Taking full credit for the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he heard vociferous demands for a “trusted name and not a party name” all through his campaign and that people “believed Modi was the only hope”.
In a series of interviews to British author Lance Price — whose book, The Modi Effect: Inside Narendra Modi’s Campaign to Transform India, was released recently — the PM also dismissed Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, who contested against him from Varanasi, as “nothing but a small single city leader” elevated by a group of “vested media interests fuelled by the Congress” to target him.
“In all corners of the country, they believed Modi was the only hope and wanted to see him win,” Modi told the former BBC correspondent and Downing Street communications expert, explaining the highly-personalised campaign.
The remarks fly in the face of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP patriarch LK Advani’s assertions that the victory was a result of people’s desire for change and not due to “any individuals”.
“Past elections have shown Indian culture is such that people have tremendous faith and trust in the individual. People wanted clarity about who the leading person will be and I was seeing this question asked in every meeting I attended and hearing vociferous chants of ‘give us a trusted name, not a party name’,” said the PM.
He also revealed that shortly after his election as Gujarat chief minister in 2002, an astrologer had predicted that God had the PM’s post in store for him. Citing his belief in maro bhagya vidhata (putting oneself at the disposition of God’s will), he said, “If this is the case, why be afraid? I have never worn a bulletproof jacket.”
On the US visa ban after the Gujarat riots, the book quotes Modi as saying, “It has never bothered me. I see these as non-issues and don’t let them impact me or my ego.”
All the interviews were conducted after Modi became PM in May, including one after his US tour in September.
Explaining his decision not to name Kejriwal during the campaign, Modi said, “My silence is my strength. Narendra Modi knows the strength of silence. You should know that in the grand scheme of things, Kejriwal was nothing but a small single city leader… It was, therefore, not even worth my time to ignore Kejriwal.”
In February last year, Modi had decided not to be available to the media. “I did this intentionally to create a vacuum and get attention… My supporters were anxious and my detractors happy, little realizing this was my strategic intent.”
Modi was “totally alone and had no TV on” when the poll results were declared last summer. “I was finishing off my spiritual activities and enjoying my meditation time,” he said, adding that he started taking calls only from 12 o’clock — the first caller being then BJP president Rajnath Singh.
Asked what stuck in his mind after the NDA crossed the 300 mark, he said Advani had summarised it best when he said “I had scored a triple century in my very first match”.
As for his routine, the PM is up by 5am daily and immediately goes online to check messages. “It is a mechanical process now for me to reach out for my iPad within the first four to five minutes after I wake. Likewise, every day before I go to bed, I take a look at my emails and check any relevant news…”
“Another example of my forward thinking relevant to the technology world”, Modi said, was his prediction about WhatsApp becoming a major messaging platform when it had just started.
According to Price, Google Alerts has long been a favourite tool for Modi, who would scour the Net for references to his name — that is, until the number of pages became unmanageable.