In exclusive interview, Modi’s reply on 3 big achievements as PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to Shashi Shekhar on a range of issues, including NDA’s governance record, the economy, demonetisation, opposition strategy and his party’s poll prospects. Edited excerpts:
You complete five years as the Prime Minister soon. How do you look back on these years?
It had been a very satisfactory and extremely good five years. My experience in these five years boosted my belief that there is no reason why India should remain in the category of developing countries. We have all the capabilities to be a developed country.
When I came here, the situation was much worse than what I thought it would be. It was a terrible situation. I was new to this place and I also had to understand issues but as we started taking decisions, several worrying things came up. My long experience as chief minister helped me to remain confident and I knew that we would find ways, and we did find ways.
Which are the three big achievements that give you satisfaction?
It would be difficult to restrict myself to this. Earlier the government would beat its own drum throughout the year over one or two achievements. My case is such that if you take any ministry, any state or any development work, you can see a new initiative. There are so many achievements and initiatives that to confine it to just three would be an injustice to other departments and my colleagues.
You made some promises when you assumed charge. Now that your first term is coming to an end, do you think you have been able to complete the work you set out to?
If everything gets completed then I think that the world will come to a halt. One should look for new energy, ambitions and resolutions to move ahead in life.
Do you think demonetisation achieved its intended results?
I am quite happy about the outcome. It (black money) was a blight that no one dared to touch. Demonetisation might not suit political arithmetic but it had to be done in national interest. Our steps against black money in the last four-and-a-half years have resulted in the recovery of Rs 1,30,000 crore, which has been taxed. Properties worth Rs 50,000 crores have been seized. During this period, Rs 6,900 crore of benami properties and assets in foreign shores worth Rs 1,600 crore have been also seized. Nearly 3,38,000 shell companies have been identified and deregistered. Their directors have been disqualified. It’s also due to demonetisation that tax compliance has almost doubled.
But demonetistion is being used against you in this election.
They (the opposition parties) did it earlier too — in Uttar Pradesh — but they lost very badly.
One of the criticisms often voiced is that demonetisation impacted employment. What is it that the government is doing on employment generation?
First of all, we have to understand the way employment data is collected in our country. For many years, we have been doing a sample survey and on its basis, a minimum assumption is made. Let’s look at some facts -- this may or may not suit some people.
For example, let’s take roads — earlier roads were constructed, but in the last five years, construction of roads has doubled.
Similarly, the work in railways has doubled, electrification of rail routes has gone up three times. Has all this been possible without employment ? Today, our country has received the maximum foreign investment. The GDP growth has remained stable, Inflation too has come down. In the last five years, 6 lakh new professionals have joined the economy. These professionals must have employed some people.
New vehicles have come into this country, so jobs for mechanics and drivers too must have been generated. According to a CII report, 60 million people have got jobs in medium and small enterprises. In the last two to three years, 5.5 million new people have enrolled for the government pension scheme. All these data suggests that compared to previous years, employment has risen.
There are three aspects to employment question — formal employment, informal employment and symbolic (employment). Let’s looks at formal employment. According to EPFO and ESIC data, we have created 1 million jobs every month and 12 million jobs every year. In the last 4 years, 5.5 million new subscribers have joined NPS (the pension scheme). Approximately, 10 million people are benefitting from employment generation programs.
NASSCOM report also shows that employment in the IT sector has grown. The formal sector accounts for 15% of the total employment.
Now, let’s look at the informal sector, which accounts for 85% of the employment in the country. Our government has given loans to 170 million people without any bank guarantees. Of these people, 42.5 million people are those who have taken loans for the first time. In the last four years, tourists and tourism in our country has grown by 50%. Don’t you think that this would have generated new jobs in this sector? Lakhs of Jan Seva Kendra are functioning across the country, don’t you think employment must have been generated here? India has become one of biggest start-up hubs globally. Is this possible without employment. West Bengal, Karnataka, Odisha governments claim to have created new jobs, is this possible that states are generating employment but the Centre is not ?
Allegations are being made that the data is fudged
People who make these allegations have done great harm to the country. We have followed the same system, same arrangements and same methodology that has been followed by previous governments. Just because the results now are better, questions are asked about the processes followed and integrity of institutions are questioned.
If you lose an election, EVMs [Electronic Voting Machine] are blamed; if judgments are not to your liking, impeachment proceedings are initiated against the Chief justice of India; if the media does not report according to your liking, you call it sold out.
The IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank have accepted India’s growth story. The world believes that India is the fastest growing economy. If Modi has to be opposed, oppose him, but in the zeal to oppose Modi don’t attack and devalue institutions and India globally.
These days, it is seen that abusive language has crept in electoral politics. Are political leaders at the top making efforts to deal with it?
I don’t believe that this thing has happened overnight. Just look at the language of the people who give lessons on the use of graceful language. Look at the kind of reports media files when Parliament is in session. They call the house a battle field. What will you say to comments of Sonia Gandhi who called [former prime minister] Atal Bihari Vajypayee a traitor and Modi a Maut ka Sudagaar (merchant of death). It’s not that we haven’t faced the brunt of abusive language, but these days its become fashionable to twist comments and give lessons on the use of courteous language.
The Congress has made numerous promises in its manifesto and you too have taken a dig at them in your election speeches. What do you make of the Congress manifesto?
Since [former prime minister Jawaharlal] Nehru’s time, the Congress has claimed poverty eradication is their goal. However, the Congress party has paid lip service to it — Nehru used the slogan, then Indira Gandhi used it, Rajiv Gandhi spoke about it, Sonia Gandhi too said poverty eradication is their goal and now, her son too speaks about poverty eradication. For five generations, the Congress has used this slogan.
The Congress party has become like the main protagonist in the Ghajini movie. They do not remember the promises they have made in earlier manifestos.
The Congress has, in the past, promised direct income and a high minimum support price to farmers but they forgot it. Then they promised electricity for every household, that too is forgotten. In 2009, they promised broadband connectivity in every village and now in 2019, again they are repeating the same promise. Has the Congress party in the last 72 years even given 71 paise to the poor? The people of India know this very well.
A section of the intellectuals in the society has given a call to not vote for you. How do you see this development?
I don’t know who these people are, but there was definitely a section of people which got the best of everything under the previous governments. They got awards, respect, their children got scholarships and even studied in foreign countries.
The government has taken effective action against Maoists in the north-east, but why could it not be as effective in Kashmir?
I do not agree that the condition in Kashmir is not good. This is a 40-year-old problem and there have been interruptions, but you will see that only two, two-and-a-half districts in Jammu, Ladakh and Srinagar Valley are left where the condition is not good. Local-level elections were not held for many years in the Srinagar Valley. Earlier governments were obstructions. Right now, we have conducted elections. Hundreds of people were killed in panchayat elections in West Bengal, but there was no single incident in Kashmir. Are conditions bad in Bengal or in Kashmir?
In a way, rapid development is taking place. The task to provide electricity to every household has been completed last month. These days, several major decisions have been taken under the governor’s regime these days.
You adopted the principle of zero tolerance against terrorism. Do you think that the narrative has changed after Pulwama?
The whole world is fighting against terrorism. Our effort is to make terrorism a global agenda and tell the world that Pakistan is in the business of exporting terror to India. Pulwama has convinced the world that what India says is right. Because of that, the entire world supported us when the air strikes were conducted.
Do you think that there is no possibility of dialogue with Pakistan and talks will take place only on international forums?
See, when I was not even the PM, I had not taken oath, I called the Prime Minister of Pakistan to attend the oath-taking ceremony, only for the sake of our country. After that I went to Lahore. Even after that such things happened. So, why does the world believe me? The world has seen that Modi has taken the initiative to shake hands. The world trusts Modi. Pakistan did try very hard, but I put it in the dock.
The Rafale deal has become controversial…
There is nothing controversial about it. If the media of this country is unbiased, then it is its responsibility to question the Congress on the issue of national security. The leader of the 125-year-old Congress speaks without any proof or basis. The Supreme Court has said it and so have the CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General], the French Parliament, the French President, the company, and the Indian government and the Indian parliament. But he (Rahul Gandhi) is levelling allegations and smirking.
There is a feeling of abhorrence towards the army; secondly, there is the burden to absolve his father (Rajiv Gandhi) of his sins (a reference to the controversial Bofors deal). That is why when George Fernandes was there (as the defence minister) they had raised corruption in a defence deal. The matter related to coffins. During the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government itself the matter ended in the court. You cannot clear your father’s sins by leveling false allegations.
If the country’s citizens repose faith in you once again then what will be the first thing that you are going to do?
I have toured about 70-80% states since elections were announced. I have never seen such a pro-incumbency wave during the Gujarat elections or in 2013-14. The wave I am seeing today is bigger.
The way people are joining the BJP, from all over, be it Odisha or West Bengal, the wave is very much visible. Our government will indeed be formed. It is going to be a full majority government. The BJP will get more numbers than earlier.
Not just the BJP, even the allies of BJP will get more numbers than before. And they will come from each and every corner of India.
A glorious government will be formed, and what will be the first decision, or the second decision, for that we shall meet again soon.
There is a question not to the prime minister but to the person that Narendra Modi is. You have grown through several roles. How do you see this journey?
It is the characteristic of a live human being to evolve continuously. It should be in one’s nature to accept new things, to lift yourself regularly. If I had worked here with the mind-set of a chief minister, then it wouldn’t have worked.
After becoming the prime minister, if I hadn’t accepted the thought that India can rise globally, then I wouldn’t have been able to make India so popular in the world. If I had not moved from here, and remained in slumber throughout, then I wouldn’t have thought I could send a man to space in Gaganyaan.
I am giving you an interview but more than that, I am trying to read the country through your questions. I am continuously evolving and wish the same for everyone. Then there are certain people who grow in age but don’t evolve.