'The agricultural growth in my Gujarat is 14%, but no one looks at it'
In the first part of his interview, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi toldSaisuresh Sivaswamy and Nikhil Lakshman that he planned to stay on to Gujarat if the National Democratic Alliance formed the next government in New Delhi.
In the second part of the interview, Modi discusses the flavour of the ongoing Lok Sabha election campaign, and his prime ministerial ambitions.
Do you think the development debate in this country has turned pro-business? And that ordinary people are feeling left behind?
You've asked a very good question, and I will be pleased to answer this one.
In my Gujarat I hold the Vibrant Gujarat global investor summit once in two years, on January 13-14. Some 700-800 government officers of mine are involved in it, and I invite industrialists and businessmen to come for the summit and invest in the state.
Also in my state, for one month every year, we hold an agricultural festival in which about a lakh government servants go to the villages in May-June, braving the 44 degree temperatures, sit down with the farmers and work towards agricultural development. You remember what we do for two days out of two years, but where the government travels to the countryside for a month every year and promotes agriculture, you are not interested.
The result of such attitude is that the Manmohan Singh government's targeted agricultural growth of four per cent is stuck at 2.5%. The agricultural growth in my Gujarat is 14%, but no one looks at it.
I have given priority to the girl child's education. Every year on June 13, 14 and 15 my entire government goes to the villages -- and you are also invited to come along -- the chief minister, minister, chief secretary, secretary, IAS officers, all of us go from home to home and get the girl child admitted in schools. And today my state has 100 per cent girl-child enrollment. You don't think this is work?
For news traders only the two-day Vibrant Gujarat is useful which is why they talk about it.
In Gujarat we have the Chiranjeevi scheme -- in this nation everyone from the poor man to the President is against maternal and infant mortality. My government has formulated the Chiranjeevi Yojana under which every below poverty line mother will have her childbirth in hospital, I have started this as a movement, and done partnerships with private doctors. From 40%, today we have 80% to 85% of the deliveries happening in hospitals, thus we have saved the lives of many poor mothers and children. But you are not interested in this.
There is a saying 'justice delayed is justice denied'. Everyone knows of it, you do too. I have done three major things in Gujarat. I have increased court hours by 30 minutes every day; reduced court vacations by seven days; started evening courts with the same infrastructure.
We had 45 lakh cases pending from 2003-2004, to which 65 lakh new cases were added, making it more than one crore pending cases. After our initiatives, there are only 20 lakh pending court cases. Now my target is that by 2010, when Gujarat will complete 50 years, we will make it no-pendency. Cases will be disposed of in the very year they are filed.
You tell me, since Independence, in the field of justice delivery, has so much work been accomplished anywhere?
But, for news traders, these things perhaps are not saleable. Now you tell me if these things are pro-poor or not.
No, we weren't talking only about Gujarat but that in India generally development is seen as benefiting business.
Seen by who? Who are these people? Maybe something is the problem with their eyes. I have given you examples. My Gujarat has the maximum employment.
There are an estimated 80 million people who live on Rs 20 a day. How can their lives be improved?
They should be given employment opportunities. The people of India are willing to work. In Gujarat we have started a movement to provide opportunities, be it in the agriculture sector, infrastructure sector or service sector. We have created a big movement.
Do you think the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is a failure?
No, I have not said anything about it.
They are providing work...
Good, but the maximum poverty in India has moved to the cities, rural poverty has declined. Whereas it has gone up in the cities.
Is it because of rural migration to the cities?
Not because of rural migration. In my Gujarat we have the Jyoti Gram Yojana thanks to which rural migration to cities has ended, all arrangements have been made. Very few of our villagers go to cities, which is a very interesting development about Gujarat.
If you provide urban amenities in villages, they will not go to the cities.
Just see, the UPA has released its manifesto, which you have also published on rediff.com, in which they say they will provide wheat at Rs 3 a kilo to the poor. I was astonished on reading this, that the government in Delhi has no knowledge of what various states are doing for the poor!
In Gujarat we have been providing wheat for the last seven years to those who live below the poverty line at Rs 2 a kg, I have been giving a subsidy of Rs 750 crore from the state treasury. Now I will ask the people, do you want wheat at Rs 2 a kg or Rs 3 a kg? I am giving it cheaper.
This is the state of the Congress party. The Congress had promised that it will provide broadband connectivity across the nation. We are the only state in the world which has broadband connectivity in every village. Thanks to this, today, in my Gujarat, youngsters in the remote areas have enrolled for long-distance education with the best teachers. And the UPA government now talks of providing broadband connectivity! Such a difference!
You don't think the Manmohan Singh government has even one achievement after five years?
I didn't say that. I am saying he did not fulfill his promises to the people. They said they will provide jobs to 1.5 crore people. Did they? They said they will reduce prices. Did they? They said they will repair international relations. Did they? What happened in Nepal? Why don't you ask these questions of them? They will have to answer, in a democracy.
Isn't the nuclear deal an achievement?
The issue is, India has uranium. Earlier the government would make budgetary allocation for uranium exploration. What was the reason for Dr Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, to make it zero budgeting for uranium exploration?
What was the reason when he became PM to halt research into uranium? And what is the reason for him enter into a restrictive agreement with foreign nations for the same uranium? Now the question arises.
After the nuclear deal the whole world accepts India as a nuclear power.
I am saying the world is accepting you as a nuclear power not because of the deal but because Atal Bihari Vajpayee dared America and went ahead with the nuclear tests. If we had not done it, who would have accepted us as a nuclear power?
If Vajpayeeji had succumbed to American pressure we would have been left high and dry and not become a nuclear power. This happened when India's leadership showed steel. Not because of some deal.
You know that India has the world's largest population of youth. This could be a demographic bonus or a demographic time bomb, depending on how they are harnessed.
There was a time when it was believed that population was a problem, but the way the world's economic environment has since changed, India's population is considered an asset. The same advantage is with China also.
But if these young people don't get jobs, it could lead to major social unrest.
I don't accept this theory. The youth have talent -- they don't want a job, they want work. They want to develop their skills. China has begun work on some 80,000 skill development projects, whereas the Indian government has started only 600.
I told the PM at a meeting, 'What are we doing? By itself my state is running 2,000 skill development projects and I want to increase this number by the hundreds, have public-private partnerships.'
Our youth need value-addition, they are capable of doing it and they are doing it. They should be given an opportunity.
Similarly, if an opportunity is given, will you lead the nation?
I believe that the chief ministers of even the smallest Indian states are major instruments of powering the nation. And I, as a chief minister, am part of running the nation.
Will you deny that you have no ambition whatsoever to become the prime minister?
I have a mission, not ambition. I was not born to become something, I was born to do something.
I did not have a desire to become somebody when I was a child, I don't have it now, nor will I have it in the future.
I have a dream, to do something. I want to do something for the nation. I am part of the mission, not ambition.
Ambition doesn't inspire me, mission does.
What are the other things that drive Narendra Modi?
Only devotion to Bharat Mata. That is enough for me.
What are the challenges that face India today?
We have a 100 crore population, which presents us with an opportunity to make the 21st century ours, to unleash the energy in the common man and take the nation forward. This is a big opportunity, and we should grab it.
Do you see any trends in the current general election, or do think it is just like any other election, full of personal attacks on each other?
Every election has its own character. The 1952 elections were different, 1957, 1962 were different, etc. The issues are different. Some elections were personality-centric, in some others the media was at the centre, etc, when the focus is on current events. In such a big nation, it is natural for the focus to change every time.
If you had the choice, what would you wish this election to be about?
I want there to be a strong government, a decisive government, with an experienced and strong leader at the helm. There should be a government that solves problems. And I see such a capability, drive to do something for the nation, in the NDA led by Advaniji.
You said every election has its own complexion. In the present election, your party's young leader Varun Gandhi has suddenly changed its complexion.
You please wait till the election results are out.
Do you agree with what Varun Gandhi said about Muslims?
You have seen the Uttar Pradesh elections, what result was thrown up there. You can well analyse the situation yourself.
No, we are asking your opinion.
The nation doesn't run on my opinion. I request you to analyse the situation on the basis of track record and draw your conclusions. That will be best.
But Varun Gandhi does not have a track record, this is his maiden election.
Arre, analyse from where it all began.
Is there a leader in India who you admire, who you feel have something in them?
Lal Krishna Advani.
You asked for a leader, I gave you one.
For anyone else, you meet me in June.
I will tell you in June.
How do you feel when in a party like the BJP which is considered disciplined, there is unhappiness at the top, where someone like Arun Jaitley feels miffed?
I am involved in Gujarat's affairs, I don't get involved in what is going on outside Gujarat.
You haven't answered the question.
Of course, I have answered your question, it's a different matter if you don't like my answer.
Who is your leadership model? Who are you inspired by?
From my childhood I have been influenced by Swami Vivekanandji's life. I have studied his life, and live by it. I don't cross the limit.
If L K Advani were to become prime minister, what will be your advice to him?
There's no reason for him to seek my advice, because it is I who seeks his advice.
You are being very modest.
No, no, this is the reality of my life.
Considering your experience in running the state, your voice should be heard in Delhi...
Advaniji is more experienced than I am, he was in Morarjibhai's (Morarji Desai, the first non-Congress prime minister of India) government, he was in Atalji's government, he has been a deputy prime minister, Delhi Metropolitan Council chief executive? He has the maximum experience in administration.
Isn't this the problem with Indian politics? Too much credit is given to age and experience while someone who is younger and more dynamic, more efficient is ignored...
Let me share my experience with you. Please don't take this in any other way, and don't give a political colour to it, it's of no use.
I am saying this as a student. We should compare any two prime ministers, and here I will take the names of two Congress prime ministers. Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao.
Rajiv Gandhi was young and dynamic, had foreign exposure, he had everything, was good-looking, charismatic. Narasimha Rao had retired completely from public life, but had to suddenly return to active politics. Healthwise, and looks-wise, he was different.
But who ran the government better for five years? Who provided India a better leadership? If you think about it, Narasimha Rao's government was connected to the masses, and the nation benefited.
One simple reason: India is such a large nation, with so many languages, and only someone who has been around for a long time can solve its problems. So in this case, he was successful.
If you look at India's political history, too, only such people have succeeded.
But Narasimha Rao's government was accused of corruption.
Look, it was less compared to the Bofors scandal. I am not calling him great. I am merely saying, in comparison, who was plus and who was minus, I am only saying that. I am not giving Narasimha Rao any certificate. Bofors was no less. I am saying, compare the two and see who comes off better.
Both had pluses and minuses.
But the ultimate plus, was more with him though I agree no one has only negative aspects. And that is because for years he was involved with the situation, with the problems, any issues in Nagaland he could sit here and discern if this was the case, then that would be the outcome. Because he had experience, vision. He wielded a lot of power in such a large country.
In October it will be eight years since you became chief minister. What are the remarkable changes have you seen in India and Indian politics in this time?
First thing: In Vajpayeeji's time the nation got the most peaceable experience of a coalition government. He ran one for six years! There was a time when there various demands, for Dravidstan, Khalistan etc. He removed all these negative aspirations before us, and converted them into a positive one and took the road to development. I believe Vajpayeeji made immense contribution to the nation.
Second, terrorism would not be discussed on the international level but only the Kashmir issue will be debated. The world did not listen to us, and we were the losers. It was Atalji's strength that he converted the Kashmir issue into a debate on terrorism and set the agenda for the future. He brought the world to his side on terrorism. He parlayed the nation's might in international forums.
You praise Mr Vajpayee so highly, but why do you think his government's India Shining campaign backfired in 2004?
This issue was debated abundantly at that time. What had to be said, has been said. So I think we should discuss the present election, and the situation surrounding it.
How much time do you spend on politics?
In a way, if I say it myself it will seem immodest, but the reality is I am an apolitical chief minister. I leave for office at 9 am, and am there till 11 pm. Only during the elections, for those 30, 40 days, I spend my time on party work, otherwise the rest of my time I spend as an apolitical chief minister. I am not interested in this type of political activity..
People say this time you got your way with the selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.
We have a collective leadership, a democratic system. We heard the opinions of 10,000 party workers, the state team went to every district, and after listening to everyone we debated the findings from which we zoomed in on the plus points and minus points of various potential candidates.
The state's 17-member team met them and gave their opinion. Then the decision from the grass-roots was conveyed to Delhi, and not to the chief minister.
In Delhi the 21-member team discussed the choice for hours and after this exercise whatever the Delhi team decided, I accepted it. This was the entire process.
But the focus is on four tainted candidates.
Mr Rathod, for one.
You know Indian law states that no criminal can contest elections. If these people are criminals, how can they contest? Second, he was a Congress MLA. Was anything published about him for the last one-and-a-half years, so why has this issue been raked up now? You are in the dock for your question, not my party.
It's simple, if the matter was so serious, if you are really concerned for democracy, why didn't you highlight this issue the last time when Rathod was the candidate too?
It was not my question, but yours. It is your job to find out the truth from the constituency. Leave aside the common man, what would you have done? If the question is being asked today, it means it is a politically motivated campaign, and not the reality.
He was a sitting Congress MLA. He is not fighting elections after joining the BJP. Last year he conducted the marriage of below 3,000 poverty line couples.
But we wrote about all that as well.
I don't know. If you did, it's good. Sure, if there's a case against him, please highlight it. I am responsible for it. But if the court has acquitted him and if you still insist I am responsible, it's unfair to me.
Don't miss the concluding part of the interview with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi next week, in which he finally talks about the 2002 riots, terrorism, and the connection between the two.
Now back to Dondu N. Raghavan. The interviewer is trying his level best to make Modi shoot his mouth about things that are not to be talked about as felt by Modi. But Modi shows himself to be a more than adequate match to the questioner. I was reminded of Rajdeep Sardesai, who, unable to digest Modi's victory in the state polls in the year 2007, tried to stir up things with provocative questions about Modi now having ambitions about the PM's chair and was unceremoneously silenced by the BJP spokesperson Mr. Ravishankar Prasad. I am gratified even now to think of the abahed look of Rajdip Sardesai.
Let us await the concluding part of the interview.
Dondu N. Raghavan
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday -
2 days ago