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PM Modi says Opposition trying to form mahagathbandhan as people are rejecting them

With this, Modi has indicated the two central planks of his campaign in the 2014 elections -- a strong, decisive government and vikas (development) -- will be his themes once again.

india Updated: Aug 12, 2018 23:33 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Modi,BJP,General Elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 26, 2018. (REUTERS File Photo)

Aggressively critiquing the proposed unified front, or ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance), of opposition parties in the run-up to the 2019 elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that it reflects “political opportunism”, and “has failed in the past and will fail in the future” because people want a “strong and decisive government”. It will, he has argued, not succeed in creating a ‘gathbandhan’ of the electorate.

At a time when there is speculation about the government’s key agenda for the next elections, Modi has also said that his campaign platform for 2019 will be “all-round development, quick development, and development for all’.

With this, Modi has indicated the two central planks of his campaign in the 2014 elections -- a strong, decisive government and vikas (development) -- will be his themes once again.

In written responses to a wide range of questions from Hindustan Times, Modi spoke about the political challenge in 2019, defended his government’s record on the economy, and articulated a broad worldview on relations with major powers, particularly the US, Russia and China.

Read: Full interview

When asked about the prospects of a grand Opposition alliance, which observers consider a powerful challenge because it can prevent the fragmentation of the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vote, Modi said that after a long time, a “performing, strong and stable” government was in power in Delhi.

“People have seen the benefits of such a dispensation. People also have a very bitter experience of coalition governments in the past that were burdened by coalition politics of compulsions. These groups that are being formed, Mahagathbandhan, or whatever they may call it, cannot create a gathbandhan of the electorate,” he said.

Modi claimed that a “non-ideological alliance of desperate and disparate groups” was merely opportunism. “People want a strong and decisive government that is sensitive to their interests and gives them results.”

Referring to the recent defeat of the Opposition candidate for the post of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman against the National Democratic Alliance’s pick, Modi said some of the rival parties were joining hands “not because they have one ideology but it is because people are rejecting them”.

“If you look at the electoral performance of the last four years, the Congress’s geographical and political base has shrunk. The BJP has won a large majority in states that went for bilateral elections. Talk of the Opposition alliance is really because of the Congress’s inability to take on the BJP,” the PM said.

He hit out at commentators and analysts - “political pundits” - for reading 2014 wrongly and predicted they would get it wrong again. “These groups and Mahagathbandhans have no development, no growth, no bright stable future to offer to this country.”

The PM also, at a time when there is a debate on whether religious polarisation would constitute a major element of the BJP campaign, said his platform would be centred around development. He referred to the Ujjwala scheme, under which free cooking gas connections are being given to poor families, rural electrification, the MUDRA loan scheme for small businesses, Jan Dhan bank accounts, Direct Benefits Transfer of subsidies, the Swachh Bharat sanitation programme, start-up push, and housing for all, as the major flagship schemes that have had an impact on the lives of citizens.

On foreign policy, when asked how he managed conflicts, in particular the US sanctions against Russia with India needing to purchase Russian defence equipment, Modi said: “Both USA and Russia are India’s long-standing strategic partners. Our relationships with them stand on their individual merits. We have time-tested relations with Russia in all spheres. They are based on the strong foundation of friendship and goodwill at the level of peoples. Our relationship with the US has undergone a major transformation, including in the spheres of defence and security cooperation. Both the countries understand our legitimate interests, including our security interests.”

On China, Modi said that it was noteworthy that not a single bullet had been fired across the India-China border for the last four decades and peace and tranquillity had been maintained in border areas. “This shows that we are both mature countries, capable of peacefully resolving our differences.” He outlined the environment, trade, and reform of institutions of global governance as areas where India and China have long cooperated, and referred to his frequent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The informal Wuhan summit, Modi said, had allowed them to “interact in a very free and candid atmosphere” to understand each other’s concerns, without being forced into a “diplomatic straightjacket”.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 23:32 IST