Interview with BJP leader Narendra Modi

By Reuters Staff
July 12, 2013

By Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati

Narendra Modi is a polarising figure, evoking visceral reactions across the political spectrum. Critics call him a dictator while supporters believe he could make India an Asian superpower. (Read a special report on Modi here)

Reuters spoke to Modi at his official Gandhinagar residence in a rare interview, the first since he was appointed head of the BJP’s election campaign in June.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview. The questions are paraphrased and some of Modi’s replies have been translated from Hindi.

Is it frustrating that many people still define you by 2002?
People have a right to be critical. We are a democratic country. Everyone has their own view. I would feel guilty if I did something wrong. Frustration comes when you think “I got caught. I was stealing and I got caught.” That’s not my case.

Do you regret what happened?
I’ll tell you. India’s Supreme Court is considered a good court today in the world. The Supreme Court created a special investigative team (SIT) and top-most, very bright officers who overlook oversee the SIT. That report came. In that report, I was given a thoroughly clean chit, a thoroughly clean chit. Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.

Should your government have responded differently?
Up till now, we feel that we used our full strength to set out to do the right thing.

But do you think you did the right thing in 2002?
Absolutely. However much brainpower the Supreme Being has given us, however much experience I’ve got, and whatever I had available in that situation and this is what the SIT had investigated.

Do you believe India should have a secular leader?
We do believe that … But what is the definition of secularism? For me, my secularism is, India first. I say, the philosophy of my party is ‘Justice to all. Appeasement to none.’ This is our secularism.

Critics say you are an authoritarian, supporters say you are a decisive leader. Who is the real Modi?
If you call yourself a leader, then you have to be decisive. If you’re decisive then you have the chance to be a leader. These are two sides to the same coin … People want him to make decisions. Only then they accept the person as a leader. That is a quality, it’s not a negative. The other thing is, if someone was an authoritarian then how would he be able to run a government for so many years? … Without a team effort how can you get success? And that’s why I say Gujarat’s success is not Modi’s success. This is the success of Team Gujarat.

What about the suggestion that you don’t take criticism?
I always say the strength of democracy lies in criticism. If there is no criticism that means there is no democracy. And if you want to grow, you must invite criticism. And I want to grow, I want to invite criticism. But I’m against allegations. There is a vast difference between criticism and allegations. For criticism, you have to research, you’ll have to compare things, you’ll have to come with data, factual information, then you can criticize. Now no one is ready to do the hard work. So the simple way is to make allegations. In a democracy, allegations will never improve situations. So, I’m against allegations but I always welcome criticism.

On his popularity in opinion polls
I can say that since 2003, in however many polls have been done, people have selected me as the best chief minister. And as best chief minister, it wasn’t just people from Gujarat who liked me, not like that. People outside of Gujarat have also voted like that for me. One time, I wrote a letter to the India Today Group’s Aroon Purie. I requested him – “Every time I’m a winner, so next time please drop Gujarat, so someone else gets a chance. Or else I’m just winning. Please keep me out of the competition. And besides me, give someone else a shot at it.”

Allies and people within the BJP say you are too polarizing a figure
If in America, if there’s no polarization between Democrats and Republicans, then how would democracy work? It’s bound (to happen). In a democracy there will be a polarization between Democrats and Republicans.

This is democracy’s basic nature. It’s the basic quality of democracy. If everyone moved in one direction, would you call that a democracy?

But allies and partners still find you controversial
Up till now, no one from my party or the people who are allied with us, I’ve never read nor heard any official statement (about this from them). It might have been written about in the media. They write in a democracy … and if you have any name that this person is there in the BJP who said this, then I can respond.

How will you persuade minorities including Muslims to vote for you?
First thing, to Hindustan’s citizens, to voters, Hindus and Muslims, I’m not in favour of dividing. I’m not in favour of dividing Hindus and Sikhs. I’m not in favour of dividing Hindus and Christians. All the citizens, all the voters, are my countrymen. So my basic philosophy is, I don’t address this issue like this. And that is a danger to democracy also. Religion should not be an instrument in your democratic process.

If you become PM, which leader would you emulate?
The first thing is, my life’s philosophy is and what I follow is: I never dream of becoming anything. I dream of doing something. So to be inspired by my role models, I don’t need to become anything. If I want to learn something from Vajpayee, then I can just implement that in Gujarat. For that, I don’t have to have dreams of (higher office in) Delhi. If I like something about Sardar Patel, then I can implement that in my state. If I like something about Gandhiji, then I can implement that. Without talking about the Prime Minister’s seat, we can still discuss, that yes, from each one we have to learn the good things.

On the goals the next government should achieve
Look, whichever new government comes to power, that government’s first goal will be to fix the confidence that is broken in people.
The government tries to push a policy. Will it continue that policy or not? In two months, if they face pressure, will they change it? Will they do something like — an event happens now and they’ll change a decision from 2000? If you change decisions from the past, you will bring the policy back-effects. Who in the world will come here?
So whichever government comes to power, it would need to give people confidence, it should build the trust in people, “yes, in policies there will be consistency”, if they promise people something, they will honor that promise, they will fulfil. Then you can position yourself globally.

People say economic development in Gujarat is hyped up
In a democracy, who is the final judge? The final judge is the voter. If this was just hype, if this was all noise, then the public would see it every day. “Modi said he would deliver water.” But then he would say “Modi is lying. The water hasn’t reached.” Then why would he like Modi? In India’s vibrant democracy system, and in the presence of vibrant political parties, if someone chooses him for the third time, and he gets close to a two-third majority then people feel what is being said is true. Yes, the road is being paved, yes, work is being done, children are being educated. There are new things coming for health. 108 (emergency number) service is available. They see it all. So that’s why someone might say hype or talk, but the public won’t believe them. The public will reject it. And the public has a lot of strength, a lot.

Should you be doing more for inclusive economic growth?
Gujarat is a state that people have a lot of expectations from. We’re doing a good job, that’s why the expectations are high. As they should be. Nothing is wrong.

On indicators like malnutrition, infant mortality
Infant mortality has improved tremendously in Gujarat, tremendously. Compared to every other state in Hindustan, we are a better performing state. Second thing, malnutrition, in Hindustan today, real-time data is not available. When you don’t have real time data, how are you going to analyse?

We do believe in inclusive growth, we do believe that the benefits of this development must reach to the last person and they must be the beneficiary. So this is what we’re doing.

People want to know who is the real Modi – Hindu nationalist leader or pro-business chief minister?
I’m nationalist. I’m patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I’m a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So, I’m a Hindu nationalist so yes, you can say I’m a Hindu nationalist because I’m a born Hindu. I’m patriotic so nothing is wrong in it. As far as progressive, development-oriented, workaholic, whatever they say, this is what they are saying. So there’s no contradiction between the two. It’s one and the same image.

On Brand Modi and people behind the PR strategy
The western world and India – there’s a huge difference between them. Here, India is such a country that a PR agency will not be able to make a person into anything. Media can’t make anything of a person. If someone tries to project a false face in India, then my country reacts badly to it. Here, people’s thinking is different. People won’t tolerate hypocrisy for very long. If you project yourself the way you actually are, then people will accept even your shortcomings. Man’s weaknesses are accepted. And they’ll say, yes, okay, he’s genuine, he works hard. So our country’s thinking is different. As far as a PR agency is concerned, I have never looked at or listened to or met a PR agency. Modi does not have a PR agency. Never have I kept one.

(You can follow Ross on Twitter at @rosscolvin and Sruthi @GoSruthi)

For timeline on the rise of Modi, click here

For a picture profile of Modi, click here

For Modi’s statements that made news; click here

125 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Modi is most popular leader in world, in his leadership India will be top of world.
Few people log in on reuters, after Modi interview there is millions of log in reuter, that is Modi populerity.

Posted by Randeep_dc | Report as abusive

The blog should highlight the comments as those made in English and those translated by the author

Posted by Nripinder | Report as abusive

Dear

Plz understand Modi is NOT hinduhruday samrat he is big black BLOT, on hindu religion like kasab for muslims

Posted by Eyopner | Report as abusive

Modi has not said anything wrong in his interview. Indian Media is biased and is openly working pro-congress and supporting the bad policies of the congress dividing the people religiously just to grab the Vote Bank. What is the position of India today Media is also fully responsible for that.They are not taking up the real issues. What happened in 1984 and what is being happened in other parts of the country in the States ruled by congress, media is not highlighting those things. Lahnat hai aise media ko aise fourth stambh of democracy ko. It is shameful.

Posted by Khadwal | Report as abusive

In this context I want to bring to the notice of one and all the hypocracy of the oppenents of Modi, print and tv media and the very secular netas to read todays Times of India and see for yourself the hype created by these people”Modi (RAMBO) saves 15000 Gujratis from UttaraKHAND” in BOLD headlines and has given a clarification that it was some BJP leader from Uttarakhans had only said that Gujrat Govt. helped people by providing food, shelter and transport facilities to the needy people ( no number s) not only Gujraties. This news of clarification is printed in a corner of the news paper, Nothing is there on the TV channels by the so much learnt people(ANCHORS) IN THIS REGARD. So, all the people should know about the truth behind these media/opponents of Modi in particular and BJP in general.

Posted by ashokak | Report as abusive

The Reuters with scant knowledge about RSS/Hindtva did not ask Modi ji that Gopal Godse who killed Gandhi also called himself Hindu nationalist. The RSS decried Tri-colour as bad omen and inauspicious when Constituent Assembly of India decided to have it as National Flag. Another Hindu Nationalist, Veer Savarkar agreed with RSS that MUslims and Hindus are two different nations. RSS & Hindu Mahasabha joined Muslim League in coalition governments during Quit India Movement of 1942. The RSS wants to replace Democratic-Secular Indian Constitution by Code of Manu which reduces to women and Dalits to status worst than animals. I would request Reuters to see a document KNOW THE RSS at to know about Hindu nationalists.

Posted by shamsul | Report as abusive

i am apalled at the ignorance of majority of media people about the meaning of being a hindu as they consider it as a theology which it is not. hinduism is based on the most profound understanding of the nature of life and the universe. pl read Macauley’s speech in British parliament on 2nd feb 1835.
how long these people will remain governed by TRP and its business interest and fail to see Mr. Narendra Modi as the only hope of pulling our country from the moral and economic mess. after decades India has a public figure/politician of such high integrity and caliber.
let us be truly patriotic and feel for our countrymen.

Posted by sauluck | Report as abusive

What a superb interview? Its my advice to all who are doing bla bla on this interview must read the comment that, how a leader should be? Talking useless and just to blame others this is what others are doing but on looking at this interview you can find after long time that a leader is talking of nation not of any particular community.

Posted by vishal8 | Report as abusive

I am not against any political party – because all the persons concerning the present political system of are the same coin. These days ghost of unemployment, poverty,corruption are the main issue. What magic rod has any political party in their possession which may put the things in right and proper way. Actually the supreme power created rulers with the positive way to rule the people in proper way. Nature has given everything for living for every person – but the people start accumulation the materialistic facilities more than their requirement then such problems created are suffering for rest of the people. The political parties must rule but within the prescribed preferably by the Nature. Earlier BJP was in power what more than congress they did. If the people of the age about 85 have still desire for next PM so the future welfare of the people does not augur well.Such people must did meditation to get something from the GOD in their next birth and by this if they did any bad thing that would also minimize their sin to some extent . the political say must do what they say What is the problem if all the political become one to provide something good for removing the sufferings of the people. Everybody is chasing lust to provide more facilities to his/her body.

Posted by singh_kirpal61 | Report as abusive

will Reuters tell congress and other spoke men Modi on puppies.These spokeperson r seeing muslims as their voters,so ur anchor who took interview tell these illetrate spokepersons what modi said.

Posted by arjunvinay | Report as abusive

What a shame that the two Reuters journalists who conducted this interview did not know the significance of the term “Hindu nationalist”. It’s not as simple as saying: I’m a Hindu, I’m a nationalist, therefore I’m a Hindu nationalist. The term is rooted in the RSS ideology that believes that Hindus and Muslims must live as two separate nations. It is because Gandhi refused to subscribe to this ideology that he was killed. Gandhi too was a proud Hindu and a nationalist, but he saw his nationality and his religion as separate. Being a foreign news agency journalist is not as simple as reading current newpapers and current documents. You need to study the history of the country you are reporting. Ross and Shruti didn’t, and look who’s having the last laugh at their expense. Narendra Modi and his followers, of course

Posted by FeministAnita | Report as abusive

Mouthfuls of secularism & stomachfuls of hypocrisy. That is Indian politician. Narendra Modi seems to be exception. He is straightforward & sincere. Let us chant “yada yadahi dharmasya…….” Bharath was there even before India’s birth!(MAHABHARATA)My Muses-01-11
================
The tongue can converse in the dark,
The ear can hear;
The eye needs at least a spark,
The word does win for ever.

Thus the word is true. Is there a leader who is true to his word?

Posted by drkgbalakrishna | Report as abusive

Modi islike Chankya, he sow seeds of controversies and the whole media, political parties starts cutting grass of it.

Posted by rcg | Report as abusive

I see a lot of friends pointing about Reuters team not understanding the true meaning of Hindu Nationalist. Why don’t we talk of TODAY rather than harping on what happened in 1948 or around that time. Let us find out how many riots have taken place in Gujarat post 2002, which was a mob reaction to the planned butchering of Hindus at Godhra Rly station. Did not we see similar(or much stronger!!) reaction against Sikhs post assassination of Indira Gandhi. So let us focus on toaday and think about getting rid of Non performing Govt and save the Indian people from SCAMS.

Posted by PRaj | Report as abusive

It was surprising that when Mr. Modi declared him to be a ‘Hindu Nationalist’ the Reuters’ journalists did not ask about Norwegian mass killer Neo-Nazi, Anders Behring Breivik who hailed India’s ‘Hindu Nationalist’ movement as a key ally in a global struggle to bring down democratic regimes across the world. Just before he went to massacre large number of people in Norway he released a manifesto of 1518 pages out of which 102 pages dealt with the glorification of Hindutva movement of India. This manifesto also laid down a plan of co-operation between Neo-Nazi movement of Europe and ‘Hindu Nationalist’ organizations of India. It said that it was essential that these two “learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible,” as “Our goals are more or less identical.” This manifesto specially mentioned the names of Hindutva organizations like RSS, BJP, ABVP & VHP in this regard. Importantly, the manifesto pledged military support “to the nationalists in the Indian civil war and in the deportation of all Muslims from India” as part of a larger campaign to “overthrow of all western European multiculturalist governments”. How could Reuters skip it?

Posted by shamsul | Report as abusive

Improving from 220% to 40% is easy, but improving from 80% to 90% is more difficult, like what development are happening in Gujarat. Comparing the states of other states (low performing) is not correct.
Everyone is worried about population and do their best, the population of minorities are increasing, and also their demand for more reservations. So as Mr Modi said, treat all Indians equal. If some state is reducing the population, increase assistance and more MP’s for that state.

Posted by Indians | Report as abusive

All the Modi bashers are making fools of them selves or trying to fool the listeners. Print & Electronic media are unabashedly patronizing flow of stupid and biased views. There is no comparison, no analogy in the “puppy” paragraph, a simple reference to the angst that can be caused with loss of life of a puppy and what that of humans – irrespective of hindu or muslim – it is much more painful. And for this, all the so called “Secular” and “Responsible” guardians of the “Nation” have started taking NaMo to task and pouring out their wisdom”"!! Height of Hypocrisy & Prejudice

Posted by iskswaroop1 | Report as abusive

NarendraModi is a crowd puller and no doubt the Trump Card of BJP.But BJP must suffer for the ambiguous steps he has taken in past.
His Slogans may sound convincing, his analysis may be realistic, still he has not the back up for leading India as PM.

Posted by M.S.Das | Report as abusive

I WOULD LIKE TO SAY SOME COMMENT ABOUT HINDU NATIONALIST

FIRST WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF HINDU,IT IS NOT RELIGION, IT IS CULTURE.AS PER THE PAST HISTORY WHEN ARYA CAME FROM NORTH WEST ,THEY STAY AT THE BANK OF SINDHU RIVER SO THEY CALLED SINDHU BY THERE NORTH WEST SOCIETY, THEY SPELLED SINDHU TO HINDU AND HINDU TO INDU,SO FROM INDU THE WORD “INDIA” NAME BORN. SO IT MEANS HINDU IS NOT RELIGION BUT WHO LEAVE IN SINDHU AREA THEY COLD HINDU.
AFTER SINDHU CIVILIZATION DEVELOP, THEY MOVE TO EAST,WHEN THEY GO THEY CALLED AS A HINDU AND THEY ESTABLISH HINDUSTAN(INDIA). SO IT IS WRONG TO SAY THAT HINDU NATIONALIST IS A SECULAR.

Posted by rbgayakwad | Report as abusive

If the people can misinterpret and twist the statement of a simple human being , then imagine misinterpretation and twisting of the religious scriptures which contain the wisdom of the enlightened founders.

During the Ann Hazare movement , every political leader and even the so called BHUDHIJEEVI started to bark like street dogs against Anna Hazare.

Same happened with Arvind Kejriwal. Now , When Modi is being projected as the future PM , every political leader and the so called Bhudijeevi is barking like stray dog against him.

This clearly shows that they are feeling insecure from inside and cannot withstand the tall stature of Modi.

Posted by Santokh | Report as abusive

Narendra Modi is a very canny politician with a sure grip on realpolitik. Every statement he makes is well thought-out and he is keenly aware of the ramifications of each word he uses. No one should make the mistake that any word or sentence used in an interview is a slip of the tongue or an ill-considered action.

So what exactly is Modi trying to do with his comments? All his actions and statements are part of a clever strategy by Modi and Rajnath Singh to de-fang the UPA and its allies, so that come election time they will have no ammunition to attack Modi with. For more on why this is the case, see here: http://www.leftbrainwave.com/2013/07/use -your-ghatotkachas-wisely.html

Posted by nayakan88 | Report as abusive

modi is the right person to the indian prime minister.

Posted by rajendraroja | Report as abusive

Few hard works by modi…
1) Developing already developed state…
2) INTENTIONALLY FAILED IN controlling 2002 Riots…
3) Hiring a PR agency from US for his (modi’s) campaign & Lobbying (WASTAGE OF GUJRAT PEOPLES MONEY)
4) Fake encounters….
5) Inviting US delegation to Gujarat and washing their legs, (When US is not even allowing modi to enter)…..
6) Forcing BJP president rajnath to BEG in US for his visa (WHAT A SHAME)…..

As a CM he is doing that much hard work, JUST visualize what he will do if he becomes PM……
…..GOD SAVE INDIA

Posted by Eyopner | Report as abusive

I would thank Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati for such a wonderful interview.Concept of secularism was introduced by Swami Vivekananda in USA and it is a purely Hindu concept.A Hindu is born secular because he practices his/her religion.The old scripture of the world The Rigveda itself indicates that Truth is one – “ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti agnim yamam matariswanam ahuh”(meaning Truth is one, but the learned refer to it in different names).Congress to gain vote creates lot of divide and rule by questioning secularism.Muslims burnt the train carrying Hindu pilgrims for Jihad and many riots happened before 2002 when Narendra Modi was not CM.Riots has happened since 1947 because of Jihad ideology.There will be times when tolerance of masses will break.Why didn’t USA ban VISA of Rajiv Gandhi(Sikh riots),Manmohan Singh(Assam riots),Mulayam Singh,Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati(UP riots),Maharashtra riots in Dhule,Bhagalpur riots by Congress party,Recent killing of Hindu by Muslims under Omar Abdulla,Killing of Kashmiri Pundits etc etc etc.We request USA not to have double standards.If Congress is so secular as it pretends,they should ban VISA for Obama for launching attacks on Alqueida,Iraq,Gaddaffi etc.All Muslims will vote Indian Congress.

Posted by Maneesha | Report as abusive

We have launched a petition to request President Obama to reconsider US Administration’s stand on Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, India.
Please visit MODI360.COM to review and sign this petition.

Posted by Modi360. | Report as abusive