. we have seen some imbalance in our society...we have to intelligently take our society out of this imbalance. This is a social problem. It is deeply rooted. Politics on social imbalances is disservice to society.. to all those who have faced injustice for generations. this is why, whenever any incident happens anywhere... today, in this country...Dalit MPs and Dalit MLAs.. tribal MPs and tribal MLAs.. the BJP has a sizable presence...and ever since I celebrated the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar... when UNO also celebrated Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar’s anniversary...102 countries observed the 125th anniversary...Parliament for two days discussed the life and works of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Many people thought that Modi is a devotee of Babasaheb Ambedkar. They started having problems. When we identified 5 sacred places associated with Babasaheb Ambedkar, whether it was Mau -- the birthplace of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Nagpur, Mumbai.. where we set up his memorial on Indu Mill, memorials at two places in Delhi, converting the place where he stayed in London as a memorial. In a way we set up five pilgrimage spots, and we did it. All those who were self appointed guardians were trying to create tension in the country did not like this. That Modi is with the Dalits. That Modi devotes himself to tribals. I am. I am devoted to the development of all the Dalit, oppressed, underprivileged and deprived. Those who see this as an obstruction to their politics are the ones creating trouble. And this is why they are levelling baseless allegations. All those who have fed this country the poison of caste divide have destroyed this country. they must stop giving political tones to social problems. We must go forwards with a purpose. And I want to ask the society also...are these incidents befitting of a civilised society? i spoke from the ramparts of the Red Fort.. on the incidents of rape...I said that parents must ask their sons also. Where they are going, what they are doing? We ask our daughters this.
RJ:Mr Modi how important is social harmony for economic progress?
Economic progress alone is not the solution. Peace, unity and harmony is essential for society. Even in a family, no matter how well off you may be...even if you are sitting over a heap of arabs of rupees...the family’s unity is important. This is true for the society also. We don’t need unity to fight poverty alone. We need to be united and harmonious for whatever it takes. We need to be committed to social justice. And that is why, unity for economic progress alone is not important. peace, unity and harmony are useful in family, life, society and for the nation. And to all those who believe in “Vasudhaye Kutumbakam”...the whole world is one.
RJ:All political parties Mr Modi talk about removing poverty. But poverty is an issue of grave concern in our country. Job creation is a major challenge for you and you have kept this in mind too. what will be your strategy on both these counts.
You are right. Poverty alleviation has been a political slogan also. A lot of politics has also happened on poverty. And a lot of programmes for poverty alleviation have also been started keeping elections in mind. I do not want to get in a controversy on whether it was good or bad. But my path is a little different. We have to empower the poor to end poverty. if the poor is empowered, then he has enough power to alleviate poverty. Politics can be done by keeping the poor poor. But freedom from poverty can only come by empowerment. The biggest tool for empowerment is education. The next point is employment. if we get economic empowerment, then it can serve as a tool to change things on its own. All the initiatives that we have taken over the past few years, like the mudra scheme - at least 3.5 crore people have taken the benefits of the mudra scheme and they got about 1.25 lakh crore Rupees through this scheme. Many of them are those who have got money from the bank for the first time. These people will do something or the other. They will get sewing machines, stitch clothes. They will do something. it is possible that they might employ a few. This empowerment will give these people a lot of power. To educate their children. Suppose a person buys a taxi. Then they would feel they must educate their children. They will move forward. One of the things that we have done is called Stand Up India. I have told banks that every branch must give financial aid to a Dalit, a tribal and a woman. They must make them an entrepreneur. The country has 1.25 Lakh branches of banks. If they empower even 3 people each, they will benefit 4-5 Lakh families. People who did not have this sort of financial empowerment, will feel empowered. They will be an economic strength. This is the Stand Up programme. Start Up... To give employment to the young, I have started this scheme. These are small decisions. I have also sent an advisory to the states. That they must move forward in this direction. We have big malls in our country. Lakhs and crores of rupees are spent in constructing them. There is no time restriction for them. They can run toll 10 pm, 12pm, 4am...but there will be a government representative with a stick in his hand and ask a small shopkeeper to shut his shop... that it’s evening now.. why? we have said that these small traders who have small enterprises.. they are free to be open 365 days, 24/7..so that they can go about doing their business and also employ a few. And these are the people who drive the economy in our country. This is where we are working to empower. We have laid a lot of stress on skill development. Skill development is the need of the hour. We have changed systems. Skilled development is a ministry. it has a different budget. And work is being done at a huge scale. Skill development by government, skill development through public private partnership, skilled development through skilled universities, collaborating with other countries who have done good work in developing skills. the country has 80 cr youth. they are below 30 years of age. if the youth has the skill, they can change the fortunes of this country. And we are laying stress on this. the country’s youth & employment are at the centre of all the economic activity. in the agriculture sector also, if you move towards value addition, it will create more opportunities to generate employment. A youth from the village who has had to go to big towns under pressure, if he is given value addition and agriculture centric rural development, if we empower him, then employment opportunities shall be created. We are laying stress on this. And we can see some good results.
RJ: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 effected. They have a lot of effection for India. But they don’t get an opportunity or a channel. We have acknowledged the power of the diaspora in Neeti Ayog. 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.
RJ: The nation would be keenly watching the UP elections unfold next year. It is being said that it will be like a mini national election. So what do you think will be the biggest issues in the election. And what according to you is the possibility of your win?
First, it is the misfortune of our country that whatever we say or do is always linked to the elections...if elections are 16 months away, people would say that you are doing something with those elections in mind. So, these political pundits, the super political pundits cannot take politics out of their mind.
RJ: Entire country is keenly looking forward to the upcoming UP elections. It is beinng 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 unfotunate 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 buzzing 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, decisons 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.
RJ: 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.
RJ: 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.
RJ: 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 Haryana 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 lathi-charge 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 per cent 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.
RJ: Mr Prime Minister, it’s being said that Lutyens Delhi did not like you, but have you started liking Delhi?
As you know the position of Prime Minister is such that there’s no question of liking or disliking Lutyens Delhi. But theres is a need to deliberate on this. In Delhi’s power corridors there’s an active group of people which is dedicated to only a few. It could be because of their own reasons or personal gains. It’s not a question of Modi. Look back at history, what happened with Sardar Patel. This group presented Sardar Patel as a simple peson from a village with simple intellect. Look at what happend to Morarji Desai. This same group never talked about his abilities, achievements. It always talked about what he drank. What happened with Deve Gowda? A farmer’s son became the PM yet they said he only sleeps. And what happened with the supremely talented Ambedkar who are praising today. They made fun of him. What happend with Chaudhury Charan Singh. They again made fun of him. So I’m not surprised when they make fun of him. These “custodians” who are dedicated to a select few will never accept anyone who is linked to the roots of this country. So I too do not want to waste my time addressing to this group. The welfare of the billion people is my biggest task and I will not lose anything if I do not associate myself with the Lutyens Delhi. It’s better if I live with the poor people of this country who are like me.
RJ: It’s being talked about in media circles that if TRP rating are down then cut to Modi rallies, still you have a bitter-sweet relationship with media. Yes sometimes but no most of the times. What do you have to say about media
Media has major contributions towards whatever I’m today. Yes, I don’t give sound bytes here and there. Media may complain that Modiji doesn’t make spicy, controversial remarks. This is a genuine complains. I’m mostly involved in my work and my work speaks. For a long time I was involved with organisational work. So I have strong freindly association with the media world. There is not a media personality with whom I haven’t had tea and not had fun. I know many of them by their names. So the expectations are natural. Mostly media has seen big personalities becoming PM, not someone like me who have spent time among them as a friend.
Media is doing its job and it should. I believe, media must strongly criticise government’s work. Otherwise democracy won’t work. But unfortunately, in this TRP rat race, media doesn’t have enough time for research. Criticism is not possible without research. For 10 minutes of criticism you meed 10 hours if research. Instead of criticism it gets into levelling allegations. As a result democracy gets weakened. Government must be afraid of media criticisms bu that’s fast going away. I want media to be very critical based on facts. The country will benefit from this. It’s right that media has its compulsions. It has to win the TRP race. So I’m glad that at least I’m useful to them this way. More than my rallies, to win TRP they get people to abuse me.
Like media you seem to have a strained relationship with the judiciary. Why?
This is a totally wrong perception. This government goes by rules, law and the constitution. There is no scope for any confrontation or tension with any constitutional institution. There must be as much warmth with judiciary as needed for constitutional decorum. I try my best to maintain as much decorum as possible.
RJ: Thank you for giving us so much time. I would like to ask you few some personal questions. We got a strong leader in you. But couple of times your emotional side came out. People would like to know what kind of human being you are. Viewers would like to know what is the real Narendra Modi like? Or there are many layers to Modi’s character.
NM: A soldier at border who bravely fights on and the same soldier when he plays with his daughter cannot behave in the same manner. Narendra Modi whatever he is, after all a human being. Why should I suppress or hide what’s inside me. I’m what I am. Let people see what they see. As far s my duties and responsibilities are concerned, I have to fulfill them with the best of my abilities. If I have to take strong decisions for the country’s sake then I will have to make those decisions. If I have to work hard for that then I will have to. If I have to bend I’ll bend. If I have to walk fast then I’ll walk fast. But these are noir facets of my character, these are part of my responsibilities. There is nothing like real or fake Modi. Human being is a human being. If you take off your political glasses, then you will see the real Modi. But you will do a mistake if you continue to judge Modi through your perceived notions.
RJ: Modiji, I have met you many times in Gandhinagar when you were CM and even in PMO. I have never seen any fille, paper or even phone on your table. No one ever intervened during our meetings. You function like a CEO. Some say you hear more and speak less. What’s your working style.
You have made right observations. I have been painted as one who doesn’t listen and only talks down. I actually hear a lot and observe a lot, that’s I have evolved as a person. I have benefitted a lot through this. I’m a workahlic but basically I always like to live in the present. If you have come to meet me then I get immersed in that meeting. I don’t touch the phone or see the paper and I don’t lose focus. When I see files similarly get immersed and get lost in those files. Ditto my tours. I live every moment in my present. The person who meets me always statisfied that I have given him quality time.
Secondly, one must give justice to one’s work, I have always tried that. One must always learn and understand. One must have the courage to leave those ideas that were relevent five years back and not now. One must have the courage the change oneself. This is how I developed my style of functioning.
RJ: Sir, you have punishing schedule of 16 to 18 hours. So how do you relax?
My relax through working only. I never get tired of working, the opposite tires me. If you have to write 10 letters and you may start feeling tired after writing two. But you feel satisfied if you have finished writing all 10 letters and skipped your meal - because you feel the work is finished. Actually we get tired by not working and work gives you satisfaction. That satisfaction gives you energy. I have felt this and always tell this to my youth friends. Tiredness is more psychological. Everyone has the same capacity as needed for the volume of the work. You keep accepting new challenges and your inner self will always back you. This is in built.
RJ: Who has influenced you the most?
My village belonged to the Gaikwad estate and as a child I gained a lot from that environment. The speciality of Gaikwad king was that he used to build libraries and primary schools in every village. I studies in that school. Usually poor students studied there and teachers generally paid attention to them. I developed an interest in reading books. Now there’s no much time to read. Those books made an impact them. From 12 years od age I started taking part in oratory competitions. I used to like Vivekananda quotations, his tyle of delivery a lot. I had taken a liking for the Hindi language. I can say Vivekananda’s thought had made a huge impact on me which could still be true.
RJ: Last question, where does Narendra Modi find himself in Indian history?
Why the person who loves to live in his present should worry about history? One must not make that mistake in one’s life. Unfortunately, in our country, governments, political parties, leaders always tried hard to make their own image. What if we had dedicated to build the image of our country rather than our own? Image of this country is the unending legacy of 1.25 billion people. Modi is just one of those 1.25 billion Indians, nothing more. Modi’s identity must get lost among those 1.25 billion people. There will be no greater joy if Modi is lost in the pages of history.
RJ: Modiji thank you so much for giving me your time. This is my first camera interview and I feel privileged and honoured to interview the Prime Minister.
Your are from the financial world yet you did a political interview. I liked your confidence. I congratulate you and keep doing the good work.
RJ: You please giving interviews...
Why only politicians only, there are so many others from other walks of life. During election time, reporters start shooting from your bedroom and start asking about breakfast etc. But not many know the sacrifices of our sportsmen. Instead of wasting time on politicians, we should spend more time on our sportsmen. How they control their food, sleep...How they still stay committed even after losing. Our youth must be shown those sacrifices. I would like to your channel to choose 30 sportsmen from the Rio contingent and show their life story. That way we can change the way we see our sportsmen. Also, I feel there are so many personalities to interview beyond politics.
Hindustan Times has reproduced this transcript in partnership with CNN News 18
You can watch the full interview on CNN-News 18 channel on Saturday: 9 am, 2pm, 9pm and Sunday: 9am, 12pm, 8pm