India is in the middle of the Lok Sabha Elections, which is being billed as the biggest polls on this planet. With just few days remaining for the May 23 verdict, News Nation brings you the most coveted, awaited interview of the poll season. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is running for the second term, spoke exclusively to News Nations’ Deepak Chaurasia and Peenaz Tyagi. Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi using the Army’s name for seeking vote? What was on his mind when the Indian Air Force carried out the stunning airstrikes across border in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? What about development vs nationalism? In a free-wheeling, marathon interview, the Prime Minister answered these and many more questions that revealed lesser-known aspects of his life.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Deepak Chaurasia: Modi ji, the first question is - Do you think this election is about Modi vs Modi? There’s lot of discussion about you across the county, lots of talks involving you. With these elections essentially becoming Modi vs Modi, whom do you think is your biggest rival?
PM Modi: We were thinking that there was a wave for the Mahagathbandhan. Last year in Karnataka, at the new government’s formation event, they (the Opposition leaders) held hands and sent out a message to the nation. But by the time they reached Delhi, they were all were separated. Be it Sharad Pawar or Deve Gowda, have you seen any of these leaders with the Congress? Nobody is ready stand with them. Nobody is not even ready to click photos with them. As far as these elections are concerned, please understand that they are being fought on development plank. But apart from ‘vikas’ it is about ‘vishwas’ also. And the reason is 2014 and the governments before that. People were dejected, they had no aspirations, their hopes were shattered. But with the journey of 2014 to 2019, people developed a trust. So, these elections are actually about pro-incumbency wave. These polls are about bringing a government back to power. I was expecting that our critics would have studied our government’s working and during the elections that they would come up with some facts, but they are not ready put hard work into the research. They are afraid that if they try to counter us, they won’t be able to answer how their government was not doing enough. They are afraid that if they raise question against me and my government, it will expose them. So, the easy route for them is to create a big lie and abuse Modi. They have abused Modi so much that people have made Modi the mantra.
Peenaz Tyagi: My question is related to the same. You just said that the polls are about ‘vikas’ and ‘vishwas’. And there are repeated efforts being made to tarnish your image. Either a corruption charge is levelled against you or an impression is being made that you are against the institutions, against democracy. Do you think that the entire Opposition has succeeded?
PM Modi: Narendra Modi’s 45 years of public life has gone through a ‘tapasya’. No newspaper wala or TV wala has created Modi. Those who are born on pages of newspapers, they have a very limited life. Those who are born on TV screens, they have also their presence restricted to TV. But a person who has gone through ‘tapasya’, that person’s presence has no end. So, no matter how much anybody tries, if media had created Modi, media would have destroyed Modi. But that didn’t happen. Today, these people are trying to target me using media, but nothing happened. And the main reason is that this is not about anybody’s benevolence. This is about 125 crore citizens blessings, there ashirwad. Modi is not because of 5-50 Lutyens walas or 5-50 media walas. Thats’ why I don’t waste my time on what they are doing or saying.
Deepak Chaurasia: During your five year tenure, there were many issues. Like tukde-tukde gang, award-wapsi gang. Then there were those who said that democracy is in danger because of Modi ji. What do you have to say?
PM Modi: See, in the last five years, they (Opposition) has not found any single reason. It is just ‘hawabaazi’. There were so many sessions of Parliament, why didn’t they raise the issue and say that Modi’s this action shows that he is anti-democratic. I will also tell you about my days in Gujarat. When I became Chief Minister, there used to be lot of files at the end of month. Once, I asked ‘what is this about?’ The officials said that an inquiry is on against an officer and he is retiring tomorrow. We need to send a notice to him today itself. I told them ‘what are you doing, stop it! A man who worked for 35 years is undergoing a probe for something that happened 20 years ago. Now on a day when he is retiring, you are sending a notice! This must stop.’ Is this not democratic? All my actions have led to strengthening democracy. I have always taken pro-democracy actions.
Deepak Chaurasia and Peenaz Tyagi: What about such harsh criticism. If we look at your predecessors, there was criticism. But not such deep negativity. Do you think your detractors consider you as a danger?
PM Modi: I feel there should be criticism. In a democracy, there should be a lot of criticism. But it is my misfortune that there is no criticism but just allegations. Allegations leads to just action and reaction. And when I know that these are all false allegation, I don’t waste time. I just stay on my own path and serve people of our nation.
Peenaz Tyagi : What to do have to say about Sam Pitroda’s ‘hua toh hua’? Do you think that without high command, an advisor could have said something like that?
PM Modi: It is not right to limit this issue to just Sam Pitroda. When Rajiv Gandhi became PM, his first remark was “when a big tree falls, earth shakes.” After that whatever happened was in the continuity of that remark. There was such a widespread rioting in Delhi, so many people died, but no curfew was imposed in the national capital. Not a single bullet was fired by the police. Those who shook the Earth were blessed. After that, some commissions were formed, but what happened. In fact, a person was made polls in-charge Punjab. It was only after huge uproar over his role in 84 riots, he was removed and later made Chief Minister. The victims and their families feel that these people don’t care for them. Sam Pitroda’s remark is part of that school of thought. The Congress party’s ego is at its peak, they don’t care about anything. Be it ‘Coalgate’ or so many other corruption charges, they don’t care.
Deepak Chaurasia: In between such serious questions, I have a very simple query for you. Do you carry a wallet?
PM Modi: See, earlier, I didn’t have money so there was no need to carry a wallet. If one carries a wallet, one should have something to keep in that wallet. In 2001, when I became an MLA, I started to get some money. After that I opened a bank account. Then there was some money when I became Chief Minister and Prime Minister. Now, I just withdraw money for my monthly expense and give it to my staff to take care of sundry things. I never carry anything in my pocket.
Deepak Chaurasia: Have you ever bought any item of luxury from your own money?
PM Modi: I have stayed very disciplined in my entire life. If you call watching movie a luxury, you can say I have indulged in that. But all this was during my early years. I used to watch movies for free. Because father of my best friend would let us in a cinema hall. (My friend) Dashrath’s father had a ‘khomcha’ outside a theatre and he would help us kids in watching the movies.
Deepak Chaurasia: What about Rahul Gandhi’s Rs 30,000 crore Rafale allegations?
PM Modi: See, I know those who are making these allegations. I know their intent. The question these leaders are asking me, why nobody is asking this question to them. Nobody has asked these leaders to give details about those allegations. I would personally go and honour a journalist who asks such a question.
Peenaz Tyagi: What about such constant bashing by your detractors?
PM: Yes, I am human. But I am a Prime Minister too. For the sake of this country, I am increasing my power to tackle these insults. I can’t let the nation suffer due to this.
Deepak Chaurasia and Peenaz Tyagi: Do you think that development has taken over nationalism? Is this because voters are not interested in ‘vikas’?
PM Modi: Post-Pulwama terror attack, many leaders asked where is ‘56 inch’. When I carried out the airstrikes they said why you did it. What can I say on this? You should ask this question them. We just successfully shot down a satellite. This is a huge achievement. Now they are raising issue that why now, they question the timing. This is their nature. Even there is pothole in Pune, they will blame me!
Deepak Chaurasia: Is Opposition suffering from ‘Modi phobia’?
PM Modi: Well, Opposition is about raising voice against the ruling party. It is their job, they should intensify it. But they should attack me with full information and full responsibility. Not just for sake of media attention.
Peenaz Tyagi: What was on your mind when you decided the Balakot Airstrike?
PM Modi: I don’t want any credit. I don’t need any credit. But the Army is ours. It is our pride. Why not take pride in that? Modi ko credit mat do. But we must hail our forces for their stunning achievement.
Peenaz Tyagi: What about that fateful night?
PM Modi: It was raining that night very heavily. At around 12 midnight, this I am saying for the very first time, a thought crossed my mind about the plan. Should we carry out the airstrikes some other day due to bad weather, I thought. I am not an expert, but I thought that these clouds can provide us much needed cover. At around 1:30 am, we started the movement, at 2:55am we okayed it and at 3:20 am I got the report about the airstrikes. There were so much of movement in the air and in water that it confused Pakistan.
Deepak Chaurasia: What happened when you got the news about Wing Commander Abhinandan?
PM Modi: First, I got to know about airspace violation. Then I got know about Abhinandan. We had told them (Pakistan officials) very clearly. Don’t touch Abhinandan, else it will ruin everything.
Deepak Chaurasia: You tried a lot to normalise ties with Pakistan. You invited Nawaz Sharif. You went there. But what now?
PM Modi: You must see this in its entirety. Now, we have better ties with other Islamic nations. I invited Nawaz Sharif and it sent out the message that Modi wants friendship. It convinced people that Modi wants cordial ties with Pakistan. Later, when they did Uri and I ordered out airstrikes, I didn’t need to convince global community. Now, Pakistan is publicly distancing itself from terror groups.
Deepak Chaurasia: People have criticised about your foreign policy
PM Modi: Yes, I faced the same situation when I was the Chief Minster of Gujarat. But let me tell you, I believe in the power of 125 crore people of this country. I don’t care about power. Whatever I do, it is for the nation. Whatever action I take, it is because I just have the country in my head and heart.
Deepak Chaurasia: What about asking vote in the Army’s name?
PM Modi: Journalists should provide proof of any such rally or interaction where he had sought vote in the name of the Army. Should I not tell people about what the Congress has been saying about our top military commanders. I am simply telling people that Congress party is calling our Air Chief Marshal a liar, should I not say something. These are not a municipality polls. These are national elections. Forces are part of this. Why should I not talk about it?
Deepak Chaurasia: What about surgical strikes in the UPA era?
PM Modi: Despite all such claims, not a single officer has talked about their military operations. How is it possible? Was this surgical strike carried out in video game?
Deepak Chaurasia: It has been alleged that you are repeatedly attacking Gandhi family
PM Modi: No, I have not said anything against some film. I am against dynasty politics. Those who have read Baba Saheb Ambedkar know that Baba Saheb had said that dynasty politics is the enemy of democracy. I am against dynasts. I have nothing to do with any family.
Deepak Chaurasia: Why are you saying that these polls should be about issues from 80s?
PM Modi: It was only after the Congress chief raised question and asked ‘if the Army is Modi’s personal property’, I brought up the INS Viraat issue. I wanted to show what personal property and misuse means. But the media didn’t question him. Still, the God is benevolent on me and one of his party members said ‘hua toh hua’. Modi doesn’t get these things done. It’s their own doing. That is why I said that in Bhopal, it is about Warren Anderson and in Delhi it is about 1984 riots.
Peenaz Tyagi: But Priyanka Gandhi Vadra says that these polls are about the GST and note ban. Why Bhopal Gas talk about Bhopal tragedy and Sikh riots?
PM Modi: The Opposition fought the UP elections on note ban and see what happened. In Gujarat, they tried to make GST a poll issue. Surat was called a boiling point. But see the end result. They lost. So, GST, note ban have already been discussed and we have won those polls.
Peenaz Tyagi: What about NYAY scheme of Congress?
PM Modi: Will you believe on tape recorder or track records? Listen to this, they had claimed that if they win polls in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, they will give unemployment allowance to the youth. What happened? They had claimed that they will waive the loans of all farmers. See, six months have gone, what has happened? Their tape recorder is nice to hear but look at my track record also.
Deepak Chaurasia: What about Rs.15 lakh promise. I did research, you had not promised anything, but your Chhattisgarh rally became a poll issue. How do you deal with it?
PM Modi: I am thankful that you did the research. See, people don’t believe in these things, I don’t waste my time on the false issues.
Peenaz Tyagi: The polls in Bengal have become very violent and very bitter. What’s your take?
PM Modi: Whenever anything happens in Jammu and Kashmir, media raises the issue like anything. But what about Bengal. It is about democracy. Compare the Panchayat elections in these two states. While everything was reported about J&K, nothing was told about Bengal. People are killed and hanged on trees there. Why is media silent. Question is not about Modi, question is not about democracy.
Deepak Chaurasia: People think you as one-man army and believe that you can’t run a coalition. What do you have to say about this?
PM Modi: I have worked for Keshubhai Patel, I learnt about coalition politics from there. I have been trained in coalition politics for over the years. We have Atal ji’s legacy, nobody knows coalition politics better than us.
Deepak Chaurasia: How you became such a gadget freak?
PM Modi: Not just phones or other gadgets, I have deep interest in gadgets. In fact, you would be surprised to know that I had a digital pad in early 90s. Now it is very common. People used pen and digital pad nowadays, but I had that in early 90. In 80s, I was among very few people who had a digital camera. I had a digital camera, this I’m talking about 87, 88. I took Advani ji’s photo and sent it to Delhi. Advani ji was very surprised when he saw his colour photo the next day. Be it hologram, seaplane, I am deeply interested in tech world.
Deepak Chaurasia: How many meals you take in a day?
PM Modi: Most of the time when I am traveling, I like to carry home-cooked food with me. I carry ‘liquid moong’ or khakra with me. 90 per cent of time I eat this only. I like simple meal. I have habit of having chai at 5 in the morning and at 6 in the evening. That’s about it. I got to know about variety of food because of Arun Jaitley. Because he is quite a foodie, so he used to order food for me.
Deepak Chaurasia: Are you a calorie conscious person?
PM Modi: Oh no, I don’t put my brain in that. I work so much, I don’t need to think about this.
Deepak Chaurasia: Do you know how to cook? Can you make rotis?
PM Modi: Of course, I can prepare all kind of meal. I used to help my mother, so I know how to make rotis.
Peenaz Tyagi: What about your journey so far?
PM Modi: I have lived in garages, in temples. So I don’t feel attached to anything. In my mind, I’m still not a PM. When I sign a file, then I realise my designation. Else, I am a common man.