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The final segment of the interview with Narendra Modi

May 4, 2009 16:39 IST

Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
In the first part of his interview with's Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Nikhil Lakshman, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the ongoing election and his chances of moving to New Delhi after the polls.

In the second part of his interview, he spoke about the flavour of the current election.

In the final part of the interview conducted days before the Supreme Court fast-tracked the Special Investigation Team probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots, Modi discussed national security, vote bank politics, terrorism and the riots.

What do you think of Congress party President Sonia Gandhi?

What? Is it my job to give my opinion on everything?

No, but as a political personality.

Arre bhai, if she has any political experience, or has made any contribution to the country, then a debate can happen in which the plus and minus points will emerge. Bas, she has the one party that she got from her in-laws as her legacy.

Don't you think your party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, grew best when the dynasty's presence was waning in the Congress? And when the dynasty returned, the BJP's growth seems to have plateaued?

After P V Narasimha Rao formed the government (in June 1991), we won thrice from Gujarat. We were nowhere in the south, now we have a government there. We've won in Punjab, the Congress got thrashed in West Bengal. We've won in Bihar. Uttarakhand also, we won. So how can you talk of the BJP's plateau?

You should be factual, truthful, bhaiyya. You are giving absolutely wrong information.

Another thing, across India, from the panchayats to Parliament the Congress's flag would flutter. Today in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, which have 140 seats, they were offered just nine seats. Now what will you call this, the Congress's growth or Congress's decline?

We were talking about the 2004 election, which the BJP lost.

If you want to do a political analysis, you have to look at the full perspective. Or will you consider one incident alone? So will you look at the 1984 election and infer that the Congress is mahaan (great)?

But in 1984 the Congress was great, isn t it?

Everyone knows it was an election over martyrdom (of then prime minister Indira Gandhi). Why were they not able to sustain, they were given a huge majority by the people, why did they disappear suddenly, why did they have to go?

Do you think financial management in this government has been lax?

Look, When Dr Singh was finance minister (between June 1991 and May 1996) the Harshad Mehta scam happened. And when he is PM, Satyam has happened. The biggest shocks to the economy have happened in his tenure.

Do you think Dr Singh's reputation as an economist and as a financial manager is overstated?

By virtue of him being the PM there are expectations from him. If he were the chairman of the Planning Commission the expectations would be different. If he was an economist, the debate would be different. A prime minister should be leading the nation differently. That's why he has to be answerable to the people for everything.

'Gujarat is being discriminated against'

Image: The Sardar Sarovar dam across the Narmada, at Kavadia colony, 194 km south of Ahmedabad
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

Are you satisfied with this government s management of the financial meltdown?

What does my satisfaction have to do with it! They are not giving my state any funds. All over India they adopted three projects as national projects, but not my Narmada project. What will you say to this, when this Narmada project involves four states? Do you think this attitude of the PM is correct?

You are saying Gujarat has been discriminated against?


And that is because Narendra Modi is the chief minister?

I don't say that.

Why would Gujarat then be discriminated against?

Maybe they feel the people of Gujarat don't help them, politically they are not useful to them. And they are taking it out on our people.

You are making a direct allegation against the Government of India.

Yes, I am repeating it, that my state is being treated unjustly.

Are there any other examples of this?

See, Gujarat has the maximum number of vehicles, petrol-diesel consumption is the highest here. You earn cess from it from which you build roads. But my state gets zero budget while their favourite state gets Rs 13,000 crores. What will you call this?

Which is their favourite state?

You please find it out, I can't be doing your job.

You are alleging there is a continuous pattern of discrimination.

I am saying exactly that. In my state we want to take a water pipeline below the railway line, the expenditure is being borne by my government, but for the last two years the railway ministry in Delhi has not given permission for this.

In my state, in another place, we have this bridge that is complete on both sides, the railway line is on the river bank, so I have not been given permission to join the bridge. For two years the bridge has been lying unusable after spending money on it.

The Narmada dam needs a gate done, that's all the work left, today the cement and steel prices have fallen, the work can be done at a lower cost. But the Delhi government has not given me permission for this. Assuming it involves the stoppage of water flow in the dam, what will happen to get the gate done! If someone has any objection, don't stop the water flow, leave the gate open.

What do you lose in getting my gate done? But they don't allow us. You tell me, today steel is so cheap, I only need to get a 35-metre gate done, how many crores will be saved! But they are not giving permission.

What should I call this, you tell me?

You recently levelled a charge that Rs 50,000 crores has gone missing from the government coffers.

The Comptroller and Auditor Generals report is there on the basis of which I have asked this of the Indian government. Rs 50,000 crores is missing, where has it gone? And so far the government has not replied.

You have hinted that it has gone into funding the Congress campaign and, this is very interesting, preferred NGOs.

See, the CAG report says which NGO was given how much money, what happened to the money, but the government is not giving the details. This is from the CAG report, not my words.

'Democracy is in India's DNA'

Image: A Kashmiri votes in Anantnag, April 30, 2009
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters

Do you believe Indian democracy is faulty?

It was not always like this, so we cannot say that there's something wrong with our system. The change may be on account of the individuals or the situation, but this is not good for democracy.

If India has not fulfilled its potential, who will you blame?

After Independence whatever attitude we people took, it's all that regardless of who was responsible. The leadership after Independence, be it social leadership, cultural leadership or political leadership, everyone has done something wrong. In that sense, we are all responsible.

Do you think if we had less democracy, like in China, it could have worked?

There is democracy in China. But in India, democracy did not come after 1947, here democracy has been around since ganrajya.

Democracy is in our DNA. Without democracy this country cannot move ahead.

Maybe India needs a little less democracy, like in China.

No model but democracy will suit India. Indira Gandhi did try, but we know what was the outcome. She tried by imposing the Emergency in 1975, what was the result?

Are there any three things you would change about Indian democracy?

One, make voting compulsory. There should be an option to reject our vote. Meaning, I don't like any candidate out of this lot.

Two, the elected body should have a fixed five-year term. They have been sent by the people, they have to run the institution. Elections every two months, six months, won't do for this nation. You must stop it. If this was fixed, then everyone will get an opportunity to perform.

By holding elections prematurely, it is not possible to showcase one's performance, the date is announced, the Model Code of Conduct is implemented. The nation's time is wasted in this fashion, and no development becomes possible.

Before 1969 we used to have elections every five years, Parliament and assembly elections would be held simultaneously. All this is possible, we can do it.

Do you think more 26/11-like terrorist attacks will happen in India?

The home minister of India has said so, Mr Pranab Mukherjee too is saying so. They have more information resources than I do. So if they have said so, then there is no need for me to say anything more.

In your understanding was India's response to the 26/11 attacks okay or weak?

Why are you talking only of 26/11? The issue is after all linked to all terrorist incidents in India. India's image is of a soft State.

You decide to shift out the IPL, it shows that we are unsafe. This has been your response all along. What was it in the case of Afzal Guru, for instance? All these issues, through them an image is formed that the nation is in a dilemma over terrorism.

They think their vote bank will be upset over this issue. They seem to believe their political equation will be upset. This has been our problem for years now.

Do you feel India should attack the terror camps across the border?

I think the Indian government has more information. What is our strength, what is the terrorists's strength, the Indian government has complete round-up of all this. So in this matter they are better placed to answer you.

But you are said to have a deep understanding of national security.

What should we do, what should they do, these are specific questions to answer which one needs inputs from the Indian government.

Does the central government seek your opinion on this?

Arre, leave me aside, this government does not even discuss anything with the Opposition. I am at least from a state, they don't even talk to the other parties. When there is a need they call for a meeting through the Speaker. The Delhi government has never considered the Opposition.

When leaders like Sharad Pawar or P Chidambaram say something about you, you are the only leader to retaliate. Why do you feel the need to react to everything people say about you?

Please decide, is that an allegation or criticism? If it is an allegation, then it is my right to respond. If the criticism is wrong, then it is my right to issue the correct information. This is also a right in democracy, why do you take it amiss?

You tell me, when someone speaks wrongly of me, and if I believe democracy gives one the right of speech, it also means a right to respond, doesn't it?

Yes, I don't like to retaliate to an allegation with a counter-allegation, that's not my style.

Does criticism bother you?

Criticism is welcome in a democracy, don't put your words into my mouth. The strength of democracy is criticism.

'What is the need to drape different colours on terrorism?'

Image: Smoke billows out of Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel during the siege by terrorists
Photographs: Arko Dutta/Reuters

Gujarat is next door to Pakistan and Pakistan is a State on the brink on collapse. If Pakistan disintegrates, what will be the impact on India and on Gujarat?

Will Pakistan survive or collapse, this is not the agenda for now, it is for later. Today, the Taliban is taking over Pakistan, this is the biggest cause for concern. The Taliban is saying we have reached till Karachi. If they have reached Karachi, then even Goa comes within their range. The nation should be concerned.

That is why I pointed out that the Congress party in its manifesto has only made passing remarks on national security. But 20 pages have been written keeping its vote bank in mind.

Leave national security, there is no mention of coastal security. For the Congress party to dismiss national security in such a cavalier manner, is a matter for great concern.

Do you think terrorism is the greatest challenge confronting India today?

First of all, don't restrict terrorism only to India's borders. Terrorism is the enemy of humanity. Whoever believes in humanity, they all should be concerned. Those who have faith in humanity, they all should come together and mobilise international opinion against it.

India is uniquely placed to lead this movement. We have been troubled by terrorism for 30 years. Day by day they are spreading to newer areas. I say terrorism is the enemy of humanity, and all the forces of humanity should join hands against it.

How can India win the battle against terrorism?

India should have zero tolerance towards terrorism. Has anything happened in the United States after 9/11? After all, the US is a champion of human rights, it is the champion of democracy, the US is considered super-secular. Despite all this, it was attacked.

But after 9/11 they enacted draconian laws, used technology to the maximum. It did not hesitate to inquire into individual backgrounds. The media there too took it as its own duty.

Checking happens anywhere anytime, but the media doesn't highlight it saying such an important person was checked. In this manner a mood was created across the nation. So there has been no incidents after 9/11.

Here, if you want to look after such a huge nation you have to begin with zero tolerance. Legal measures need to be taken. The people need to be educated. The media too will have to treat this as being in the national interest, the media should take this role seriously. This is pro-humanity, and needs to be thought of from this perspective.

What do you think is the source of terrorism?

There can be many sources of terrorism, some people think power emanates only from the barrel of the gun, a new nation can be created this way. Some others are holier-than-thou, we are greater than you so you don't have the right to exist. There are many such reasons.

Some terrorist groups claim that the Gujarat riots of 2002 is a reason, what do you have to say about it?

When Khalistani terrorism was ravaging Punjab where was Gujarat then? For 30 years Kashmir has been combating terrorism, where was Gujarat then? Assam has been facing terrorism for 25 years, where was Gujarat then?(Former prime minister) Rajiv Gandhi was killed by terrorists, where was Gujarat then? Indira Gandhi too was killed because of terrorism, where was Gujarat then?

But saying all this is the agenda of news traders. Those who want to spend their lives by selling news, it is their job, they keep spreading such talk. But history tells you what is the reality.

So you don't agree with the link between domestic terrorism and the 2002 Gujarat riots?

I leave it to news traders to write what they think is right and not write what they think is not right. You can come to your own conclusions on the basis of history.

Do you think better Hindu-Muslim relations could be the best deterrent against domestic terrorism?

I don't understand your question.

Winning over disenchanted Muslim youth who may believe they do not have a place in India.

Who is involved in Naxalism? Who is involved in the insurgency in the north-east? Who are the children involved with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam? What will you say about them?

Will you keep looking at everything from the communalism perspective just because you want to trade your news? In order to sell your news if you try to foist another nation on your flag, nothing can be more unfortunate, let me tell you.

You are saying that some Muslims are not the only terrorists.

I am not saying that. I am saying that terrorism is the enemy of humanity. All those who believe in humanity should join hands. What is the need to drape different colours on terrorism? Terrorism is terrorism, it is the enemy of humanity.

'Let all of America stand in a queue to get our visa'

Image: A survivor of the 2002 riots in Gujarat rifles through what is left of his shop in Chota Udaipur, July 7, 2002
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

You are seen -- not only by news traders, to use your favourite phrase -- but by many parts of Indian society as a divisive figure? Do you feel your achievements are not valued enough?

I don't know. I am not in for myself, I am in it for Gujarat. Shouldn't there be criticism in a democracy? The strength of democracy is criticism. Yes, while criticism is welcome, allegations are not. If you don't criticise, where will the positives come from?

So criticism is always welcome! But allegations cannot be tolerated, no man should. If I make any allegations about it's not fair, but I can criticise you.

Does it bother you when America denies you a visa?

For you it may be important. My thinking is let us build such a strong India that Americans will line up for a visa to visit our country. Your thinking reflects the slave mentality, not mine. I think, let all of America stand in a queue to get our visa.

People say you are too polarising a figure to lead India.

Those who say so, please discuss with them why think like this, what proof do they have? In all of India Narendra Modi is the only chief minister who speaks for five crore Gujaratis.

There is a belief in some political circles that you are trying to retreat on Hindutva.

What is your definition of Hindutva? The Supreme Court of India has said Hindutva is a way of life. Those who have associated me with Hindutva, please ask them what they mean. I am devoted to Bharat Mata, I am a pujari (priest) of her culture.

From our Vedas to Swami Vivekanand, all our ancient rishis, Gandhi, Buddha, we should be proud of them all. And we do feel proud. If you don't agree, you are welcome to criticise.

How can Hindu-Muslim relations in this country be improved?

Get out of vote bank politics, everything will be all right.

Why do you call it vote bank politics? Because what you call vote bank politics, others call it giving the largest minority a share in governance, the nation's resources.

Why don't you read the Sachar Committee report? The Sachar Committee report says in Gujarat everyone, Hindu and Muslim alike, are better off. And the Sachar Committee report was commissioned by the Manmohan Singh government. The report says everyone gets the same justice in Gujarat.

If it is happening here, why can't the same happen everywhere else, so that everyone's lot improves?

If you were to go back in time to the 2002 riots is there anything you will do differently?

OK, let us go, it is time to end the interview, thank you.