WITH the elections, now in their last lap, turning out as a virtual referendum on his bid for a second term for the BJP in power at the Centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is framing the contest as one between the elite consensus of the “Khan Market gang” that he defeated in 2014 and his “45 years of tapasya.” This “gang”, he claimed, wants to “dismantle” him now and his reference to Rajiv Gandhi and his legacy, he said, should be seen in that context.
“From where did this INS (Viraat) subject come? This is not a new issue that I wasn’t aware of. Why did it come? When the Congress president, at a press conference, says that the Army isn’t a personal jagirdari of Modi — all of you missed this — then I have to say what’s it like to have a personal fiefdom. Rajiv Gandhi is not my issue,” the Prime Minister told The Sunday Express. “Kehte hain ki baat niklegi toh door talak jayegi (It is said that when talk starts, you never know where it will end).”
Over 90 minutes at his 7, Lok Kalyan Marg residence, Modi touched upon a range of issues: from his definition of nationalism and how that squares with freedom to dissent to the marginalisation of Muslims and how the media, in his opinion, needs to be saved from some of those who work there.
Asked about his government’s legacy as compared to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s, Modi said the tendency to judge governments on “one or two issues” is a “great injustice to Modi.”
“Unfortunately, we have tried to identify governments with only one or two things and not in a holistic fashion. This creates a temptation for governments to do one or two things for being remembered. I want to build the country on multi-pillars,” he said.
With BJP candidates across the country increasingly latching on to the image of Modi as the campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha enters the last stretch — the penultimate phase for 59 seats across seven states is Sunday — the Prime Minister claimed attempts by his opponents to “demolish” his image for electoral considerations will not succeed.
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“He (Rahul Gandhi) said he wanted to dismantle Narendra Modi’s image. Inherent is to demolish my image anyhow. Modi ki chhavi, Delhi ke Khan Market ke gang ne nahi banayi hai, Lutyens Delhi ne nahi banayi hai. 45 saal ki Modi ki tapasya ne chhavi banayi hai...You cannot dismantle it,” Modi said.
“In 2019, people are hopeful of the Congress and are saying that it is this organisation that is going to demolish Mr Narendra Modi, the BJP and the RSS,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi had told The Indian Express in an interview on May 5.
When asked why the campaign, which started out on issues, had been reduced to one of personalities, Modi said that issues were “at the core of every debate” in the election. “For example, if we call an individual corrupt, if we mention cases of corruption under him, we are actually telling people that the Congress’s culture of corruption will return if we do not vote wisely…If we talk about leaders or parties insulting the Army, we are raising the issue of respecting institutions. If we expose the abuse and misuse of national resources by one family, we are highlighting the cost our nation has paid and will have to pay for the delusions of a dynasty that thinks power is a birthright and they are accountable to nobody,” Modi said.
The elections, announced on March 10, have entered the last stretch with only 59 seats to go for polls after 59 seats go to polling on Sunday. The BJP which came to power with its historic best of a clear majority of 282 seats in 2014 entered elections after electoral setbacks in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan assembly elections at the hands of Congress in December last year. However, the opposition has not been able to forge a united front nationwide and has taken on the BJP with state-specific alliances. To conter this, the BJP has relied extensively upon the popularity of the Prime Minister.