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A Kashmiri votes in Anantnag, April 30, 2009
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'Democracy is in India's DNA'

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.

Image: A Kashmiri votes in Anantnag, April 30, 2009
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
Also read: Complete coverage: India Votes 2009
First part of interview with Narendra Modi
Second part of interview with Narendra Modi
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