Narendra Modi in conversation with Hari Shankar Vyas
Narendra Modi gave his maiden Television Interview during the 2014 Lok Sabha Campaign to the ETV group. The interview was held in Hindi by Hari Shankar Vyas in a program called Central Hall.
Question- At the outset, I urge you to speak from your heart, and speak frankly, without inhibitions. The very purpose of this talk is to understand your vision, your thoughts about the country. What you plan to do? How you plan to do? How will you write the destiny of the nation? So, my first question is, why have you given the slogan of the ‘Congress-free India? Why not, corruption-free India, unemployment-free India or poverty-free India? Wouldn’t it be better?
You have asked me to be frank and honest. I have one satisfaction; the country knows me at least for one thing: whenever Modi speaks, he speaks frankly, without inhibitions, from the heart, with conviction. I really feel happy and relaxed when it comes to speaking the truth.
When I speak about the ‘Congress-free India’, I mean freedom from the work-culture that the Congress has given to this nation during the last sixty years. The culture it has nourished. By this, I mean freedom from the politics of vote bank, the politics of grabbing power through these means. The country hasn’t witnessed such a naked dance of corruption that it has seen during the last ten years.
Thus, a Congress-free India necessarily means an India free from bad governance, free from the dynastic rule, free from the misuse of constitutional institutions, free from inflation, free from crisis of different kinds. The Congress has become synonym of all these ills. But, I want a ‘Congress-free India’ by democratic means.
Question- But during the last sixty years, there have been three such occasions when India ‘became’ Congress-free. There were non-Congress governments at the centre. But broadly, it was just the change of faces. The governments were run in the typical Congress style. How will it be different this time?
You are absolutely correct. Save Atalji government, others were headed by people from the Congress Gotra, clan. They were born in the Congress culture. Grew up in the Congress culture. But left the party due to their personal ambitions.
You can see a clear distinction in the government run by Atalji. He brought an entirely different culture, had a clear and nationalist vision. His politics was based on different ideals.
Question- Yet, it also failed to change the fundamentals of governance, may be due to the system that prevailed in Delhi. What is your vision to deal with such roadblocks?
When I took over in Gujarat, there was the same government here too. Ditto the system. Same were the employess, same files and same traditions. Yet there have been changes. Distinctive change. The governance depends on the will of the policy makers. It depends on their commitment. On the way the schemes are formulated and executed. Therefore, it is not the system that is critical, it is the person who runs it.
Can you change the work force over-night? Two crores of people! No. You have to run the system. You must have seen even in your channel. Whenever there is a change at the top, the entire format of programming changes. Owner remains the same and so do the employees. But the entire look, output, presentation of the channel changes.
Questions ….But if the system remains the same, runs on those same old lines, even the leadership fails. Even good editors cannot change the face of the channel! Don’t you think that it is imperative to bring in some fundamental changes in the system?
It Seems you are a pessimist, therefore such type of thoughts will occur in your mind. But I am an optimist. I work with confidence. And have learnt all these things from my experience. I do believe that the people of this great nation are not bad. The system is not bad. If they get a right kind of leadership, they all will follow the right path.
Question – So, in the light of shortcomings of the UPA regime, it’s wrong-doings, its mishandling of the situation, what is your perception regarding the current crisis, your vision, your blueprint?
What is the biggest crisis facing the nation? First and foremost, People have lost their confidence not only in the Congress or the institution of the Prime Minister, but in the very institution of the government, that is so crucial to run the country. No nation can survive without a sense of confidence. So the foremost priority is to restore their confidence in the system, to bring them out from an environment of trust-deficit. And this election of 2014 does not leave any scope for negativity. This is a ‘election for hope’. This is happening for the first time in India.
Question- But there has been a sense of distrust in the nation about the political leadership and the political system. How will you restore this trust and confidence among the people?
People of the country know Modi very well. Vajpayee-led NDA government’s intentions and performance is still fresh in their minds. How do the BJP-led governments run in the states is all too known. They can very well distinguish between the NDA and Congress rules. Sterling performance of the BJP governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Goa has rekindled their hopes. It’s the cumulative effect of all these that people in every nook and corner of the country believe that the BJP’s intentions are good and honest and they want to work for the poor.
Today, the governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have got an opportunity to serve 40% of the total tribal population in the country. The governments headed by Vasundharaji, Shivraj Ji, Raman Singhji have by their schemes and actions instilled a sense of confidence and trust in the society that the BJP doesn’t believe in making hollow promises. It gives results. It works for the poort.
Question – So, you believe that it is the cumulative effect of all the BJP led governments (including yours), and of course, your leadership qualities. Given all these, the people of the country have great expectations from you and your party. Have you drawn a roadmap to achieve the target in a given time-frame?
Absolutely.. Yes. My priorities are clear in my mind as to what will be my policies and programmes to work for the poor. What will I do to bring out the system from the current inertia? How to infuse life into it? How to make it dynamic? How to instill a sense of self-esteem in the people of the country? Its all very clear in my mind.
Question- There is a general feeling that you have turned this election into a presidential kind of election. And, therefore, people see in you an image of a NAYAK. It’s natural that they would also be interested in knowing what will be your vision for different fields, what will be your priorities?
First thing, I do not consider myself a NAYAK, a hero. Nor does I think in this direction. I have a commitment towards the nation. Towards it people. Who is in my priority? It’s the poorest of the poor. The youth of the nation who is in despair today. The women of this country who are feeling insecure. Our farmer. Our forces on the borders. Late Lal Bahadur Shastri had given us a slogan, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’. But the way they are decapitated and the farmers are forced to commit suicide; it seems that the Congress has changed it to ‘Marr Jawan, Marr Kisan’.
They (the Congress) have brought the nation to this sorry state of affairs. In such circumstances, our priorities must change. Like, employment to the youth. Skill development is a priority in the whole of the world. Do we need to set up an extraordinary commission in the country for enabling skill development? It just needs a commitment. All we need is facilitating skill development for our youth. Give them opportunities for employment. If you live in Delhi and need a plumber, you won’t get one. On the other hand, there are crores of youth in search of job. Why not train him to meet your requirements? These are small things but make a big difference. The successive governments have not given a heed to these small issues. They have only indulged in the politics of vote bank. The result is for all to see.
Question- You means if the present schemes are implemented honestly, many of the problems will be solved?
Yes, But their approach, schemes are all directed at the politics of vote bank. They run the government only with an eye on the elections. On the other hand, We want to run the government to empower the people of this country.
Question- How do you perceive all these thinking, policies and programmes in the framework of your blueprint, ideology?
I will give you an example. Is it not the demand of time that the productivity of our land is increased? If we want to make our farmer self-reliant, we will have to multiply the productivity manifold. We just need to create a system to take care of the health of his soil. Make a health-card for his farm. Educate him about the health of his soil. In the absence of such a system, he would use fertiliser randomly and pesticides indiscriminately. He does not know as to for which crop is his land suitable. He needs a scientific back up.
Same is the fate of infrastructure for irrigation. It is the misfortune of the country that it still lacks in irrigation infrastructure even after over six decades of independence. Atalji had taken a lead in this direction. He envisioned linking of rivers across the country. But the UPA government put it in the cold storage. Now the Supreme Court has taken it for a task for sitting over this scheme. If the rivers were interlinked, we would be spared of the misery of floods as well as drought.
Question- That means, you have made a specific vision for the agriculture and irrigation sectors?
Yes, absolutely. Gujarat was never counted among the agricultural states. But today, we have carved a place for ourselves in this sector. The same way, we made strides in the milk sector. Unfortunately, this revolution remained confined to Gujarat. There is need for synergy between agriculture and animal husbandry to raise the income of the farmers.
Secondly, agriculture sector cannot be seen in isolation. It has to be done in a holistic manner. There are three activities in this sector that can be dovetailed together to make it a viable and profitable pursuit – the first is farming, second is animal husbandry and the third, growing trees on the fences. The last will reduce our dependence on imports of timber over a period of time.
We need to think new. It is the misfortune of the country that the poor farmer has to resort to distress-sale of his produce in the absence of storage facilities. Even expression of annoyance and displeasure by the Supreme Court fails to move this insensitive government. They let the crop rot and finally the poor farmer has to sell it to distilleries for a pittance.
Question- What is your vision about the industrial and employment sectors?
We have vast opportunities for industrial and employment sectors. But we need to prioritise them first. Why don’t we give a boost to the agri-industry sector? It’s high time that we lay our emphasis on value addition of agricultural produce. Our farmer does not get the value for his money when he sells raw tomatoes. But if he sells it to the ketchup industry, his income will go up and it will also generate employment..
Then, we have a vast expanse of the sea coast. And a burgeoning industry in the world is the ship-buidling industry which requires sea coast. If it can flourish in a country like Korea, why not in India? Then it does not need a very skilled labour. Just some turners, fitters, welders, etc.
Question- People have so much expectations from you that on the social media one can see that when you become the Prime Minister, the dollar would be equivalent to 40 rupees and petrol will sell at Rs. 50. Do you ever feel the burden of such expectations? Can these be fulfilled?
After all, why such expectations have risen? And are these not reasonable? Shouldn’t be Indian rupee strong in the world market? Shouldn’t we find the ways to combat inflation? Their expectations are not to bring in stars from the sky. They are not asking for Rolls Royce in front of their houses. They are asking for basic minimum things. It is the responsibility of the government to provide its people basic amenities after sixty years of independence.
Seven years from now, we shall be celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the Independence. A time has come to introspect whether we can give our martyrs an India of their dreams for which they sacrificed their lives? We ought to resolve now that we will give Indians a nation of the dreams of our great leaders. This way, we can also connect to the crores of people of the country.
The agenda for development is not the government’s agenda. It is the agenda of the countrymen. Shastriji had connected himself with the countrymen when he gave the nation the slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’. At that time, we used to import wheat from abroad. He urged farmers in the country to grow more to meet the domestic demands. His appeal that came from his heart had a magical effect and the same farmers made India self-sufficient in no time. Wheat is not grown in the government offices. It was the sincerity of the leadership and people’s confidence in it that produced wonders. This is how changes can be brought about. One needs to understand the strength of the 1.25 billion strong countrymen. We are fortunate that 65% of our population is younger than 35 years of age. Entire world envies us. The leadership should provide opportunities to fulfil the dreams of the youth.
Question- Today, you have emerged as a leader who connects with the dreams of the youth. They have high expectations from you. But you will appreciate that the youth loses his patience very fast. If he doesn’t get results soon, there could be serious consequences of the same.
No. I do not subscribes to this view. Today’s generation understands and analyses the situation dispassionately. If he is convinced about the intentions and convictions of the leadership, he would never lose patience. Please do no underestimate his ability to understand the situations and of reasoning. Just have faith in him. You just need to remain connected to him.
Question-Yet, what will be your priority for him – education or employment?
The foremost thing is employment. Jobless growth is the biggest crisis staring at our face. What should be the parameters of development? Creation of jobs should commensurate with the growth in the agricultural sector or the industrial sector. Then tourism industry has such a large potential for employment generation.
Today, the irony is that we have to outsource our developmental activities. We lay very little emphasis on research. Research and innovation should be our priorities. We lag behind in the matter of patent registration. Do not we have enough talent? If we provide congenial atmosphere for our youth, they can excel in the fields of IPR and holding patents.
Question-The present generation is craving for value for merit. Reservation should take a back seat. What’s your take on this?
Look, when I came to Gujarat, there were 13 thousand seats in engineering. There were tensions on the issue of reservation. Today, there are over one lakh seats. The problem of reservation has vanished. The development should be such that everybody gets an opportunity. Nobody is interesting in grabbing. But if we don’t provide opportunities, what will they do? Every poor, a dalit or a tribal or anybody for that matter, must get his right.
Question- Since you have spoke of right, what is your focus on the right to health and medical facilities?
First thing is that we are still stuck at health insurance while the need is of health assurance. Second, while we are worried about our illness, we do not pay heed to keeping good health. Preventive healthcare should be our priority. If people get clean and pure drinking water, the incidence of diseases will itself come down. If school children are taught small but basic things like hygiene, they will not fall ill. All through his life, Gandhiji paid so much attention on the issue of hygiene. In five years from now when we celebrate his 150th anniversary, we should pay him tribute in the form of a clean India. If we do not make any compromise with hygiene, health sector will per se get a big boost.
The other problem is that of paucity of doctors. Today, we do not have even 10 percent of doctors as compared to our requirements. We do not have sufficient number of medical colleges. Why can’t we have a medical college in each district? A college built on PPP model can also bring in a hospital in each district. If the youth gets an opportunity to stay in the vicinity of his village, there will be no dearth of doctors in the rural areas. Human resource is as important as infrastructure. The third thing is availability of medicines on reasonable prices. If we lay adequate emphasis on indigenous research, we can provide medicines on cheaper prices. Then, optimal use of infrastructure is another big issue. In the government hospitals, operation theaters work only in single shift. More shifts at the same infrastructure can bring major change. Thus a sum of small-small things can bring in major changes.
Question- But the moot question is how can a government at the national level have a focus on such small things, issues? How is it possible?
As I said earlier, the policies should be clear, unambiguous. Like, when I say that people must get clean and pure drinking water, it may appear to be a small issue, but it needs a big thinking at the national level. But some people think that if you speak of aeroplane only then you would be thinking big, and not by thinking about a cycle for everyone in the village.
Question- But is it possible to implement such small things at the national level?
With 12 years of experience behind me, I can assert that I am known for implementation. That is what I am known for.
Question- You have been laying great emphasis on women’s empowerment. What do you have to say about reservation for them?
We gave 50% reservation to women in our panchayats. But the bill is pending with the Governor for months and years. Irony is that the Governor herself is a woman. She is sitting over it. While we are committed for it.
But more important is to work for eliminating gender discrimination. This will have to be done at the social level, on cultural level, by changing the education system. This discrimination will have to be erased from our mindset.
Question- What is your vision of national issues, particularly security and foreign policy?
The central government has failed on every front. Be it the internal front or the external front. On the issues of foreign policy, defence or internal security. Have we ever seen tension between the Defence Minister and the armed forces? Even in Indira Gandhi regime, was there ever any enumeration in the forces on the basis of Hindu or Muslim? Our submarines are drowning. Our jawans are being killed. The decision making process has come to a standstill. We have failed to modernize our defence equipments. There is urgent need to modernize our forces. Inculcate discipline among them. Strained relationship between the government and the armed forced is unacceptable.
With hostile China and Pakistan on our borders, have we realized what will happen after US leaves Afghanistan? Have we anticipated impending troubles on our borders? Are we ready to face these challenges?
The problem is that the UPA does not have a vision. It does not have a commitment to the nation. National security is not their priority. I hold the entire government and the NSC responsible for this sorry state of affairs. We spend billions of dollars every year to import defence equipment. Cannot the youth of this country manufacture such equipment in India? Why can’t we adopt a progressive and aggressive policy on this front? Can’t we urge and facilitate our industry and engineering colleges to work for manufacturing these equipment indigenously? We should manufacture equipment to meet our requirements. We should become and exporting nation instead of depending on imports.
Question- What do you attribute to the place that you occupy today and you aspire to occupy tomorrow – your fate or your purusharth? Did you ever dream of it?
The people of this country will decide my destiny. I have never dreamt to become something. But have always dreamt of doing something. To achieve those dreams, I have decided to dedicate myself to the service of the nation. I left my family and my village to achieve this goal. My country is my motherland and its 1.25 billion population my family.
Question- People know you for your determination. You left your family to become a pracharak. What transformation do you see in yourself over these years?
The foundation plays a vital role in the formation of an individual. I got an inspiration to live for the nation from the RSS. It inculcated discipline in me. I learnt to work hard from the Sangh. Have learnt to live for others and not oneself. I owe it all to the RSS.
Question- It all started with a penchant for social work. How did it convert to politics?
Even today, politics is not an ambition for me. It’s a mission. It’s not rajniti that is important to me, it is rashtraniti. Power is not everything for us. Service of the society is everything. These are the sanskaars imbibed in us. Whatever we do, will do with sense of responsibility. India should regain the status of Jagatguru, is our dream. That should be the dream of every Indian.
Question: Which is your favourite book, which helped formulae your views, influenced you?
In my early childhood, when I was in the village, I was an avid reader. But a stage came, when I could not read further. Unfortunately, I don’t get time for reading.
Question: What are your other interests? Films, music…?
Yes, lot of interests. But I like listening to music.
Question: Classical or popular?
It depends. But I like instrumental music much. It touches your soul. I believe that while the western music makes you dance, the Indian music stirs your soul. And you like what stirs your soul. I also like roaming in the hills, mountains. Himalayas have been my most favourite destination. But these are no longer my priorities…
Question: Your lifestyle, your dress, your interests, your home, your office look little different from others. Where did you inherit such sanskaars?
A lot of myths have been created around me. No one has ever bothered to look into them. I will give you an example. It dates back to those years when NDA was in power and I was a general secretary of the party. The editor of a big newspaper called me at 7.30 in the morning and said that he wanted to meet me. I asked him to come to Ashok Road around 11. But when he said that he was standing outside my office, I called him in.
When he entered my room, I was wearing a saffron lungi. And used to sleep on my blanket. Some newspapers were lying scattered around the blanket. There were some books. A copper decanter had some water in it. And there was a plastic chair lying in the room. I asked him if he would like to have some tea. He said, yes. I got up and went outside to the footpath to fetch a cup of tea.
After he had tea, I asked him as to what brought him here so early in the day? Normally, the journalists do not wake up so early. First he was reluctant to open up. But when I insisted, he said the our magazine is doing a story on those RSS pracharaks (full timers) who have come to the BJP. The idea is that their lifestyles have changed ever since they came to politics. I asked him what do you think now after seeing me. He said, they were wrong. I then asked him whether they would do the story now? But it’s the misfortune of the country that the story got killed. I wear these simple glasses, but people would say that it is of a big brand, very expensive! I wear simple khadi. But I like an orderly living. And if something suits my physique, it gets a brand name!
Question: You mean, your lifestyle is natural and there is nothing artificial in it?
I am so surprised and sad that if one lives neat and clean and in an orderly manner, so may things are attributed to him.
Question: What has been the happiest moment of your life, and the saddest?
The happiest moment is yet to arrive. When the poorest or poor has a house to live, eleders will have access to medicines, education for all, farmers will not be forced to commit suicide, there will be no unemployment, that will be the happies moment of my life. No rest till then.
Question: And the saddest moment?
I do not count my sad moments. I do not waste time on that.
Question: You boast the legacy of the RSS. There, they work in a team, take collective decisions. But in your case, there is a general perception that you believe in going alone, taking your decisions without consulting your colleagues…?
This is another big lie about me. Since they are unable to trap me in any serious charge, they spread such kind of misinformation about me. Can a single person bring such a big change in a large state like Gujarat? It could not have been achieved without the effort of the Team Gujarat. If you don’t have a good team, if you don’t listen to it, you cannot succeed. The secret of my success is that I listen to my team, work in tandem with its members. And once we reach a consensus, I work with full force to implement it.
Question: Did you work with this spirit during the last eight months also?
I have been learning this since my adolosecent days. I don’t know any other way of working. My success is attributed to listening to everyone, to work with everyone. But people who do not like Modi, they play such things.