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What are Priyanka’s credentials?: PM Modi’s interview with Lokmat’s editorial director Rishi Darda

By Lokmat News

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his campaign trail believes that there is no anti-incumbency against his government and BJP will return to power with a thumping majority. In his very hectic campaigning he took some time off in Mumbai to speak to Lokmat Media's Editorial Director Rishi Darda. Excerpts from his exclusive interview:

What are Priyanka’s credentials?”: PM Modi asks Lokmat’s editorial director Rishi Darda

Q: In 2014, there was a 'Modi wave' in the country. Some would even call it a Tsunami. Is the Modi wave still in operation now?

Wherever I go in the country, I see tremendous love, affection, enthusiasm and support.

In fact, this is the first election where the people have taken upon themselves to campaign for and elect the Prime Minister. I am touched by how people are actively leading drives to inform about our good work. From the north to south, from east to west, from youth to senior citizens, from professionals to farmers, everyone is standing in our support.

This has led to a pro-incumbency wave which is a rarity. People have seen and benefitted from our good work and hence do not want it to stop.

Also, let's look at it from another angle. Historically, Congress leaders never accept that they are going to lose elections. Even if they know that they are going to lose deposits, till the last day they will say that we are winning. However, look what's happening this time. They are openly saying that they will reach nowhere close to the majority but hope to improve their 2014 tally. The fact that the Congress party is not even talking about winning shows the strength of the pro-incumbency wave.

Q: You have always criticised nepotism and dynastic rule in the past. However, in BJP also there are many such leaders with legacy and political families. Recently even in Maharashtra political families have joined the party.

Isn't the Congress party run for and run by one single family?

Isn't the NCP run for and run by one single family?

Isn't the TDP run for and run by one single family?

Isn't the RJD run for and run by one single family?

Isn't the SP run for and run by one single family?

To these questions, my answer and yours will surely be the same. However, do we know who the next president of the BJP will be? So, there is a qualitative difference between these parties and the BJP.

Dynastic parties are those that exist for one single family. If one family member is not heading it, then another family member steps in to take control. It's all about one family.

This is dynastic.

There is no comparison between cases where a family wants to join our party and work on the ground, with parties that run as personal company of one particular family.

Q: There has been a lot of excitement about Priyanka Vadra Gandhi's entry in politics. They say this could affect the results in Uttar Pradesh. Would that increase the number of Congress seats?

Let me ask you something very specific - There are a lot of general secretaries in the country. How many interviews of BJP general secretary has Lokmat or any other media published? How many TV channels have shown interviews of different general secretaries.

Just because their family members were not Prime Minister they do not get any publicity. Isn't this unfair?

During my swearing ceremony Rahul Gandhi who was not the president of Congress party and hence was not sitting in the front row. Sonia Gandhi was the head of Congress and was seating in the front row. Media wrote about this as unfair. In the past so many BJP leaders would have sat in the back but no one took notice of this situation.

Q: BJP is receiving a lot of flak due to the controversial comments and candidature of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. What are your views on the same?

If there is anything controversial, then it is not Sadhvi Pragya's candidature. It is the complicity of the Congress party and its ecosystem, who went all out to malign our 5,000-year old culture that believes in 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'. The culture that gave the world a great deal of ancient wisdom and scientific knowledge was besmirched by the evil design of Congress vote bank politics. That is the sin of the Congress party that we are frontally challenging.

Remember, when in 1984, Indira Gandhi died, her son proclaimed that the earth shakes when a big tree falls, and in response thousands of Sikhs brothers and sisters were butchered on the streets. Yet, he went on to become the prime minister and there was silence in the so-called neutral media. Not only that, such a man was given Bharat Ratna by a Congress government. Nobody dared to question Congress then. Today, when the Congress party made a person who has serious charges of participating in 1984 riots, the chief minister of the same state where Sadhvi ji is a candidate, again the so-called neutral media is silent. The so-called neutral media is silent when both the current and former Congress presidents are out on bail, yet contesting elections from Amethi and Rae Bareli.

These people are never referred to as 'scam-accused' or 'out on bail' in your headlines.

In none of these instances, has the candidature of any person involved is labeled as controversial except Sadhvi Pragya?

When the Courts have said that Sadhvi Pragya can contest elections, then how can her candidature be in question? Those protesting Sadhvi Pragya comprise the same coterie that dehumanized and demonized her. They are scared that now their carefully orchestrated propaganda will fall through.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is the symbol that reminds us of the sins that Congress has committed on this country and our people. And they will pay for each one of it.

Q: A lot of senior judges and bureaucrats have said that the government interference is being witnessed in the premier institutions like Supreme Court, Reserve Bank of India and Central Bureau of Investigations. What is your opinion?

No judge has said that government interference has been seen in the functioning of the Supreme Court. The nation expects media to be more responsible, and not be a rumour-monger, when talking about such important matters.

As far as the CBI is concerned, we immediately showed the maturity to take action when there was an internal institutional friction and ensured that things are sorted out so that the institutional function is not impeded.

Remember that I have suffered the Congress's brazen misuse of institutions. Everyone is also well aware of how they misused the agencies to hound me when I was in Gujarat.

But I trusted our democracy, went through all tribulations and came out clean.

This false narrative of 'institutions in danger' is an old Congress trick to cast aspersions against institutions when they don't toe the Congress line.

The people of our country know certain facts very well. If the judiciary takes independent decisions that the Congress doesn't like, they try to impeach and threaten. If they lose elections, they blame EVMs. If their scams are investigated, they blame the investigative agencies. It is in fact the Congress party, which has a history of subverting any institution that does not do its bidding. Remember it was Indira Gandhi who had said that the judiciary must be committed. So subverting institutions is an ideological belief of the Congress party. And the same people now questioning us?

Q: Unemployment rates have risen. In 2019, the unemployment rate was 7.2 per cent as per the CMIE. How will this be tackled?

The first part of your question itself is inaccurate. Opportunities for the youths have increased manifold in various sectors in the last five years.

This false narrative about unemployment does not stand the scrutiny of facts. We are perhaps the only government that has been providing exhaustive data about the employment situation at every forum available, be it poll rallies, interviews or Parliament.

About 4.5 crore first-time entrepreneurs funded by the MUDRA Yojana is employment creation. 1.2 crore new additions yearly to EPFO and ESIC are new formal jobs created.

CII survey says six crore jobs were created in the MSME sector alone in last 4 years.

NASSCOM said 1.4 crore jobs were created in 2014 to 2017 period in sectors of IT-BPM, Retail, Textiles and Automotive.

Think about the next few facts I am going to give.

We are the fastest growing economy in the world that is also eliminating poverty at the fastest pace in the world.

In 2018, we attracted more foreign investment than even China for the first time in 20 years.

We are building roads, railways, airports, highways, houses at more than double the previous speed.

So, when speaking about the employment situation in the country, do you think that these achievements are possible without creating employment?

For the future too, we are the only party that has come out with a comprehensive blueprint on how and where to invest to create even more jobs.

The plan to create a 5 trillion-dollar economy, fund 50,000 new startups, double the length of national highways, double the number of functional airports, invest Rs 100 lakh crore in infrastructure, invest Rs 25 lakh crore in agriculture and rural areas - these are measures outlined in our Sankalp Patra to take job creation even higher.

After the stupendous success of Mudra Yojana, through which 17 crore entrepreneurs have already availed collateral free loans of up to 10 lakhs, we will now start a new scheme where collateral free loans up to 50 lakhs will be given. This will empower our youth like never before to become the job creators of the next decade.

Q: It is said that traders, businessmen and industrialists are restless due to continuous harassment by the authorities. Your views.

This seems to be the opinion of the Opposition. I will put few facts from my side.

I will tell you what we have done to ease the business environment for our traders and business people. Our twin approach of 2Ts - Transparency and Technology - has strengthened the business environment and has made doing business much easier. With technology, we have institutionalised transparency in a big way. In fact, unlike the UPA which institutionalised corruption, we have institutionalised transparency and honesty.

Our motto from day one was to remove red tape and replace it with red carpet. The rise in Ease of Doing Business Rankings is an evidence of our vision being translated to action.

The biggest contributors in improving in Ease of Doing Business ranking were the improvements in getting construction permits and getting electricity. Both these domains were the sources of biggest hassles and bottlenecks for business people. There is now concrete evidence of our work in these sectors.

Reforms such as online application and processing, single window clearances that remove the need to visit government offices frequently, speeding up of approvals, reduction of turnaround time in processing have been seen across various domains. Even the number of procedures and documents needed to get the work done has been reduced remarkably.

Earlier the time needed to start a business was around 32 days in 2014. It has halved to 16 days in 2019. Processes for incorporating a company have been simplified and it is now possible to get it done in 24 hours. We have started a system of online application and approval for environmental clearances, which used to get stuck in delays earlier.

GST has been designed to eliminate Inspector Raj with the help of information technology. From returns to refund, everything happens online. With GST we have ended long queues and harassment faced due to octroi posts that our traders were subjected to.

It is now history. The number of traders registered in the indirect tax system almost doubled since the introduction of GST. Do you think that would happen if the system was inconvenient?

The truth is that today honest traders, businessmen and industrialists are extremely happy with our government efforts to boost transparency and honor their honesty.

It is only the BJP which understands the aspirations and needs of the entrepreneurs. We have already drastically reduced the tax burden for small businesses. We have promised to set up a National Traders Welfare Board and to start a pension scheme for traders.

Q: Do you feel 'note bandi' or demonetisation was a success? What went wrong with it? Will there be another round of demonetisation?

Everyone knew that there is a problem of black money. Someone had to act. I did. We have achieved very good results in our fight against black money. Critics of demonetisation often criticise it without factual knowledge.

Do you know that the anti-black money measures taken by us during the last four and half years have brought out undisclosed income of Rs 1,30,000 crore?

Do you know that it has led to seizure and attachment of assets worth approximately Rs 50,000 crore?

Do you know that Benami assets worth Rs 6,900 crore and foreign assets worth Rs 1,600 crore have been attached?

Do you know that as many as 3,38,000 shell companies have been detected and deregistered, and their directors disqualified?

Do you know that the tax base has almost doubled, which is also an outcome of measures like demonetisation?

Do you know that we have seen a large transition from informal to formal economy, which gives people better working conditions and remuneration?

It is natural for Opposition to criticise demonetisation because they lost a lot of their wealth but facts clearly show its effectiveness.

Q: Swachh Bharat was a success and the results can be seen in lot of cities. But few schemes like 'Make in India', 'Startup India' did not take off as expected.

This statement is not correct. In fact, dismissing programmes like 'Make in India' and 'Startup India' is a great disservice to lakhs of Indian businesses and entrepreneurs who are benefiting from them and running them.

Take the case of mobile manufacturing in India. Would anybody have thought that the world's biggest mobile manufacturing unit would be in India? Here is another interesting fact for you. In comparison to two mobile & parts manufacturing units in 2019, today we have 268 units! Is it not recognition of the Indian potential?

In fact, 'Make in India' is the reason that defence equipment production in India has increased by 80 per cent. With right investment, our engineers are getting a platform to innovate and design.

Coaches for some world's metro projects are being made in India. India's first semi-high-speed train, 'Vande Bharat Express', is a result of India's 'Make in India' initiative.

International players are gravitating towards India more than ever before. We have emerged as the world's favourite investment destination. When we came to office in 2014, India was attracting around $35 billion of FDI. That number has almost doubled in the last five years.

Japanese companies, famous for their engineering capabilities, are now making cars in India and then exporting it to their own country. Is this not a global stamp of approval for the 'Make in India' initiative?

If Indian engineering is getting a platform to showcase its skills, so are the Indian startups.

Today, we are one of the biggest start-up hubs in the world. And the best thing of the boom of startups in India is the fact that almost 50 per cent of these startups have emerged from tier II and tier III cities. Soon every district of India will have a startup success story.

The world is looking at India with awe for making such a huge impact in such a short time. Today, India does not necessarily have to look outside for solutions. Our youths are providing unique solutions for India's unique problems.

Q: After 1984, there was a clear majority in Lok Sabha. But don't you feel even after such a strong mandate very few Bills were passed?

While we are happy with the legislative successes under our government, we do not feel that the number of Bills passed are the only indicator of a government's success.

'Action, not Acts' has been our motto.

What matters at the end of the day is how many lives of the poor we are able to improve. And on this indicator, I can confidently say that we have done a good job.

Remember the fanfare with which Food Security Act was brought and passed in Parliament. Remember how many accolades it got. But when we came to power in 2014, it was implemented in only 11 states. We ensured that it was implemented across all states and Union territories in a short span of time.

Similarly in 2014, the talk was whether the government would give 10 cylinders or 12 cylinders. But only 55 per cent households in India had a gas connection in 2014. In a very short span of five years, we have taken this above 90 per cent.

These are just few examples of how we have ensured that public welfare does not remain dependent on Bills.

Q: As Gujarat chief minister you did not have to bother for allies. How challenging was working with all these allies and few left NDA in-between.

We always value and believe in the importance of regional aspirations. Having been the chief minister of a state for a long time, I know how important regional aspirations are in the development journey of our nation.

In 2014, we got a majority on our own. Yet we took our allies along in government formation and are thankful to them for their rich contribution in the last five years. We respect the democratic processes and believe that a democracy is strengthen by taking as many people along as we can.

We believe and practice the principle that 'government can be formed by 'Bahumat', but it should be run by 'Sarvamat'. We believe in working together with not only our allies, but also the Opposition, in national interest.

Q: Would you need the allies to reach the majority mark?

We will do better than our 2014 performance and along with us our allies will also grow and do much better this time.

Q: In Maharashtra your ally Shiv Sena has constantly spoken against BJP and also you. Just two months before it came back and became part of alliance and is now praising the government.

We should not forget that BJP and Shiv Sena have been successfully running a government in Maharashtra for the last four years.

Our bonds go back to decades. This is an alliance which had the blessings of stalwarts like Balasaheb Thackeray & Atal ji. We have been companions in politics ever since. Both our parties have not only grown together, but also share ideological similarities.

Q: How do you see relations with Pakistan in the next five years?

Pakistan must visibly, verifiably and unambiguously give up promoting terrorism. This is what will determine how relations between us will be.

Q: Are you in favour of holding all State Assembly elections simultaneously? Is it practical?

It is an idea whose time has come. And remember, various stalwarts of politics have also advocated it time and again.

Elections are like a festival in the country. Like any festival we celebrate, we dedicate special resources, time and effort for its smooth functioning.

However, due to elections all year round, at the national level or in some state or another, it bears a heavy burden on the exchequer. Officials, school teachers, security forces all have to be deployed in some place or the other. This affects regular development work.

Moreover, long campaign periods along with model code of conduct means further delay in development decisions.

One other aspect frequent election in some place or the other is that it strains our federal polity. The party in centre maybe different from the one in state. In elections they may be competing, and in campaign rhetoric they may take positions which may hamper normal government relations. Thus, simultaneous elections would also enable a healthy culture of cooperative federalism.

As for practicality, remember for a long period after independence, we used to have simultaneous elections. So, we have precedence for this. However, this can be a BJP agenda alone. We have to evolve a consensus among political parties before we move ahead. I am sure we can work out the practicality, if we put our minds to it.

Q: It is being said that the PMO alone is currently running most of the ministries.

Our achievements happened because all ministries came together and delivered as a team. The point is, if you take those ministries that never get a space in your headlines or TV debates, you will see how they are delivering for the development of the country.

Under the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which is not so widely covered by the media, Eklavya schools are being taken to every tribal child. For tribal farmers, a minimum support price for minor forest produce is being ensured.

The DoNER Ministry has worked in tandem with other ministries to fast pace the development of the seven sister states.

Even these non-glamourised ministries are performing so well and proving to be the very drivers of change.

To answer the second part of your question, it is an 'urban myth' that came up in the A/C studio discussions. It has no relation to reality. Can you imagine India achieving what it has achieved in the last 5 years because of one department or one individual?

Under our government, every ministry is enabled and empowered to achieve its set goals.

The role of the PMO is to ensure cohesion in policy and cooperation in its implementation.

It is committed to ensure smooth functioning of all departments by providing clarity, decisiveness and facilitation that is needed for the government to deliver its commitment of good governance and development.

Q: Which are three most important things to change in India to make India into a developed nation?

I am glad that you asked this question. This shows aspiration of the people and their expectations. People are tired of India being a developing country and they now want it to be a developed country. People also know that if someone can do this, it is our government.

The three most important things which help set India on a new trajectory of progress are Economy, Education and Empowerment.

The size of the economy and its speed of growth matters in all global decisions. Today India is respected because it's the fastest growing large economy. In five years, India has come up from being the 11th largest economy to the 6th largest economy. We have a target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2025. This will not only give tremendous might to India in its global standings but also pull crores of people out of poverty and strengthen the neo-middle class and the middle class.

The future of a country depends on the education and skill levels of the youths. Today India has 65 per cent population below the age of 35 and hence can reap the benefits of the demographic dividend. It is important that the youth gets quality education and skills.

In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, it is also important that they be equipped with skills for the future. Our Atal Innovation Mission and the network of thousands of Atal Tinkering Labs are boosting the faculties of research and innovation ingrained in our youths. We are committed to make our education system world class, through technology and other interventions.

Today, India is shunning politics of entitlement and accepting politics of empowerment.

The poor want to be empowered with basic facilities and then they will themselves come out of poverty. All they need is a level playing field. In the last 5 years, we have undone the injustices of five decades and provided toilets, gas connections, houses, pukka roads, bank accounts, electricity to crores of poor households. What should have been done in 1-2 decades after independence was done by us after 2014. We are committed to further empowering the poor through various means so that they can script a story of their success.

Q: Young voters form the majority of voter base in the country. Why are the youths so angry with politics and how can that change?

It is dynastic politics which angers the youths. It is corruption which angers the youths. It is a remote controlled weak government which angers the youth. It is the delays and inertia of bureaucracy which anger the youth. It is caste based divisions which anger the youth.

It seemed to the youth that the country can never fight these ills. This made them angry. But in the last five years they have seen change.

They have seen that the rule of dynasty can be challenged. They have seen that Corruption can be fought. They have seen that there is a strong and decisive government which takes actions in accordance with the will of the people. They have seen that the government is being run through public participation and feedback, and bureaucratic sloth is being defeated. They have seen that is possible to run a government which works for all castes and does not discriminate. What appeared 'namumkin' five years back, is now looking 'mumkin'. This is giving confidence and optimism to the youth.

As a result I have got great support of the youths in all my endeavours. Gone are the days when the youths used to throng the streets against corruption and misgovernance. Today our youths are brimming with positivity and potential. They are seeing that their role in nation building is important and are actively participating.

It is the youth who have taken the lead in the 'Swachh Bharat Mission'. From beaches to ghats and from neighbourhoods to gardens, it is our youth who are bringing a cleanliness revolution.

Today India has become one of the global leaders in digital payments. This too, is powered by our youths. Not only have the youths taken wholeheartedly to digital payments, they have also helped senior citizens learn and adapt.

Be it Startups or sports, our youths are rapidly dominating the world. What is also more remarkable is that youths from smaller cities and towns are making remarkable progress in these sectors, which was unimaginable a few years ago.

Our aspirational vision got the support of the youth, especially the first-time voters in 2014. Our record in the last five years will ensure that 100 per cent first time voters support us in 2019.

Source credit : Lokmat News

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