Ten months into his term as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has graced the Indian media with his first-ever interview after taking over the country's premiership. Amidst increasing voices of disapproval over its proposed changes to the Land Acquisition Bill — which has been branded anti-poor — and concerns over his government’s lack of performance by industrialists, Modi has taken stock of his achievements of the last 10 months in this exclusive interview to Hindustan Times.
Although the interview is in Q&A format, the questions are more like sub-heads. They are there, but they don't ask much. Both the questions and the answers seem to move towards a pre-determined goal — to highlight the PM's achievements.
For instance, what is his take on the ghar vapasi programmes initiated by the VHP and the RSS? What does he think of the churches that are being attacked in the National Capital Region, NCR? What does he feel about the plan to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits in exclusive enclaves? What happened to all the black money that he had promised to bring back and distribute among the country's people? How did he feel about Obama’s speech advising religious tolerance in India? What does he really think about statements from BJP ministers stressing that those who don't back Modi should pack their bags and go to Pakistan?
HT doesn't care to ask.
This is what the PM had to say.
On his major achievements: Achievements have to be seen with reference to the past. In what situation did the people bring us to power? And what is the situation now? Is there a policy paralysis anymore? No. Is there a transparency issue? No. Is there stagnancy in governance? No. Instead, there is dynamism. It was even being said that the letter 'I' might have to be dropped from BRICS (the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Now, the faith has been restored - there is pace in governance, economic progress and global pride. You can see this.
On changing Delhi: Since I had come from a state, I had the sincerity and openness to look at the issues. I used the perspective of the common man of the country who had voted us to power. We have worked hard and sat together repeatedly and tried to remove the silos, barriers and bottlenecks…I have done a small thing, one that appears small from outside. I regularly interact with secretaries (bureaucrats) over tea; it is part of my working style… teams are made this way.
On the bureaucracy: If there is a ditch on the road, media has to just take a picture or video and put it up. That takes two minutes, but the person who has to fill it up and do the repairs will, at least, take 24 hours. Pehle, itna toh space dena padega (the bureaucracy has to be given some breathing space).
On the Business community: Our priority is the poor of the country. We want good governance through a dynamic and seamless government...Our job is to run a policy-driven government. Red tape nahin hona chahiye; Ab red tape nahin hona chahiye matlab Mukesh Ambani ke liye red tape na ho aur ek common man ke liye red tape ho, waisa nahin chal sakta (Red tape should not be there does not mean it should not be there for Mukesh Ambani, but be there for a common man; that won't do.)
On being pro-poor: The coal and spectrum scandals did not benefit the poor. Nor did the Commonwealth Games fiasco and loot. Everyone knows who were their beneficiaries. The result of the Congress' so-called pro-poor politics and governance of 60 years is that absolute poverty is still our biggest challenge….The worry of the Opposition, especially the Congress, is not that we are not pro-poor. Their worry is that they are being exposed. People are asking them, "If the Modi government can think and do this in six to nine months, why you could not think and do it in 60 years?"
On hurdles in Rajya Sabha: I thank the parties and the members of Parliament for four meaningful sessions of Parliament...We believe in dialogue with both allies and opposition parties. I have myself appealed in Parliament that we are ready to discuss and accommodate any issues where political parties have a different view.
On his foreign trips: I like to combine visits to more than one place when I go on my international tours in order to get more done. I'm from Ahmedabad where we have a saying, 'single-fare, double journey'.
On losing Delhi assembly elections: You have to respect the verdict of the people who have voted during all elections held after the Lok Sabha elections...I can say with confidence that we fully enjoy the love and trust of the people of the country living in various states, cities and villages.
On the North-east: I have also appealed to the people of the country to accord respect to and ensure the security of the people belonging to the Northeast. With this purpose, we organised the conference of DGs in the Northeast.
On the judiciary: I would not like to analyse the judiciary, the experts should look at it.