Debunking opposition plans for a grand alliance as “political adventurism” and a “failed idea”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed confidence that the BJP-led NDA will get more seats than ever and break all records in the 2019 Lok Sabha battle.
He ruled out cracks in the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), saying the coalition was intact as evidenced by the government’s victory in the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election.
In a wide ranging interview with The Times of India, Modi condemned incidents of mob lynching as a crime whatever the motives.
“We will definitely get more seats than we got the last time and I am confident that we will break all records of the seats won by the NDA in the past.”
He said India’s status had improved globally since the BJP took power, giving the country “a performing, strong and stable government” after 30 years.
“People have bitter experience of coalition governments burdened by politics of compulsions. A mahagathbandhan or whatever you may call it cannot create a gathbandhan of the electorate.
“Indian electorate has always kept national interest paramount. I have faith it will not compromise its vote for a disparate group that has nothing more to offer that a single ideology – that is to remove Modi.”
He said a non-ideological alliance of “desperate and disparate groups” was not a ‘mahagathbandhan’ “but political adventurism… a failed idea that has never succeeded” be it in 1979, 1990 and in 1996.
Asked about unease among NDA partners, Modi said the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election, “I am sure, will put the apprehensions of sceptics to rest”.
Asked what the government can do to reassure minorities and backward classes amid repeated incidents of lynching in the name of cow protection, the Prime Minister said even a single incident made him “very sad” and needed to be condemned in the “strongest voice”.
“I want to make it clear that mob lynching is a crime, no matter the motive. No person can, under any circumstances, take the law into his or her own hands and commit violence.”
He, however, put the onus of stopping such incidents on state governments who need to “take stringent action as per law against the perpetrators of such violence”.
The Prime Minister said fake news and incidents arising due to rumour-mongering were also condemnable and the government was actively engaging with digital media platforms and other stakeholders.
Modi said the allegations of a scam in Rafale jet deal was an attempt by the Congress to exorcise its Bofors ghost. “It is an honest and transparent deal.”
On Pakistan and the relations with the new government-led by Imran Khan that is set to take charge in Islamabad, Modi said: “We hope Pakistan would work for a safe, secure, stable and prosperous region, free from terror and violence.”
On the government’s initiatives to promote the ease of doing business, he said emphasis was on simplifying processes, be it incorporation of a company, induction of a director, or payment of income tax or GST.
On the initiatives to curb black-money and bring to book unscrupulous elements, Modi said the government had already struck off the names of around 2.6 lakh shell companies and 3.09 lakh directors.
“Names of 55,000 companies more will be struck off this month.”
He dismissed criticism that there hasn’t been much movement on strategic sale of PSUs and labour law amendments, saying “nothing can be farther from truth”.
Asked about the burgeoning NPAs in public sector banks, Modi said one needed to understand why the percentage of non-performing assets had gone up.
“There was an increase in disbursement of loans during UPA-II. The credit goes to an important innovation known as ‘telephone banking’ where telephonic instructions used to go directly to banks and loans would get sanctioned.”
On allegations that his government had failed to create jobs, Modi said he believed the shortcoming lied in the absence or lack of a streamlined database of jobs. “Naturally, in the absence of information, our opponents will exploit this situation and blame us.”
About Assam’s National Register of Citizens, he said preventing illegal migrants was a commitment in the Indira-Mujib Accord of 1972 and the Rajiv Gandhi-AASU Accord of 1985.
“Though the Congress accepted it, vote bank politics – that the party is adept at – prevented it from actually implementing the process. The Congress lacked political will and courage. It is guilty of criminal negligence.”
On the chances of bringing absconding industrialists like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi back to India, Modi again blamed policies of the previous government that made it easy for people to borrow and scoot.
“I would like to reaffirm (our) stand… Anyone who fraudulently takes public money and absconds will not be spared.”