PM Narendra Modi took credit for taming the inflation dragon, telling that his controversial demonetisation measure played a role in bringing down the prices. Inflation, he said, ceased to be an issue during his five-year term.
On the burning question of Jammu and Kashmir, the PM vowed to follow the Vajpayee doctrine of ” Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat ” but with a caveat – not to let the state to be “emotionally blackmailed by a handful of families”.
The Prime Minister spoke about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, insisting that the TMC leader’s political ideology has changed drastically over the past ten years. Faced with mounting criticism for fielding Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, he defended the BJP’s Bhopal candidate, saying accusations of Hindu terror against her were a malicious attempt to tarnish India’s age-old legacy.
ECONOMY & NATIONAL SECURITY
The PM rejected opposition accusations that he tried to divert public attention from pressing economic issues to national security, saying his election speeches were largely devoted to concerns of the common masses. Modi, however, maintained that national security and terrorism cannot be downplayed in public discourse.
“Analyse all my speeches. If it’s a speech lasting 40 minutes, it would give three to four minutes to national security. The rest is dedicated to housing, farmers, the Pradhan (Mantri) Kisan Samman Nidhi, electricity and roads. You can check it out,” he said.
The Prime Minister accused the Congress of sidestepping national security as he recalled a series of terror attacks that took place during the UPA rule, including the 26/11 siege of Mumbai. Modi also spoke about Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings.
“What happened in Sri Lanka? What was their fault? It was the occasion of Easter. Efforts to revive the message of peace were killed,” he continued.
“Should we not raise awareness about terrorism, which has become a global challenge? We have to give our viewpoint to the nation. The Congress should be asked why it completely rejected the issue of national security.”
When pointed out that unemployment has emerged as a major concern for voters in surveys, the Prime Minister cited other studies to defend his government’s record in creating jobs. “Reports by the CII and NASSCOM showed that employment has grown multi-fold. Look at the EPFO, which shows 1.25 crore people joined every year,” the Prime Minister said.
“Look at the Mudra scheme, which has had 4.25-4.50 crore people receiving bank loans for the first time. Look at any sector. When you see roads, rails being made, are they being built without employment?” he asked.
Modi spelled out his programme when asked how he planned to generate more jobs if voted to power again.
“In our manifesto, we focus on the rural economy. In the agricultural sector, we will have to move towards agro-based industry, towards value addition,” he offered.
“Our development model is clear. We want to build infrastructure meeting global benchmarks. We want to double the number of functional airports. At the same time, we want to double the farmers’ income. We want to fulfil the minimum requirements of the ordinary citizens.”
The Prime Minister underscored the need to use “real-time information and technology” for better insights into the employment situation.
“A committee has been set up in this regard. We are working on it. We tried to complete it earlier but the issue is vast enough. We hope that a mechanism matching global standards would be developed within a year or two.”
RAIDS A WITCH-HUNT?
The PM denied suggestions that the ED and the I-T department were being misused to target opposition leaders. “I urge you all to expose Modi if ever he is found to be involved in any such (illegal) activity. Build pressure so much so that the government is forced to raid Modi’s home,” the Prime Minister remarked. “Have the (recent) raids not yielded cash recoveries? Is that not a serious question? How can I allow the plunder of resources meant to feed the poor?”
Modi dismissed opposition charges that his government destroyed the autonomy of various institutions of Indian democracy.
Instead, the PM accused his rivals of denigrating the same institutions. “They are the people who found the EVMs and the Election Commission okay after the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh elections,” Modi argued.
“If a Supreme Court decision favours them, they’ll be okay with the Supreme Court judges. If not, they’d have Supreme Court advocates sign proposals to bring in an impeachment process in parliament. It’s they who have brought institutions under threat.” The Prime Minister insisted that he firmly believe the judiciary should stay independent. “I lived all my life that way. As Gujarat Chief Minister, I quietly drove to a police officer, who interrogated me for nine hours. That’s because I respected an institution. All citizens, political leaders are required to honour institutions, especially those sitting in the government.”