Current Punjab leadership mirrors ideology of urban Naxals... They may take state down the wrong path: PM Narendra Modi : The Tribune India

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Current Punjab leadership mirrors ideology of urban Naxals... They may take state down the wrong path: PM Narendra Modi

Current Punjab leadership mirrors ideology of urban Naxals... They may take state down the wrong path: PM Narendra Modi

When I question the Congress’ divisive policies that aim to appease Muslims and distance them from the societal mainstream, I am speaking against the Congress, not against Muslims. This much is clear to anyone who actually listens to what I am saying.

The Tribune interview: Narendra Modi, Prime Minister 

Ahead of the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections in eight states and UTs, including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, on June 1, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took time off from his hectic campaign schedule to speak to Associate Editor Aditi Tandon on a range of issues and narratives dominating the poll landscape. In a candid interview, the Prime Minister fielded questions on the ongoing farmers protests in Punjab and Haryana, the BJP’s decision to sever ties with erstwhile ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, the “ghuspethiya” remarks with reference to Muslims he made at the Banswara rally in Rajasthan on April 21, the BJP-led NDA’s seat assessment and the state of the opposition INDIA bloc. PM Modi, eyeing a historic third term in office — a first for any prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru — exuded confidence on the strength of his 10-year record as PM. The Prime Minister spoke of his Viksit Bharat @ 2047 platform and reiterated the BJP’s commitment to taking the Uniform Civil Code forward. He admitted the BJP had not been able to rise to its full potential in Punjab because of its pact with SAD, but with the alliance now having ended, the party would emerge as a strong force in the state. Excerpts:

You have said you are going to the people with a 10-year record. What in your view is your most abiding legacy after two terms as Prime Minister and your most important achievement?

For decades now, I have lived with the motto of dedicating myself fully for the nation and the welfare of the people. My focus is on bringing a positive transformation in the lives of the people and therefore, things like legacy do not matter to me.

Further, when it comes to achievements, there is nothing that one person or even a government can achieve, without the people’s blessings and participation.

After six phases of voting, my assessment is that the people of the country are blessing us with a historic, record-breaking win

So, I can speak of the nation’s important achievements in the past 10 years.

At the very top would be the fact that 25 crore people have won the battle against poverty. Because this means, 25 crore people got the ability to dream and opportunity to fulfil dreams. It means 25 crore people could live a better life in the present and also give a better future to their future generations.

Further, whether it is the poor, farmers, women or underprivileged sections of society, they were kept deprived of even the basic human necessities for 60 years.

But we could serve them by taking crores of toilets, tap water connections, electricity connections, LPG and health coverage to them. This not only gave them a better life but also helped them not go through the indignities that a life of deprivation subjects people to.

The fact that crores of people were positively impacted by these initiatives is a big inspiration to us.

At the same time, while working on the basics, we have also focused on aspirational goals, like taking optic fibre, mobiles and inexpensive data to even villages, making the country a leader in digital payments, making the country a bigger space power, etc.

The cumulative impact of all of these initiatives — the birth of self-confidence in Indians that our nation is meant for great things — is something that I am greatly enthused by.

One of the key issues in the election campaign this time is the Constitution and quota debate. You say Congress will dilute quotas to benefit Muslims; they say you will abolish quotas? Which one is true?

I would request respectable media houses like yours to do a simple fact check.

We have been in power for 10 years at the Centre with massive mandates. Our big mandate helped us do things that were thought to be impossible, such as abrogation of Article 370, outlawing Triple Talaq, etc.

Anyone would tell you that a government that could take such big decisions could do anything it wanted. What did we do? We actually extended reservations for more years.

At the same time, we also ran a government with the maximum number of SC/ST/OBC ministers. Even the number of SC/ST/OBC MPs and MLAs are highest in our party. Further, we gave constitutional status to the OBC Commission, which the Congress never did.

The enthusiasm among first-time voters and the younger generation during my election campaigns inspired me to think of a blueprint for the first 125 days of the youth. Today’s youth will ultimately drive India towards Viksit Bharat

So, our track record of commitment to the welfare of SC/ST/OBC communities is clear.

Now, when it comes to the Congress, we are not just saying they will dilute quotas to benefit their vote banks but we are saying they have already done it in various states when they were in power.

They have also openly declared, when they were in power at the Centre, that they intend to bring in reservations on the basis of religion, despite knowing well that is unconstitutional.

Recently, Calcutta High Court scrapped Other Backward Classes (OBCs) certificates awarded to 77 communities since 2010 in West Bengal, an overwhelming majority of whom were Muslim, and called the classification process illegal.

So, they have an actual track record of diluting the quotas meant for SC/ST/OBC communities. Even now, I have challenged Congress leaders multiple times. I have asked them to declare they will not bring in reservations for their vote banks. But they have not uttered a word about it.

So, as a credible media house, now, can you tell me whose side facts are on and who is making false claims?

After six phases of voting, what’s your assessment? Opposition says low voter turnout signals a no wave election and you won’t cross 200 seats.

After six phases of voting, my assessment is that the people of the country are blessing us with a historic, record-breaking win.

Also, it is clear that the Congress is repeating its listless performance like in 2014 and 2019.

Further, due to their abysmal performance, the INDIA bloc, which is an opportunistic group without any vision or mission, will break apart after the elections. Knowing this, even their own cadre is not turning out to vote for them.

Our big mandate helped us do things that were thought to be impossible, such as abrogation of Article 370, outlawing Triple Talaq, etc.

Anyone will tell you that a government that can take such big decisions can do anything it wanted… We extended reservations

Even neutral analysts would be amused about the Opposition’s claims that we won’t cross 200 seats in the election.

Many people are saying that the NDA has already crossed the majority mark in just five phases, let alone the whole election!

How would you describe the opposition INDIA alliance?

Congress has accused AAP of orchestrating a liquor scam in Delhi.

The names that AAP people called the Congress in Punjab are the kind of names that even we would not.

AAP has accused the Congress of inflicting violence on Sikhs in Delhi.

Congress has accused AAP of being involved with terrorists in Punjab.

But both the parties are together in fighting elections in Delhi but not in Punjab.

In Delhi, they say ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ and in Punjab they say ‘Hum Aapke Hai Kaun’.

This is just the trailer of their supposed alliance. If I start going into the contradictions in Kerala, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and other states, then you will run out of space in your newspaper.

They have no agreement on policies, no consensus on leadership and certainly no vision for the nation beyond somehow gaining power by hook or crook.

Therefore, while the top leaders of these parties are being seen together for the time being, there is no collaboration among them. There is no coordination among their cadre either.

So, the only thing these people can give the country is instability and a weak government.

Though ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ is your motto and government schemes seek to benefit everyone equally, why did you recently speak of Muslims as infiltrators and mention ‘children with more kids’?

When I say illegal infiltrators or people with more children, why are you assuming that I was referring to Muslims?

In fact, most of the successful flagship schemes of our government have minorities as a big chunk among the beneficiaries due to our saturation approach.

However, there is one point that needs to be made here. When I question the Congress’ divisive policies that aim to appease Muslims and distance them from the societal mainstream, I am speaking against the Congress, not against Muslims. This much is clear to anyone who actually listens to what I am saying.

In fact, speaking against appeasement politics is the most pro-Muslim stance one can take. Because the biggest victims of appeasement politics have been Muslims themselves. Congress got votes in their name, formed governments in their name, but never did anything to actually make their lives better.

Even today, the Congress’ politics solely rests on trying to hold Muslim votes hostage by creating a fear psychosis among them that their religion is in danger if Muslims don’t vote for the Congress. So, the Congress has no incentive to further education or empowerment among the community.

But steadily and surely, even Muslims are beginning to see through the Congress’ game.

Several farmers continue to protest for legalisation of MSP on the borders of Haryana and Punjab and are preventing BJP leaders from canvassing in villages. Your comments and message?

Thank you for this very important question.

Firstly, it is our government which has implemented MSP in its true letter and spirit. In the last ten years, my government has increased the value of MSP and the volume of crops procured under MSP. My government started the direct transfer of MSP into the bank accounts of the farmers of Punjab. We understand the needs of the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, and we have always worked with them on the MSP issue. We are willing to go one step ahead. We are not only ensuring MSP on staple crops like paddy and wheat, which are grown extensively in this region, but we are also incentivising farmers to grow pulses that have a strong demand in the market and can help the farmers improve their earnings significantly.

We want the willing farmers to embrace crop diversification and give them the necessary monetary and policy security cover. Also, crop diversification is an idea which has been supported by other parties too in the past. They have backtracked on it for political reasons, but the cost of politics should be something other than the future of the farmers of Punjab and Haryana. The MSP is not going anywhere. Instead, it is being expanded to empower the farmers for the future and safeguard the ecology of the region. Our farmers are a critical component of the ‘India Growth Story’; therefore, my government wants to enable and empower them for the future, along with catering to their needs in the present.

The Akali Dal was your oldest alliance partner and yet you two fell out over the farm laws. Why did this happen? Do you regret this was not handled better?

Over the last few years, a few things happened which has led to a lot of traditional Akali Dal supporters feeling disappointed.

The first was Parkash Singh Badal Sahab’s personal electoral defeat, and that too at such a stage of his life.

Subsequently, the passing of Badal Sahab left a void that was irreplaceable.

At the same time, the Akali Dal began to disintegrate, with very experienced leaders either reducing political activity or parting ways with it.

And, add to that the series of electoral routs.

All of these happenings have hurt every Akali Dal worker. A lot of them have privately even expressed their despair to me. A lot of people who think of the progress of Punjab tried to reform the Akali Dal and ensure it moves with the times but their efforts failed.

For every Indian, Punjab is a crucial state with a history of rich contribution to national development. Thus, it is not possible for our party to remain silent while the people of the state are unhappy. It is incumbent upon us to work even harder and ensure the people of the state are not unhappy.

The levels of unhappiness will surprise you all. In 2022, the people of Punjab were so disillusioned that they gave a mandate to AAP but they have only made things worse.

In such times, our duty is even more and thus, we are going to the people with our vision and good governance track record. We have taken this decision after much thought and the people are showing immense affection towards us.

We are going to the people with a single aim- the welfare of Punjab. Like our party transformed the growth trajectory of several states, we want to do the same for Punjab, be it in agriculture, industries, services, startups, healthcare, education, technology, transport, railways, environment, culture, tourism and more.

I want to specially highlight agriculture here. As Gujarat CM, whenever we hosted a big programme relating to the sector, I would invite Badal Sahab. He would not only attend but also praise the work we are doing in Gujarat. Like in all other things, Badal Sahab’s insights on agriculture helped me immensely and given the opportunity, we will work to fulfil his vision in this sector as well.

What is your assessment of the Punjab Lok Sabha poll, specially as you are contesting alone for the first time?

In one word — excellent!

Whomsoever's heart beats for Punjab and whoever wants a glorious future for Punjab… Such people are joining us and are seeing BJP with great hope. Our cadre is fully energised as well. Our candidates in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls are a great mix of youth, experience, successful professionals and grassroots level leaders.

Today in Punjab we are seeing the following aspects:

Disgust with AAP, due to their abysmal governance and record corruption.

Disillusionment with Congress, due to their inability to look beyond one family, and that too a family which has seldom respected Sikh sentiments.

Disappointment with Akali Dal, for reasons I already mentioned.

A large section of Punjabi society, especially the youth and women, are seeing how the philosophy of the current leadership in Punjab mirrors the ideology of urban Naxals. They feel that Punjab has just about emerged from the shadows of violence and bloodshed, and now again those with an urban Naxal bent of mind will take it on the wrong path. People are worried and feel it is only the BJP which can not only save Punjab, but also put it firmly on the path of peace, progress and prosperity.

Why has the BJP, a dominant force in the North, struggled for a foothold in Punjab?

Your question is not fully correct. If you evaluate our performance in the previous Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections, we have done well. Last two Lok Sabha polls we won two of the three seats we contested. For the longest time, our MLAs played an important role in the state government. But, despite all this, we remained humble and grounded which is why you feel we have struggled for a foothold. You may have also noted that the Punjabi community was our strongest support base in Delhi.

But yes, due to our alliance in Punjab we were not able to rise to our full potential. Now with the alliance over, we are all set to become an even stronger force in the state. The results and the mood of the people in the coming days will stun you but remember, I told you first that BJP is rising steadily in Punjab.

How would you describe your ties with the Sikh community?

I have had a long association with the Sikh community. I have worked extensively in Punjab and have lived there for years.

When a devastating earthquake hit Kutch, a deeply revered Sikh site in Kutch, Lakhpat Sahib Gurdwara, was completely destroyed. It was a place where Guru Nanak Dev Ji had stayed twice during his travels and was an important Sikh pilgrimage site. As CM, I ensured that the Gurdwara is restored to its past glory.

Post 2014, we have taken a number of steps to preserve and promote the rich Sikh heritage and culture. In 2019, the long awaited Kartarpur corridor was opened, which made it possible for Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev Ji lived out his final years.

In 2021, we ensured safe evacuation of Sikhs from war-torn Afghanistan and also ensured that the sacred Guru Granth Sahib was flown in with absolute reverence and dignity.

We declared December 26 as Veer Bal Diwas to commemorate the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh Ji and Fateh Singh Ji, the brave sons of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Sikh community has contributed immensely to nation building.

Do you think BJP will open its account in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh? How many seats will you win?

For decades, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala voters have voted for the same parties. These parties have promised to deliver development every election for decades. And if there is any scope for development, only certain sections were considered for these developmental schemes.

In 1984, when the BJP won two seats in India, one was from South India. So, for us, North and South have never been different.

In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the South, boasting the highest number of MPs. This victory is a testament to the voters’ choice of development over divisive politics. The people’s rejection of the North-South divide narrative is a clear indication of their informed understanding of how countries can develop and progress.

Take a closer look at how the states have been governed under the opposition parties. The leaders who claim to lead based on family ties, have amassed unimaginable wealth. However, the state’s finances are in disarray, and the people have come to realise how they are being exploited. They are now resorting to legal action to secure their salaries and pensions for the poor.

In this election, the voters will also send a strong message through their votes. The number of seats will significantly increase this time, and South India will show faith in our abilities.

The Enforcement Directorate arrested Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal just before the elections; the SC gave him an interim bail a few days ago. The Opposition is accusing the ED of being a sword arm of the government...

Don’t listen to me or them. Just check what the High Court has said.

The Delhi High Court has highlighted that the evidence reveals a conspiracy orchestrated at the highest levels. It also indicates that the Delhi Chief Minister was personally involved in perpetrating the scam. In a recent order, the Court again denied bail to their co-accused and deputy, noting that the accused was involved in destroying electronic evidence. They even fabricated public opinion on the liquor policy!

These individuals never miss an opportunity to denigrate our institutions. Yet, these are the same institutions that granted them bail. Such hypocrisy is harmful to the nation’s well-being.

These agencies are established for law enforcement and tackling financial fraud. They are doing their job in a free and fair manner.

Those claiming they are being targeted are the ones from whom mountains of cash have been seized. Yes, the corrupt are being targeted. The entire country saw the heaps of cash recovered by the agencies, which shows that the ED and the CBI are on the right track. Besides, the accusations are baseless; only 3% of all ED cases pertain to politicians, while the remaining 97% involve bureaucrats or officials. In the last 10 years, the amount seized has exceeded Rs 1.25 lakh crore, with Rs. 17,000 crore already returned to the citizens.

Your main poll promises — Ram Mandir, abrogation of Article 370 and commencement of work on UCC — have been fulfilled. What next?

These are not merely core issues of the BJP. These are the issues close to the heart of people and of the entire nation and it is their expectation from us.

People are happy that in a short period, we have managed to clear the path for effectively resolving long-standing issues that have plagued the country for decades. The grand temple of Shri Ram Lalla has become a reality, with crores of devotees visiting Ayodhya for his darshan. After the abrogation of Article 370, a new era of peace, prosperity, and democracy is emerging in Jammu and Kashmir. Our party is also committed to bringing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to its logical conclusion.

Now our main driving force is the vision of Viksit Bharat by 2047. I have received over 15 lakh suggestions from across the country. Based on this input, we have outlined a vision for 2047, a roadmap for the next five years, and a mission document for the first 125 days of our third term.

If re-elected, what will be your top target for the first 125 days?

We are planning for the future; we are planning for 2047. In this long journey, we have to begin with the first step. I have given this direction to my team, and my team has been discussing various aspects.

We were planning for 100 days, but we have now thought to take this to 125 days; the additional 25 days would be for the country’s youth. The youth play a critical role in shaping the nation’s future. The enthusiasm, especially among first-time voters and the younger generation during my election campaigns, inspired me to think of a blueprint for the first 125 days of the youth. And this is a reality that we need to take the youth into confidence. Today’s youth will ultimately drive India towards Viksit Bharat, and hence, we must secure their future and fulfil their aspirations.

#Lok Sabha #Narendra Modi

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