PM Modi spoke to ANI editor Smita Prakash on New Year’s Day as he approaches to complete his first term as the Prime Minister of India. In his interview, PM Modi spoke on several matters including his approach for the 2019 elections to the loss of power in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Rajasthan.

Apart from addressing significant questions concerning black money and electoral losses in the first section of the interview, he also spoke about the surgical strike elaborately.  When asked regarding Pakistan, he said that it would take a long time for them to change. He also spoke on Triple talaq and Sabarimala and refused to compare them, while clearly distinguishing one as a matter of gender equality and the other as tradition.

In this 95 minutes long interview, PM Modi made it clear that Urjit Patel’s resignation as the RBI chief was not a result of any kind of political pressure. He also spoke on the Rafale deal and clearly suggested that there was no wrongdoing associated with it.

Throughout the interview, he was defiantly hopeful about the 2019 elections and said, ‘Modi is just a manifestation of public love and blessing’. He concluded his interview by saying that he enjoyed every minute of his term and claimed that he performed all his duties with ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’.

Here, we present to you a transcript of the main answers given by him in the interview: 

Q: After BJP’s defeat in 2018, How confident is your party about winning the 2019 elections?

Response – In my opinion, 2018 was a very successful year. Out of many facets of our country, the election is only one small facet. Today in Hindustan, if the poor are given a health benefit of up to 5 lakh rupees, through the Ayushman Bharat Yojna, within 6-7 days of its implementation, almost 6-7 lakh people have made use of the opportunity. People have suffered from serious health conditions from a long time, today if they are being relieved through this scheme, how can I not consider it as an achievement. All around the world people are talking about climate change, where India is considered a nation contributing to the problem. But it is this nation which was awarded the Champion of Earth in 2018 and was also recognized as a leader of the protector of the environment. This is definitely a matter of pride for us. When I  started my term, 18000 villages did not have electricity. In 2018, we were successful in bringing electricity to every village. If we consider sports also, in the year 2018, Indian citizens performed very well. Not only did we win more medals, but children from remote villages have also represented the country and made the country proud. Consider whichever sector you want, the 104 satellites, the bumper crops, India has broken records and 2018 has been a glorious year for us!

Q: BJP lost in 5 states. You are not only the Prime Minister of our nation but also the leader of BJP. Do you not consider this as a failure?

Response – Firstly, in Telangana and Mizoram, no one thought about BJP forming a government. In Chattisgarh, the results were clear, BJP did not win. But in those two states, hung assembly was formed. Secondly, our people were fighting against 15 years of anti-incumbency. We are discussing the loopholes. But, in Haryana, we won all the local polls, in Tripura we had 90-95% victory, in Jammu-Kashmir so many of our representatives won. Winning or losing is not the only yardstick for us.

Q: This year, your vote share has not converted into seats. Media and political experts are of the opinion that the ‘Modi wave’ is over. What are your thoughts?

Response – I want to thank those who think this way because it means they agree that there is a ‘Modi wave’. If you go back to the media reports from 2013-14, there was a set of people who kept saying ‘Modi can’t do anything’. In my opinion, the same set of people have not increased or decreased in number. This makes me happy. I believe, that the wave is about people’s trust in who will fulfill their expectations and aspirations. And I have felt that these number of people have increased.

Q: The opposition states that BJP will not get more than 180 seats as the ‘Modi wave’ is over. Do you think BJP will miss out on this target in the 2019 elections?

Response – First of all, if they do not give people such numbers how will they attract people. To attract people they have to make big statements. To save themselves they have created such narratives. Is there any scientific rationale behind it? In 2013-14 the same discussion about under-200 seat club was happening by the same set of people. As far as the BJP is concerned, we do not mistrust the intelligence of the common man. I always keep telling the political pundits to trust the common man’s intelligence. After all what experiences did the common man have with the government, which would make them want to distance themselves from this government in 2019? You can check the newspaper headlines that came up 5 years ago and read the ones coming up today. The common man knows everything. I have faith in the youth of the country and the common man.

Q: You have been talking about a ‘Congress-free’ India since 2013, but after the recent state elections, it proves that the common man is considering the Congress as an option too. This is why in the Hindi heartland, which is considered as your foundation, Congress governments have been formed. Don’t you think that your goal of a Congress-free India is not being fulfilled?

Response – The people of Congress say that Congress is a thought, a culture. For so many years this culture has been there in the mainstream. This is the reason why more or less it has become the face of the Indian political culture. What is this culture – Casteism, Dynastic politics, undemocratic, corruption? Congress represents this culture. When I say Congress-free, I want to liberate the country from such thoughts and culture. In my opinion, even Congress needs to get rid of this ‘Congress’ culture. Whether the institute remains or not is something nobody can answer. I for one acknowledge that in a democracy, a strong Opposition is essential but unfortunately, Congress seems to be failing there too.

Q: Up till 2017, political pundits believed that the ‘Modi-Shah’ partnership could not be beaten. Now, it seems there is something amiss. If your narrative is so successful then why is it that you are losing elections? Shouldn’t the leadership at BJP take responsibility for these losses?

Response – Those who say that the BJP is functioning because of Modi and Amit Shah, they neither know nor understand BJP. We are a part of the largest political organization in the world. BJP functions because of our strength at the polling booth. ‘Mera booth, sabse mazboot.’ for this our workers are working for 365 days. BJP is not run by 1 or 2 people. At every level, leadership is being exhibited by the workers. People of India trust us, it is a cumulative effort, which helps us progress with the motto ‘Sabka saath, Sabka Vikas’. No one can ignore our progress. By constantly repeating that the BJP is losing doesn’t mean that we are actually losing. We won Assam, Haryana, Tripura and we have a lot more to do.

Q: Political experts also believe that the primary reasons for your losses in 2018 are demonetization and GST. If you re-visit that point in time, was there a need for demonetization? Were your objectives met?

Response – There used to be regular reports about black money. There is no denying the fact that there existed a parallel economy. Notes were found from under the beds, sacks full of cash were found. The formal economy of our country was getting hampered. This parallel economy made the country hollow from within. Demonetization has done a very great job and in the coming days, it will provide strength to the economic sector. Also, those sacks full of cash have now entered the banking structure. An ambience of honesty has been created. The tax net has increased significantly. Wouldn’t you consider this successful? Through banking sector, people are willing to work openly. In our country currency circulation compared to GDP has reduced comparatively. This is a good indicator.

Q: But, Couldn’t it be slowly implemented rather than coming across as a ‘Jhatka’ (Shock)?

Response – This wasn’t a Jhatka. We had warned the people a year in advance that we have a scheme wherein if you have such wealth (black money), you can deposit it, from there you have to pay the penalties and you will be helped out. However, people thought Modi is like the others, so only a few people came forward voluntarily. Though the number was more than earlier, it was not as it should have been. Through the media and Parliament, I asked people to take advantage of this scheme or else we would have to take steps to change the situation. This did not happen overnight. This process took place over one year, where we kept telling people repeatedly. It was only after that we had to take such a step. This was necessary for the economic well-being of this country. If any process is changed, take for examples Railways, if a bogey change tracks there is a change in speed. We can’t deny this. Even when Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister and economic reform had taken place, do you have any idea how much the GDP fell? It had fallen to approximately less than 2%. I agree that it could have caused a little discomfort but look at us now. Our growth rate is stable as well. A cleansing process was needed, we did it successfully. Now an ideology has been created for the country to follow.

Q: You claimed that you would bring back all Economic offenders. Whether it is Nirav Modi, Choksi or Vijay Mallya. However, you have not yet been able to meet the objectives of ending the parallel economy and bringing back these offenders. Why is that?

Response – Why did they need to flee at all? Had there been governments like earlier, the same camaraderie would have continued. They would not have the need to flee. They had to flee because they would have to adhere to the laws and norms here. They would have to give account for every penny. Those who have fled, there are international laws to bring them back. Those are being implemented. For such fugitives, we have made stringent laws in our country. Not only this, even for foreign relations laws have been made strictly. Therefore, the government is using all the tools available to them. Those who have fled the country earlier, they have not returned. But I am confident, that those who fled during this government, they will have to return, today or tomorrow. Diplomatic channels, legal courses and seizure of properties through legal means are being implemented. Those who have stolen India’s money, they will have to compensate for every penny. In the first G20 summit that I attended as PM, the issue of black money and foreign banks acting as havens was raised by me for the first time. It was recognized as a serious cause of concern by all countries unanimously in the summit and also considered as a source of terror funding. India entered into an agreement with several countries to share information of such bank accounts. After 2019, we will get real-time information from different countries. So black money will have to come back.

Q: Opposition and other parties claim that your party has a tendency of using the country’s resources to carry out their political vendetta aggressively. What do you have to say about this?

Response – We do not support any political vendetta’s. The judgment is equal for all, even for Modi. The people working in government departments do their work professionally and ethically. They do not take any sides. When the opposition cannot find any major issues to hold against me and my party, they build up such baseless accusations without realizing that they are also questioning the conduct of all the hard-working bureaucrats and government officials who work for no one but this country.

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