Iâ€™m an outsider to Delhi and to politics as well, Narendra Modi says In his most wide-ranging interview yet, BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi outlines his vision on the economy, the environment, defence and internal security, and articulates his views on Pakistan, China and the US. He responds to questions from Diwakar and Rajeev Deshpande of TOI on Muslims, Snoopgate, Robert Vadra, CBI, the Gandhis, the Congress, ministry-formation, and his style of running government. You and BJP seem confident about getting a majority on May 16. BJP had exuded similar optimism in 2004 and 2009. In 2004, many BJP leaders even allocated portfolios to themselves. What makes you feel that BJP is going to be lucky this time? If you have attended some of my rallies you would not have asked this question. Recently I have seen some media reports stating that the BJP campaign this time has probably been the biggest mass mobilization exercise of its kind in the history of elections. Even I was not aware of the details till I saw some of these reports. If you see the statements of all political pundits, there is unanimity that there is a strong wave for the BJP-NDA. Political surveys paint a similar picture. Independent analysis of media groups also point to the same thing. How else will you explain the fact that many leaders of the Congress have decided to stay away from this election? It was due to the fear of losing. On the other hand, the fact that we have more than 25 partners in our pre-poll alliance also shows the increasing support we are getting. The response of the people on the ground has been so overwhelming that it is difficult to fully describe it. I have got unbelievable and unprecedented response not in just one, two or three, but in hundreds of rallies across the country. There is tremendous groundswell of support for the BJP. It is something that has never been seen before. Your campaign has been on the themes of development, growth and good governance. But some of your colleagues have raked up controversial issues, raising fears that your focus on secular themes is just a ruse and that you will take up Hindutva issues once you assume office. There is this problem of artificial comparisons. While several senior leaders of Congress and of other parties have indulged in the worst kind of comments against me, they have largely gone unnoticed by the media. However, in case of the BJP even a small anonymous worker chanting a particular slogan or a junior leader making a statement is given a lot of hype. There is over eagerness on the part of certain vested interest groups to somehow find out some controversial statements from the BJP. I think a neutral analysis by any journalist will tell us that the BJP campaign this time has been focused totally on the issues of development and good governance. Many political pundits told us that elections in India cannot be won only on the issues of development and good governance. We decided to prove them wrong. It is our responsibility to shift the focus of campaign from trivial issues and personal attacks to the issues of public interest, development and good governance. I wonder if our political opponents would have refrained from the use of abusive language and personal attacks, probably we would have written a new chapter in Indian electoral politics. Your campaign of development and governance has failed to convince Muslims and other minorities. They have consolidated against you. Do you consider all this to be a failure of your efforts or success of your opponents? Also, do you think it will be possible for you to get rid of the baggage of the 2002 Gujarat riots? Your question shows how the media, or at least parts of it, are caught in a time warp. Today it is anachronistic to think that a community won't be interested in development and good governance. In fact, it is an insult to the intellect of the Indian voter by such parties that believe that he can be made to forget about real issues of poverty and development and get him to vote in a particular manner just by making him insecure by fear-mongering. The Indian voter today is more mature than what our political opponents give him credit for. I have heard the statements of several prominent leaders of the minority community asking Congress not to try and make them insecure by fear-mongering. They have started to ask what really has Congress done for the minorities and this is where Congress secures a big zero. It's their mindset that they need not do anything substantive for improving the lives of the people and they can just manipulate them along caste and communal lines to get their votes. It is this politics of vote banks which has done the maximum damage to our country in the last sixty years. Now this type of politics has attained its expiry date. Such political parties should either reform or they face an actual threat of becoming extinct. Our slogan, on the other hand, has been Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. We believe in taking everyone together. We believe only the issues of development and good governance impact the lives of all citizens of this country regardless of their caste, creed, region or religion. You have alleged that the UPA government tried to use the CBI to frame you. Can you please elaborate? Did the alleged plot fail because of CBI's resistance or because the agency failed in its effort? Would you consider an inquiry into the conduct of CBI during UPA's tenure, especially with regard to Gujarat-related cases? In the last 10 years, the kind of efforts that the UPA government put in somehow fixing me in some or the other false case was huge. If they would have put even ounce of that effort in solving the country's problems, they would not have been in as precarious a situation as that they are in today. I am a forward looking individual. I have a positive frame of mind. I am also clear that we cannot afford to make the same mistakes that the UPA government made in the last 10 years. I do not believe in the politics of vendetta and witchhunting. Having said that, it is going to be our duty to reform the institutions and to strengthen them so that they can function effectively and professionally as envisaged under the constitutional arrangement or the statutory provisions. The apex court has on several occasions made adverse observations on the conduct of CBI. It will be our endeavour to ensure that CBI is no longer an institution which can be manipulated to achieve political ends. How do you view Kapil Sibal's statement that you are a "potential accused" in the Tulsiram Prajapati case, and that the CBI failed to probe your and Amit Shah's complicity in "encounter cases"? Mr. Sibal is an eminent lawyer and the law minister of the country. Though he is knowledgeable, but more often than not, he uses his legal acumen to the detriment of the country. From what I have observed about him, he places individual interest and the party interest above the interest of the country and the government. Probably he is the only law minister who can coin the term "potential accused". Now that the UPA government is nearing its end, his desperation is increasing by the day. This particular statement is a complete giveaway of his old desire to somehow implicate me in some or the other false case. He must, however, know that in our country there is rule of law and the law is above the law minister. Mr. Sibal's enthusiasm is not something new. During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections while campaigning in Gujarat, he had publicly declared that if a UPA government is to be formed, he will put Modi in jail. Sibal has also said that the UPA government has zeroed in on the judge who will conduct an investigation into the allegation that the Gujarat government put a woman architect under illicit surveillance. Your comment? If Mr. Sibal were to have his way, he would have not only found a judge, he would have also obtained the kind of report that he wants so badly. But he doesn't realize that we have a fiercely independent judiciary. I must say that the conduct of Mr. Sibal in some of the issues has been very unbecoming of a Union Cabinet Minister. He has a lot to answer to the nation. He must understand that institutions and processes are sacrosanct and they cannot be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. Mr. Sibal is certainly not a person known for respecting the law or believing in administrative propriety. He is one of those who think that they know the law better than anybody else and so they have a right to abuse the law to meet their ends, however questionable they are. He believes that he is the only intelligent person around and he can mislead the entire nation by his false logic and misinterpretation of laws and facts. After all, he is the one who tried to tell the nation about the zero loss theory in the 2G spectrum scam. It is people like him who have done damage to our institutions. It is also due to leaders like him that the Congress party is in such a poor situation today. You have aroused very high expectations in the people. Does that worry you? People may be expecting results very soon. As Ram Manohar Lohia said, "Jinda qaumen paanch saal intezaar nahin karti (Democracies don't always wait for five years)." I am not at all worried. On the contrary, it gives me a sense of satisfaction that even in this climate of extreme pessimism and cynicism, we have been able to revive people's interest in politics. I am happy that people across the country have started feeling a positive energy. There is a sense of hope and expectation rather than a sense of gloom and despair which existed through the past decade. I am certainly conscious that raised expectations bring along with them enhanced responsibility. We are committed to work that much harder to discharge our obligations. All I can promise is that we will work hard with utmost sincerity and commitment to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of the crores of people of our great nation. When asked whether Robert Vadra will be prosecuted, you have said that you will not engage in political vendetta or a witch hunt. At the same time, you have also said that law will take its own course, and that matters concerning probity in public life cannot be treated as personal issues. Will it be right to say that you are promising no immunity to anyone? Our country is run by the rule of law. It is not run as per the likes and dislikes of individuals occupying high office. Thus, it would be absurd to even debate that anyone can be granted immunity from law even if that person is me. You have said that Congress is headed for its worst-ever performance in LS elections? What will be the impact of that on the party? Congress is fighting for its survival. You might have observed that many of its senior leaders have opted out of elections and are nowhere to be seen during the campaign. The fight is now for the relevance of Gandhi family as unquestioned leaders of the Congress party. Their target is to somehow cross the hundred-seat mark so that their leadership of the Congress party is not challenged. However, I see all possibility of the Congress falling below the hundredseat mark and if that happens, there will be a serious churning within Congress over the issue of leadership. Do you think Rahul Gandhi has proved to be a failure and should make way for Priyanka Gandhi? It is for the Congress party to take these decisions post the election results. However, it seems odd that a national party like the Congress should not be able to think beyond the Gandhi family for providing leadership. What do you think of AAP's future? Has it hindered your campaign by poaching a slice of middle class supporters who were disappointed with Congress and could have tilted towards BJP? It is also said that all doubts about BJP's victory in this election would have been put to rest if AAP not stopped BJP from winning the Delhi polls in December. BJP is a party which draws its strength from its organizational network and a huge base of its workers and volunteers. Besides, the ground level support from voters in this election has been too huge to be impacted by the advent of any new political parties or formations. We are a party which is fighting on the basis of its own strength. We have set our own agenda and the support we are getting is a positive support for it. The support we are getting is on the basis of our track record and the promises that we have made. Do you think AAP can replace Congress as an all-India "secular" alternative to Congress should the latter fail as miserably as you say it will? After the elections, there will be hardly anything left of the Congress party to replace it. Naxals have been identified as the single biggest internal security threat. To tackle it, one school suggests tough measures while another feels it is an offshoot of larger socio-economic factors and that the symptom will not go away unless the root cause is addressed. Which method would you prefer? The use of the term Naxalism is outdated and incorrect. Maoism would be a more correct description. Maoism and terrorism are the biggest threats to our internal security. I have always advocated a zero tolerance approach to these problems. Further, we need a clearcut legal framework to address these challenges. Regardless of what are the reasons for the people to resort to violence, our ability to deal with it should not be compromised by lack of preparedness. We can choose to deal with issues the way we want, but our response should not be constrained by unavailability of options. Therefore, I feel that modernizing our police forces and our central paramilitary forces is something that cannot be delayed any longer. We should invest to equip our security forces with modern weapons and equipments, train them and deploy them effectively. I also feel that Maoism is a problem which has to be tackled by the Central and state governments acting in unison with complete coordination. You have said that you do not want to be confrontational with Pakistan. Do you feel that your "tough-on-national security" platform will give you space to deal with Pakistan? We do not want to be confrontational with any country. Foreign policy cannot be conducted by having a confrontational approach with neighbours or for that matter with any other country. We have to conduct our foreign policy with all other nations and specially our neighbours with a sense of trust and mutual cooperation. However, supremacy of national interest has to be one of the basic planks of foreign policy. Relations cannot be improved as long as there is a trust deficit and to bridge the trust deficit, mere talk cannot replace concrete action. Our country continues to face the onslaught of terrorism emanating out of the soil of Pakistan. The first step in building any meaningful relation with Pakistan has to be Pakistan taking effective and demonstrable action against the terror networks that operate from its soil. Once that happens there will be an increased trust between the two neighbours which will enable us to pursue a policy of dialogue to solve all the issues. We will be very frank and forthright in our dealing with Pakistan. We are very clear that both our countries have a common history and we share not only borders but also common culture and traditions. Besides, the problems that we face are also common; our biggest enemy being poverty and lack of development. India and Pakistan can together write a new chapter in the development of South Asia if the two countries were to concentrate on fighting poverty and unemployment. Will you be deterred by the fact that Pakistan responded to Vajpayee's peace initiative by launching the Kargil attack? I will only say that we should not be constrained by what has happened in the past if the present throws up new possibilities in terms of solutions. However, as I have said, building trust between the two nations is prerequisite to any further meaningful movement on the relations and that can happen only when the terror networks operating out of Pakistan are dismantled. Pakistan has multiple centres of power and there is universal acknowledgement that the Army calls the shots when it comes to relations with India. Will you be mindful of this reality? It goes without saying that pragmatic foreign policy has to be guided by an understanding of the ground realities. However, I think the people in Pakistan increasingly want to strengthen the democratic institutions in Pakistan. As a responsible member of global fraternity, we would also like to work with Pakistan, like any other nation to ensure that the democratic institutions in Pakistan are strengthened. China has been very warm towards investment prospects in Gujarat. Unlike the US, it did not bring the 2002 riots in its dealings with Gujarat under you. Do you think you can build upon that to settle political differences? It is possible to solve our problems with China and take the relationship with it to another level. If India and China want to work together towards improving our relationship and resolving our differences, it would be helpful to both the nations. The 21st century belongs to Asia. More than 60% of the world's population resides in Asia. It would thus be in the interest of the entire world that Asia develops and concentrates on improving the standard of living of its people. Will the strain between you and the US over its refusal of visa to you come in the way of US's anxiety to mend fences? I have said several times in the past that relations between the two countries cannot be determined or be even remotely influenced by incidents related to individuals. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government started a new era of partnership with the US. We will build upon that and take it forward. It is in the interest of both the nations to develop further on our relationship. The oldest democracy in the world and the largest democracy in the world are natural allies and we must work together towards global peace and prosperity. You have clarified that your "news trader" barb was not directed at media as a whole but only those with a vested interest to "distort" facts about you and Gujarat. Still, there's a perception that you are suspicious of the "national" media and have bypassed it by communicating through the regional media. I am always very clear and forthright on my views about the media. I have the highest respect for media as the fourth pillar of our democracy. I feel a strong, vibrant and neutral media is indispensable for a free democracy. However, even if certain sections of media start being prejudiced about a particular issue and become obstinate about not seeing the truth, it can harm the institution of media and, by extension, our democracy. It is worse when such prejudice is a result of manipulation by vested interest groups, achieved by distortion of facts and perpetuation of lies. I have the highest respect for the media and I wish people in media will ensure that such aberrations will be dealt by them in an institutional manner. Everybody has a right to form opinions and to express them. However, where there is difference of opinion on facts and matters of law, it is in everybody's interest to let there be a finality of opinion with the judicial system. We should all learn to respect that. That is the only way we can save ourselves from continuous acrimony. [/B]Do you fear that this equation will be a handicap if you become PM? As I have said, I have a healthy relationship with the media. Just as I do not believe in trying to influence the media, similarly I am not one to be bulldozed by the media. I have always believed that I will do my work and let media do its work. The media should respect my independence as much as it wants its own independence to be respected by those in politics and government. It is said that you are the archetypal otsider, that if you were to be the PM, it will mark the biggest departure yet from the past, not just in terms of focus and priorities, but also culture. I would not contest that description and analysis. I actually consider myself as an outsider not only to Delhi politics but to politics per se. For 50 years of my life, I was just moving around interacting with people trying to understand the problems they face. I was always on the move from one part of the country to another, from one state to another. I have made overnight stays in more than 400 districts of the country. I have seen firsthand the problems and challenges that our people face. I have seen firsthand the hopes and expectations they have. I have also seen from close quarters the kind of talent our people have and the kind of hard work they are ready to put in to improve their lives. To that extent I am always one among the people. Do you feel that your being an outsider will hinder your effectiveness in office? On the contrary, it always helps me in discharging my responsibilities. In all my meetings with officers, I am always wearing the hat of the citizen and trying to think on his behalf. I think the sheer amount of time I have spent with people helps me to retain a high level of empathy and understanding for the common man. Do you feel the Delhi elite will respond to you if you succeed in the face of their hostility? I don't think anybody wants India to remain poor. They will all be contributors to this journey of progress and prosperity rather than being an impediment as you seem to suggest. BJP's manifesto promises robust defence preparedness. Defence acquisitions are delayed because of red-tape, institutional risk-aversion and procedural delays which are often engineered by rival factions of arms dealers. How do you propose to get around the problem which has defeated so many honest intentions in the past? Our armed forces and our men and women in uniform have always displayed highest valour and courage. The nation stands indebted to the heroic sacrifices made by our armed forces in protecting our land and borders. Historically we have always been a nation that has never been the aggressor but one which will fight to the last to defend itself against any aggression. We should take all steps to ensure that our defence preparedness is of the highest order to be able to meet any covert or overt aggression. We also need to ensure that the morale of our defence personnel remains high at all times, and for this, the government needs to take the extra steps to address genuine concerns of our officers and soldiers. The last 10 years have seen our defence preparedness becoming weak on account of several procurement procedures mired by long delays leading to shortage of arms and equipment. The ideal situation is an efficient procurement system leading to timely and cost effective procurement of quality defence equipment, done in a transparent manner. In the past, we had instances of good quality arms being procured but lacking in transparency in their procurement. In the last 10 years have a paradoxical situation where there was hardly any procurement happening in time and still serious questions of transparency have been raised. I think the time has come when domestic production of defence equipment and machinery needs to be seriously incentivized by the government in a carefully calibrated manner so that we move towards indigenous equipment manufacturing in the medium term without compromising our preparedness in the short term. I am convinced that the time for this idea has come up. We must start with indigenizing military equipment. The DRDO has several decades of experience but India still imports most of its military hardware. We should involve Indian corporates in PPPs for defence manufacturing. We have the scientific and technical knowhow but the arms lobby has prevented indigenization of military hardware. This must change, making Indian defence more self-reliant and also saving foreign exchange.