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Hindutva & development not contradictory: (Interview with Narendra Modi)

Hindutva & development not contradictory: (Interview with Narendra Modi)

Author: P R Ramesh
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: April 23, 2009
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4437502.cms?flstry=1

Much as he would not want to acknowledge it, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi remains BJP's star campaigner. By the time the last of the campaign rounds end on May 14, he would have addressed over 225 rallies and meetings, more than any other leader either in his party or among his opponents. In an Interview, he tells ET why his party is a better bet at governance and elaborates on LK Advani's charge that Manmohan Singh is the weakest prime minister India has had.

Q.: There is a general feeling that this is an issue-less election. And that the campaign is all about competitive mud-slinging.
A.: The first round of election has proved the pundits wrong. There was 60% polling. The electorate has given a fitting answer to those who say that there is no issue or interest in the election. People of this country want change. They want to get rid of a government which waffles. On all important issues that confront the country, Manmohan Singh's responses were uncertain, reluctant, tentative and irresolute. People will deliver the knockout blow because they want a government that performs. People want a government that will provide security.

Q.: What is your party's big message in this election. Is your party able to sway the electoral mood?
A.: The voters' reflexes are governed by three issues. Firstly, they are fed up with the vote bank politics of our rivals. Secondly, they are angry with the government for lack of basic development. And thirdly, there is revulsion against the Centre for its failure to protect them. Things are going south with security and economy. The credibility issues surrounding the Manmohan Singh government are real and lasting.

Q.: In your campaign speeches, Hindutva issues figure as prominently as development. Is it because you are not sure whether non-Hindutva issues connect with people?
A.: When I talk about the development initiatives undertaken by my government, people connect with me. They know that I am not indulging in empty rhetoric. The state has been flourishing under the BJP rule. People, who are the stakeholders, are happy with our performance. And they are bound to question the governance of those in power at the Centre. The Manmohan Singh government has a shabby and dishonourable track record.

Hindutva and development are not contradictory. How can Ram Rajya be anti-development? Ram Rajya is all about providing opportunity for those who need help. What should be on the nation's top drawer is the resolve to redeem Gandhiji's pledge to wipe out every tear from every eye. And that is Ram Rajya all about. Only pseudo secularists argue that Hindutva and development cannot coexist. It only exposes their perverted thinking.

Q.: Is "weak prime minister" really the issue in this election. The incumbent and the challenger are engaged in a slinging match.
A.: When Mr Advani talks about the weak prime minister, he is not talking about Manmohan Singh's physical fitness.We are talking about the lack of credibility of the office that he occupies. We are concerned about the devaluation of the highest office in the country. What can be more pathetic than his own ministers saying that he can't lead the next government even before he has ended his tenure.

There are three reasons for this sorry state of affairs. One, the prime minister is not an elected person, he is nominated. When a person is elected, he is accountable to his electorate, but when he is nominated, his only concern will be to protect the interest of the person who nominated him. Two, when a person occupies a post after going through the democratic process, he strengthens democracy. But if he is selected by a dynasty, it only strengthens the dynasty. Third, a person elected by people will do everything to ensure that he or she continues to enjoy the goodwill of people. But if you are selected by the Sonia parivar, what matters to you will be the support of Sonia parivar.

Q.: Do you agree with the view that no party's support is very deep at this point and that the BJP would find it difficult to form a government?
A.: There is a pattern in the media analysis. You look at what the pundits had said about the outcome of past five elections. When elections are announced, they tell us that it's an issue-less election. And when candidates are announced, they tell us that there is no enthusiasm. When the campaign is into the second week, they say that no party will get a clear majority and in the last week, they will be all over print and TV discussing what the President should do after the election. Frankly, they should take a break.

Q.: So you are ruling out the third front emerging as a major player?
A.: I don't think the third front will make any substantial gains. The Left will not be in a position to be the moral guardians of this front. The Left is facing stiff challenge in their strongholds. People are fed up with their misery mongering politics. I agree that regional parties cannot be wished away. And national parties will have to take care of regional aspirations.

Q.: You are BJP's most sought after campaigner. What will be your role after the polls?
A.: NDA will form the government. Advaniji will become the prime minister. And my state, which is being subjected to step motherly treatment, will get its due. There will be more development in Gujarat.

Q.: Your rivals are of the view that post-Godhra riots in Gujarat will come in the way of you playing a role on the national scene...
A.: It has stopped bothering me for two reasons. One, I don't have any personal ambitions. Second, it is a bread and butter issue for my rivals. Name calling is a favourite sport for some politicians. Not a single allegation has been proved. Manmohan Singh has been controlling the government for the past five years. Wouldn't he have acted against me if there was any proof to substantiate their charges?

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