It seems that following PM Modi’s first interview in 2019, the opposition has gone into a state of tizzy and the Congress also felt compelled to immediately hold a press conference in order to counter him. In the 95-minutes long interview to the ANI, PM Modi was asked questions about almost every issue that is in the limelight and the Prime Minister responded frankly. He also took on the opposition wherever it was necessary to do so. After this interview, a number of issues over which the opposition has been trying to corner the Modi government in the recent past, have been done and dusted with.
— ANI (@ANI) January 1, 2019
The interview started with the question around the BJP’s defeat in the five assembly elections recently and how 2018 was not a good year for the BJP. To this, PM Modi replied that 2018 was an immensely successful year. He made it clear that elections are just one of several facets of the country. Then he gave an account of what the country achieved last year. He talked about the implementation of health insurance of up to Rs 5 Lakh, through Ayushman Bharat Yojna and added that 6-7 lakh people have been benefitted through this scheme. Then he talked about how the world used to consider India as a culprit that caused pollution. However, in 2018, the UN awarded India with the ‘Champions of the Earth’. Thereafter, PM Modi stated that there were 18,000 villages deprived of electricity. However, this year, all villages in India were electrified. PM Modi also mentioned the bumper crop this year and how athletes performed exceedingly well. To sum up, he stated that 2018 turned out to be a very good year and there was no reason to be disappointed about it.
ANI Editor Smita Prakash also came up with the question about the goal of Congress-mukt Bharat which has still not been fulfilled. In another witty reply, PM Modi said that Congress culture represents casteism, dynastic politics, undemocratic, nepotism. He made it clear that when he says that he wants a Congress-Mukt Bharat, he means to get the country rid of this type of culture and thinking. And he even wants the Congress to get rid of this culture.
On the question of whether Modi wave in the country is over, PM Modi expressed satisfaction that a “set of people” used to say that there is no Modi wave prior to 2014. Now the “same set of people” finally accepts that there is a word called Modi wave or Modi magic. PM Modi also made it clear that such people have a responsibility of setting a suitable narrative for those whom they serve.
On yet another important issue over which critics of the present Prime Minister have always talked about is an alleged ‘lack of action’ against those accused of indulging in corruption, the interviewer asked PM Modi, “looking at your speeches from 2013 onwards…2G, 3G, CWG, Damaad ji you keep giving speeches but they still walk around Lodhi Garden. No one is in jail?” In his reply, PM Modi took a jibe at the Gandhi family and said that those who considered themselves as the first family of this country for several years and ran the country for four generations are out on bail today. Country’s former finance minister is today making rounds of the courts. However, PM Modi also made it clear that the government is not in favour of creating trouble for anyone just because such person happens to be a political rival.
On the question of lynching in the name of cows, PM Modi condemned such incidents. However, he also said that what Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave used to say has been enshrined in the Constitution. He further added that it is the responsibility of every citizen to respect those sentiments. He seems to have been referring to the ‘Directive Principles of the Constitution’. It is important to mention here that Article 48 of the Constitution provides for, among other things, prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
In his interview, PM Modi also came across the question of why the government has taken contradictory stands on the issues of Triple Talaq and Sabarimala Temple. To this, PM Modi rightly differentiated between the two issues and said that while the issue around Sabarimala Temple is a matter of faith or religion, the issue of Triple Talaq is an issue of gender equality and social justice. He also made it clear that every Temple has its own beliefs. There are temples where men are not allowed.
In the run-up to the 2019 elections, PM Modi has accomplished an important task, that of setting the agenda for the polls. Every aspect related to the interview whether it is the timing or the choice of medium or the issue PM Modi discussed left the opposition and the media stumped. The media could not even resort to its usual ‘It’s a scripted interview’ or ‘He only took softball questions’ as PM Modi and the able interviewer addressed every issue.
Another striking aspect of the interview was the demeanour of the PM. He was confident, self-assured and a man in command something which his predecessor sorely lacked. In terms of political interviews of a head of state barely three months before elections, this was easily one of the best interviews people have watched and so it does not come as a surprise that the interview is dominating headlines. The range of issues that PM covered during the interview will be discussed, dissected and disseminated throughout the next three months helping the BJP in controlling the narrative at a crucial juncture.
This interview reaffirms Prime Minister Modi’s wit and statesmanship. The calmness and composure with which he handled all the questions revolving around sensitive issues stand testimony to his prowess. For the next few months, one interview of PM Modi has put the opposition on the backfoot and they have no choice but to react.