You are set to reshuffle the Union cabinet. What new one can expect?
It will be according to requirement. It is quite natural that the cabinet gets expanded after two years, it is the proper time too. But it is not a reshuffle or change, but an expansion. An expansion of the Council of Ministers will reflect the priorities and the focus that were outlined in the Union budget. Those will be strengthened.
Will the upcoming assembly elections in UP be kept in view in the expansion?
Our government was not in power nor did we have any representation in the central government when our party won 72 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
You had declared “minimum government, maximum governance” as the government’s motto. How far has the government been able to achieve it?
Earlier, a cabinet note used to take at least three months to get prepared. Now files are getting cleared in 15 days to one month; there could be exceptions. In ease of doing business, another point we have been focusing on, there is a direct reflection of minimum government, maximum governance. In Hindu mythology, one would get Moksh if one took a journey to Char Dham. But in India a file never used to get Moksh even if it took 20 dhams. This is changing. Earlier the government used to work in silos, it no longer works in silos.
Even after two years, there is a constant attempt to link your image with Gujarat.
Modi’s image is not the most important thing and Modi has never worked for his image. A Prime Minister’s job is to improve the image of the nation, get it more friendly nations, improve its acceptability, work for its development and security. These have been my focus and it will remain like that.
There has just been a terrorist attack in neighboring Bangladesh.
Our people have been suffering terrorism for the last 40 years. All governments in the past also tried to tell the world that there should be awareness against terrorism. But the world considered it a law-and-order problem. Now, they are experiencing its enormity and every other country is affected by it one way or other. Terrorism is humanity’s enemy. Those who trust in humanity should come together to fight against terrorism. The Dhaka terror attack is a reminder to the world to unite against terrorism. The United Nations has not been able to give a definition to terrorism yet. It is time to give a bigger push to adopting the UN resolution to define terrorism.
There is a criticism that India is witnessing jobless growth.
It is not correct. There are certain things that are not visible immediately. Like our decision to allow malls in big cities to be open 24×7, we have sent a model bill to the states for letting small shopkeepers keep their shops open continuously. In order to do that, shopkeepers will have to employ at least one person and we have millions of small kirana shops in the country. Among the 3.5 crore beneficiaries of Mudra Yojana, 70 per cent are women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These people will get into something or other that would provide jobs to others and some will expand further. This sector I would call — like the private and public sectors — the personal sector where there will be prospects for jobs. All our policies in future will be keeping this sector in mind.
There has been criticism over the new GDP formula.
The World Bank, IMF and international credit rating agencies… all say in one voice that Hindustan is the fastest growing economy among the big countries.
Are you open to getting outside talent in policymaking?
We have already. We have outside talent in NITI Aayog.
The country still faces problems like drought and flood. How does the government plan a permanent solution?
I have had a detailed meeting with chief ministers of drought-hit states and the main focus was to find a permanent solution. The solution cannot be tailor-made for every state, it has to be different according to various aspects in each state…
The government has initiated some steps for subsidy reforms. Have they been successful?
Initiatives have already been taken. The government has already announced limiting of LPG subsidy only to those with an annual income less than Rs 10 lakh. The verification process [on the income] is going on. Subsidy reform has made headway with kerosene and urea. Leakage of subsidised kerosene in Chandigarh, where we have launched the pilot project, has been plugged. When I became Prime Minister, the maximum number of letters from chief ministers were on urea. In 2015, no such letter came to me nor was there any long queue for urea. No complaints of urea shortage after more production and neem-coating.
Do you think winning elections is linked to development?
The country has changed a lot and people’s aspirations also have gone up. It will reflect one way or the other in elections too.
You have introduced a model village scheme and its one aim was to stop migration from villages.
A scheme is a scheme but unless there is proper leadership and guidance at the ground level, it will not show results. Today, at least Rs 2 crore is available for every village. But the MP or the local machinery should be able to coordinate it properly. In our country, many things are technical and there are some practical issues too.
How far have you been able to bring in cooperative federalism in government functioning?
Earlier, the Centre used to decide how the funds should be utilised by the states but under this government, NITI Aayog in its conferences has sought the states’ views on spending the money meant for them. Having been the Prime Minister with the longest chief ministerial tenure, I have had the experience from the other side. As a chief minister, I had dealt with favourable and unfavourable governments at the Centre. The first thing I did after becoming Prime Minister was to form the chief ministers’ committee in NITI Aayog to decide on Centre-state shares in schemes.