Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scoffed at the opposition Congress’ allegation of being a government of industrialists, saying it contradicted the industry’s complaints of doing nothing for them.
Modi’s comments came during an exclusive interview to HT , his first to the Indian media after becoming Prime Minister.
“I would request the media to counterpose two things together -- the allegations our Congress friends level against us and the complaints that businessmen have; the Congress says we are a government of industrialists and industrialists say we do nothing for them!” he said on Wednesday.
He was reacting to a query on the business community’s impatience over the government’s alleged failure to fulfill promises to end red tapism.
In a riposte to the business community, he said the “industry has to come forward to take the benefits of the process we have set in motion” and added that his government was working for the common man.
“Our job is to run a policy-driven government. Red tape nahin hona chahiye. Ab red tape nahin hona chahiye matlab Mukesh Ambani ke liye red tape na ho aur ek common man ke liye red tape ho, waisa nahin chal sakta (red tape should not be there does not mean it shouldn't be there for Mukesh Ambani, but be there for a common man; that won't do).”
Referring to complaints about a spate of tax notices issued to companies, Modi said the private sector was still stuck with legacy issues of governance - these included tax terrorism, duty inversion and selective exemptions.
“That is why we tried to address many such issues during the budget of 2015-16 and to correct them across the board. We know that such steps are important for creating jobs and opportunities for millions of Indians. I repeat my assurance to all: if you take one step, we will walk two steps for you,” he said in the wide-ranging interview.
Asked about some of his party colleagues and fringe elements in the Sangh Parivar who have sparked controversies with inflammatory comments, the Prime Minister indicated his disapproval of these but also added that he could not be expected to publicly clarify or make statements every time something like that happened.
In his interview on the eve of his visit to France, Germany and Canada , Prime Minister Modi said he was hopeful of positive outcomes from the trip.
“These three countries have great relevance to our development process and growth; Canada is rich in hydrocarbons and other natural resources; Germany has a manufacturing and skill base; and France is our dependable strategic partner,” he said, adding that France was one of the first countries to come out in support of India after the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.
He said he likes to combine his official tours by visiting multiple countries to get more done. “I’m from Ahmedabad where we have a saying, ‘single-fare, double journey’,” he quipped.
Stressing India’s desire to see SAARC flourish, the PM said India remained open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence.
“Peace cannot co-exist with terrorism, can it?” he asked.
On border talks with China, Modi said it was a complicated problem that needed to be addressed with care and deliberation. He said he was looking forward to his visit to China soon and that President Xi Jinping shared his optimism on building the relationship between the two countries.
“The present priorities of both nations are the economic welfare of their people; we have taken a conscious decision not to allow confrontation to escalate into conflict.”
On Indo-US relations, Modi said his “friendship with President (Barack) Obama is based on mutual respect and mutual interest” and that their discussions make it “evident that India figures significantly in American geo-political, economic and strategic thinking.”
Explaining his recent exhortations to well-off Indians to give up their LPG subsidies, the Prime Minister said it was the responsibility of the government to take care of the poor and that the issue of subsidies was not just an economic one but also a humanitarian issue.
“The culture of our country is that of giving, not of cornering something that belongs to others.”
Asked what he thought of analysts interpreting the BJP's Delhi debacle as the end of the ‘Modi wave’, the PM said, “It is amusing to hear those who did not talk about a ‘Modi wave’ during the 2014 general elections now intensely discussing it.”
He added: “You have to respect the verdict of the people who have voted during all elections held after the Lok Sabha elections,” mentioning the state elections in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir and local body elections in Assam, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan -- all polls where the BJP fared well.
More from the interview: