PM Modi Interview: As he faces his biggest electoral test in just three months from now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday touched upon a gamut of contentious issues ranging from demonetisation to ordinance on Ram Mandir and even the mystery shrouding the sudden resignation of former RBI Governor Urjit Patel amid a months-long standoff with the government on economic capital framework and lending to MSMEs.
Despite a clamour from Hindutva groups and RSS for a law on Ram Temple, PM Modi, in his first remarks on the issue, said an ordinance on the proposed temple would come only after the Supreme Court ruling. PM Modi also indicated that the judicial process was being slowed down because Congress lawyers were creating “obstacles” in the apex court.
“Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever will be our responsibility as the government, we are ready to make all efforts,” PM Modi said in an interview with ANI. The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute will be taken up by the SC on Friday, where the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led division bench will constitute a fresh three-judge bench to hear the issue.
Asking the Congress not to create hurdles in the case, PM Modi said, “Don’t weigh it in political terms. Nobody can deny that those sitting in the governments in the last 70 years have tried their best to stall a solution to this (Ayodhya) issue.”
Shedding light on Urjit Patel’s sudden resignation, Modi said the former RBI Governor had told him six-seven months ago about his decision to quit and dismissed rumours that political pressure was at play.
“He himself requested (to resign) on personal reasons. I am revealing for the first time. He had been telling me about it for six-seven months before his resignation. He gave it even in writing. No question of political pressure. He did a good job as the RBI governor,” the PM said.
Speculation about Patel’s resignation had been going on for months before he resigned on December 10 after he resisted the government’s pressure to change policies on surplus dividend to the government, liquidity window for finance companies and more powers for the RBI Central Board.
One of the controversial policies of the Modi government was undoubtedly the decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, 2016. In the interview, the PM said the note ban decision was not a “jhatka” and people were warned earlier about stashing of black money.
“This wasn’t a jhatka. We had warned people a year before, that if you have such wealth (black money), you can deposit it, pay penalties and you will be helped out. However, they thought Modi too would behave like others, so very few came forward voluntarily,” PM Modi said.
However, RBI’s report that over 99 per cent of banned notes were back in the system has given the Opposition a shot in the arm to corner the government on the issue even though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has argued that the move helped widen the tax base.
The PM also said that it was because of demonetisation that diamantaire Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya fled to foreign countries. “Yeh kyun bhaagey? Notebandi ki wajah se. Those who fled during this government will be brought back – today or tomorrow. Those who have stolen India’s money will have to compensate for each and every penny,” he said.
“Come back before sunrise, irrespective of the success or failure of the mission”. This was what PM Modi said to the commandos who went across the Line of Control to strike at terrorist camps after the Uri attack in 2016. Giving an upshot of the operation, PM Modi said the date of the attack was changed twice keeping in mind the safety and security of the troops.
On cross-border attacks, PM Modi said it would take more time for Pakistan to mend its ways. “Ek ladai se Pakistan sudhar jayega, yeh sochna bohot badi ghalti hogi. Pakistan ko sudharne mein abhi aur samay lagega. (It would be a mistake to think Pakistan can mend its ways after a battle, it will take more time,” PM Modi said.
Touching upon the Rafale deal, PM Modi said those levelling allegations of crony capitalism against him were actually weakening the security forces. Having received a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court, which ruled out a judicial probe into the deal, Modi said the government would continue to expedite the defence procurement process so that the country’s security was not compromised.
“Those people who want to weaken the Army are levelling allegations. I decided that whatever abuses are hurled at me, whatever allegations are levelled against me, I will continue on the path of honesty and give primacy to the country’s security. I won’t leave my Army jawans merely to their fate. Whatever be their requirement, I will expedite the procurement processes. I will do it even if allegations are levelled me,” PM Modi said.
Refusing to compare the Triple Talaq and Sabarimala issues, PM Modi said while one was a matter of gender equality, the other was a matter of tradition. “Most Islamic countries have banned Triple Talaq. So it is not a matter of religion or faith. Even in Pakistan, Triple Talaq is banned. So it is an issue of gender equality, a matter of social justice. It is not an issue of faith,” he said.
On the Sabarimala issue, which has seen violent protests after the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the Kerala shrine, PM Modi said, “There are some temples that have their own traditions, where men can’t go. In this, a woman judge in the Supreme Court has made certain observations. There is no need to attribute those to any political party. There should be a debate on that as well sometimes.”
Despite a drubbing in the Hindi heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and with the prospect of a resurgent Congress-led Grand Alliance looking bright, PM Modi said the elections were going to be “janta” versus “gathbandhan”. “It is going to be ‘Janta’ versus ‘gathbandhan’. Modi is just a manifestation of public love and blessings,” he said.