Taking on criticism directed at his foreign trips, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here Saturday that he was being targeted for “tireless” work and that if this was a “crime”, he would continue to do it.
“People are asking why is Modi travelling to so many countries… If you work less, criticism is normal. If you keep sleeping, criticism is normal. But it is my bad luck that I am being criticised for working more,” he said at a gathering of Indians in the financial capital of China, winding up his three-day trip to the country. “If working more is a crime, I will keep doing it. My commitment is to the people,” Modi added.
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Later in the day, Modi left for Mongolia on the second leg of his tour.
With his government set to mark its first year in power soon, Modi again gave a political speech to a lustily cheering audience on a foreign tour. At least thrice, he said “Waqt badal raha hai (times are changing)” — a slight variation of his “Achhe din aanewale hain” slogan, that has been drawing ridicule from the Opposition.
Towards the end of the 52-minute address, he, quite dramatically, asked everybody to raise both their hands and bless him — and the crowd complied.
“Times are changing” and the world is looking at India differently because of the performance of his government during the last one year, which was a “matter of pride” for every citizen, the PM said. “Ab aap seena taan kar, aankh mein aankh daal kar dekh sakhte hain (Now you can walk with pride, not be cowed by anyone),” the PM said.
As his victory became imminent last year on May 16, Modi added, people said, “Dukh bhare din mit gaye bhaiya (the days of sorrow are over).” The Expo centre hall, filled with around 4,000 Indians living in China, including at least 1,900 students, reacted with chants of “Modi, Modi”.
“Nobody would have given me a job based on my bio-data,” Modi went on. “Would you have given me this job based on my bio-data? I was a mere tea-seller. But people reposed faith in me.”
Taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi’s unexplained vacation, the PM said, “For the last one year, I have not taken even one day’s leave. I have worked day and night. Did I go on any vacation? Do I take rest? Am I not implementing my promise?” he said, then added, “You will be enjoying your holiday tomorrow being a Sunday, but I will be working on Sunday in Mongolia.”
He was toiling so hard and travelling so much, the PM elaborated, as he was trying to “do the work of last 30 years”. Because of this, the world “trusts me more”.
“What I sowed in one year, it needs to be nurtured. Had I done this in fifth year, nobody would take it seriously. But world takes us seriously because I did this in the first year itself,” he told the gathering.
After the election results, he had made three promises to people, Modi said. “Normally leaders want people to forget the promises… Today, after a year, nobody can accuse us of taking a wrong step because of bad intent.”
Reverting to criticism over his foreign affairs policy, Modi said, “People used to ask who is Modi, what does he know about foreign policy? Accusations were correct but apprehensions were wrong.”
Talking about his China visit, he recalled his “personal association” and “intimacy” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and said that for the benefit of mankind, “We have special responsibility”. And, to shoulder that responsibility, “we have to walk together”.
“I see this visit in a different way. It has laid strong foundations which will benefit the coming ages.”
He also noted that it was for the first time in China’s history that its President had received any foreign leader outside Beijing. “This welcome was not for Modi or my delegation, but to 125 crore Indians.”
The audience reaction to the speech was mixed. Most of them, such as Nishith Bothra who has been living Shanghai for 12 years, were euphoric. “Earlier, people did not respect us here in Shanghai. Now, because of Modi, people respect us,” Bothra said.
Mehernosh Pastakia, a prominent member of the Indian Association of China and a key organiser of the community event, felt, “He is encouraging people. People feel the belonging, encouraging business and tourism. That is good for both countries.”
However, Manish Mani, who has lived in Shanghai for around 11 years and attended the event with his Chinese wife Jennifer, said, “Honestly, the speech talked about a lot of things, but did not spell out plans and concrete stuff.”