PM speaks to Arnab: A fascinating watch

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 28, 2016 14:15 hrs
Narendra Modi

Times Now’s exclusive interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi aired yesterday. The historic first ever interview by a sitting Prime Minister to a private news channel, as Arnab Goswami put it, was indeed a fascinating watch.

For one the usually loud, borderline hysterical anchor maintained a reverential monotone and a decibel level quite uncharacteristic for him. And the Prime Minister was at his verbose and wordy best, talking at length about foreign policy, economic agenda and governance. The full english transcript of the speech can be read here. 

One would assume that most of the country relies on english translations as it is not always easy to understand the shuddh Hindi that the Prime Minister likes to use. The interview format was perfect for the Prime Minister to go into detail about government’s programs as well as to give us a peek into some of his personal motivations and thoughts. That the usually confrontational Arnab Goswami rarely interrupted him, did not go unnoticed. “The world did not know me...”  

The interview began with foreign policy, with Goswami pointing out the aggressive nature in which it was pursued. Apart from quite articulately talking about his efforts to build friendly ties with countries that were often ignored, Modi also admitted quite candidly that he had no choice to adopt a pro active style as he was inexperienced and unknown. 

“...the world didn't know me. The world wants to know who the head of the state is. If someone would want to know Modi through the eyes of the media, then he would be disillusioned on which Modi is the real Modi. If this happens, the country will be at a loss. Modi's personality shouldn't be a hindrance for the world to have faith in India. But for that unless I meet all those leaders and engage them one to one, unless I speak to them frankly, they wouldn't know about India's head of state.” 

Talking about the NSG membership, he chose to remain diplomatic and measured his words about China’s opposition. Despite Goswami’s attempts to bait him about China, Modi stood his ground and said that diplomacy is not necessarily about changing mindsets, but about finding common ground. On the question of relations with Pakistan too, he remained careful, saying that India has always worked towards a peaceful and harmonious relationship with its neighbours and that Pakistan was no different. 

On dialogue with Pakistan he added “Those who have to work from the table, will work from the table and those who have to work at the border, will work at border with full strength. Each one will fulfill the responsibility entrusted to them. And our jawans are fulfilling their responsibilities.” “The poor is the central focus of my economic agenda” Moving on from foreign policy to the economy, the Prime Minister spoke about various programs like the Jan Dhan Yojana which he claims has brought Rs.40000 crores of the poor man’s money into the banking system and the large scale efforts to build toilets to create a change in the quality of life of the poor. He also spoke about various schemes aimed at job creation for the middle class. Acknowledging that unemployment was still high, he claimed that the government’s schemes like the Mudra Yoijana increased jobs in the informal sector.  

“More than three crore people in the country comprise washermen, barbers, milkman, newspaper vendors, cart vendors. We have given them nearly 1.25 lakh crore rupees without any guarantee.Now why have these people taken the money? To expand their work. When he expands his work, if he is currently employing one person, now he has to employ two people. If there were two employed earlier, now there are three. Now just think, when 3 crore of these small businesses have got access to finance, they must have expanded their work. Now all this is not in the Labour Department's registration.” “Nation won’t benefit from such publicity stunts” 

Mincing no words, Modi sent a clear message to his party colleague Subramaniam Swamy. “One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong.” He also defended Raghuram Rajan, the outgoing RBI Governor who was accused by Mr.Swamy of “not being Indian enough.” 

The Prime Minister patted himself on the back for allowing him to continue his full term despite being a UPA appointee and said that Rajan was a patriot and that he appreciated his work in the RBI. “Development is also the solution to the tension”  

Later in the interview, when Goswami questioned him about communal statements made by some of his own ‘hothead’ party colleagues, he brushed it off blaming the media for “making heroes out of them.” 

“If we provide employment to people, if we ensure there's food on their plates, if we provide them with facilities and give them education, all the tension will end. And this is why, all those who want good for the nation, I request them to compete towards development and for development” Development being offered as a blind panacea is not likely to go down well. 

The far right has been energised by the BJP coming into power, leading to communal tensions resulting in incidents like the Dadri lynching, but the Prime Minister continued to acknowledge that such a problem exists and chose to blame it on poverty. “Can't behave in the way, a new Opposition party behaves” 

Without naming the Congress party even once during the interview, Modi managed to take several jibes at them. At the very beginning of the interview he urged that the performance of the present NDA government must be assessed based on that of the UPA’s. 

“While evaluating the performance of this government, never forget that you will have to make that evaluation in comparison with the 10 years of the previous government. Only then will you know where we were and where we are now. We should not be talking about what we are aiming for.” 

On the Augusta Westland scam, he hinted at the fact that those who have committed the crime ought to have been shielded by powerful people. But he reserved his strongest criticism for the end, when talking about obstructionist tactics of the Congress, accusing the party leaders of irresponsible behaviour despite being an old and experienced party which has been in government. 

“I am apolitical Prime Minister” Goswami also gave the Prime Minister enough room to trumpet his own selflessness. Other than referring to himself in the third person a few times at the beginning of the interview, Modi later spoke about the importance of detaching himself from politics to serve the poor. 

Not wanting to be distracted by a constant cycle of elections, he said that he was in favour of the Election Commission initiating discussion on holding simultaneous elections at the state and national level. 

“Those who have seen me in Gujarat, and those who have seen me in the last two years, those who see me without any bias, they will know that I am an apolitical Prime Minister. Apart from elections, I don't get involved into politics ever.” The interview ended with the Prime Minister quite naively appealing to Arnab Goswami to “to not create controversies out of this but instead use it for the benefit of the country.”

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