In his first interview of 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday spoke on several issues, including demonetisation, Ram Temple, triple talaq bill, Rafale and AgustaWestland deals, and turned emotional while speaking on the Uri army Cantt attack that prompted India to conduct surgical strikes across the LoC. Speaking to news agency ANI, Modi revealed that the dates of Indian Army’s surgical strikes across LoC after the Uri terrorist attack were changed twice due to safety concerns. The prime minister said he was more concerned about the safety of soldiers than the outcome of the mission. “I gave clear orders that whether you get success or failure, don’t think about that but come back before sunrise. Don’t fall for the lure and prolong it (the operation),” Modi said.
On September 28, 2016, Indian Army soldiers carried out a cross-border surgical strike to destroy terrorist hide-outs in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). The strike was India’s response to the deadly terrorist attack on an Army camp in Uri, killing 20 soldiers.
Modi turned emotional while talking about the mission. The prime minister revealed he was getting live information about the mission and was keeping a close tab on the risky operation throughout the night.
"I knew it was a big risk. I never care about any political risk to me. The biggest consideration for me was the safety of our soldiers," Modi said adding that he didn’t want any harm to the commandos who were "willing to sacrifice their lives on our word."
Speaking about the cross-border attacks from Pakistan even after the surgical strike, the prime minister hinted at similar action saying Islamabad would take more time to understand. "It would be a big mistake to think that just a single strike would amend Pakistan. The country will take more time to change," Modi said.
Modi also launched a scathing attack on the Congress and said those who ruled the country for decades are out on bail for financial irregularities. "It is a fact that those considered first family, who ran the country for four generations, are out on bail, that too for financial irregularities. It is a big thing," Modi said. He added that the Congress's loyalists have been trying to mislead the nation and hiding such information.
"A set of people, who are at their service, are trying to suppress such information and push other narratives," he said.
On asked about his slogan 'Congress-Mukt Bharat', Modi said not only him but the Congress itself needs to be 'mukt' of this Congress culture. "Even Congress people say Congress is a thought, a culture. When I say Congress-mukt, I want to rid the country from this culture and this sort of thinking. And I say that Congress too needs to be 'mukt' of this Congress culture, he said.
"The former finance minister is forced to appear before the court and this in itself is big deal and people are watching it," Modi said. However, he clarified that it should not be seen as a political vendetta.
On farmers loan waiver, the PM said: “When we talk about loan waivers, it invariably gets linked with the polls. He emphasised that we should also be thinking about structural issues- how can we empower the farmers, ensure more water, greater credit, better markets.”
"There is a small segment of farmers who take loans from banks. A majority of them take loans from money lenders. When governments make such announcements, those farmers do not become beneficiaries of waivers. The farmers who are dying are out of the purview of such schemes" said Modi.
He said Congress government is lying about waiving all farm loan when the truth is available on party's circulars.
Speaking on demonetisation, the Prime Minister said that he had warned people of the note-ban a year before implementing it, adding that at that time people took him lightly. "This wasn't a jhatka. We had warned people a year before, that if you have such wealth (black money), you can deposit it, pay penalties and you will be helped out. However, they thought Modi too would behave like others so very few came forward voluntarily," Modi said in the interview.
Modi had announced on November 8, 2016 that old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes will not remain a legal tender from midnight.
"There was a parallel economy running in the country and it was evident by the fact that several cases were being reported of note seizure. After the note ban, the money has come to mainstream economy," Modi said. He added that the younger generation has welcomed the move and they are happy that the country’s economy is progressing.
Talking about triple talaq, Modi said an ordinance on it was brought after the Supreme Court verdict. He was referring to the Supreme Court's ruling in 2017, banning the practice of triple talaq among the Muslims. Subsequently, the government issued an Ordinance and brought a Bill in Parliament.
Defying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) demand, Modi denied to bring a special Ordinance for the construction of a Ram Temple on the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya. The prime minister made it clear that the Ordinance on Ram Temple will be considered only after legal process gets over.
“Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever will be our responsibility as the government, we are ready to make all efforts,” the prime minister said when asked whether his government would consider the demand of an Ordinance on Ram Temple by his party’s ideological patriarch RSS.
As 2019 Lok Sabha elections are approaching the nation, the demand for the construction of a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya gained momentum with Hindu hard-line groups the RSS, the VHP and their other allies making strongest push. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat himself had demanded the government to bring a low for the construction of Ram Temple.
When asked if the Temple issue was relegated as merely an emotive issue for the BJP, the prime minister said: “We have said in our BJP manifesto that a solution would be found to this issue under the ambit of the Constitution.”
The issue of Ayodhya dispute is slated to be heard by the Supreme Court on January 4. Several petitions filed before the top court have sought a day-to-day hearing in the case.
Modi also spoke of former RBI governor Urjit Patel and said the former RBI governor had wanted to resign for months because of his "personal reasons".
"The governor himself requested (to resign) because of personal reasons. I am revealing for the first time, he was telling me about this for the past six-seven months before his resignation. He gave it even in writing. He wrote to me personally," Modi said.
Patel resigned after months of a perceived tussle between the government and the central bank over issues ranging from liquidity and credit flow to tackling weak banks, which raised concerns about the RBI's independence ahead of general elections this year.
When asked about the BJP’s defeats in five elections last year, Modi said in his opinion 2018 was a successful year.
“Elections are just one facet of a number of facets in this country. If in this country poor are given insurance of up to Rs 5 lakh, through Ayushman Bharat Yojna. Within 100 of its implementation, 6-7 lakh have benefited. In such big numbers people were suffering and today they have got treatment. How can I consider this a failure? It is my biggest achievement.
“The world today talks about climate change and India was considered as one of the countries that caused pollution. In 2018, the UN awarded the champion of earth, a protector of the environment, to a leader. It is a source of pride.”
Modi also targeted the Opposition parties, saying for them, Modi is the issue.
“On different days, they take turns to abuse Modi. You will hear nothing from them about their vision for India. In 2019, the people of India will set the agenda. They know who is with their aspirations and who is not,” he said.
"The first test of the alliance was in Telangana and we have seen what has happened to the alliance. What happened to the alliance in Tripura and Assam. Everybody can see. Their top leaders can close ranks but the people will never connect with this," Modi said on being asked about the Opposition’s grand alliance.