Quote, unquote Narendra Modi
When Narendra Modi speaks, people listen. It’s not just because he’s widely expected to be the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate for prime minister in elections due in 2014. The chief minister of Gujarat seems to know his audience well. They cheer him on and jeer at his opponents; they applaud every two minutes. But sometimes, what he says catches people’s attention.
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“From snake-charmers, we are now a nation of mouse-charmers. Our youngsters are shaping the world with the click of a mouse with their feats in the IT sector,” he told an audience of students at Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce on Feb. 6.
The speech, broadcast on television, was seen by many as Modi’s first pitch to young, educated India as its future leader. He also said:
“I believe government has no business to do business. Minimum government, maximum governance.”
“Swap vote bank politics for development. The solution to all problems is development. The whole nation has been destroyed by vote bank politics, what it needs is development. If there is development, there is much scope for a lot of improvement in the nation.”
In the 2009 general elections, the BJP won 15 of the 26 seats allotted to Gujarat in India’s lower house of parliament. The party, ruling Gujarat with Narendra Modi as chief minister since 2001, was expected to win more. Some wondered whether Modi’s popularity was waning.
In response, Modi said:
“People are not upset when any other player is out with a low score but if Sachin Tendulkar is out even at 90, he is criticised because people judge him on a different scale. I’m glad that I, too, have been judged on a scale of expectations and not on a scale of credit and discredit.”
Modi’s credentials as a “secular” leader, in a country that is majority Hindu but essentially supports all religions, are often questioned. This is because of an ongoing debate regarding his role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
“Secularism is a term interpreted in many different ways by different people. For me, it has always been something very simple – putting India First …When we look after India’s interests, the interests of every Indian are automatically cared for,” he wrote on his blog in 2011.
A year later, Modi was criticised for making an allegedly sexist comment about Congress politician Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda.
“There was one minister … there were accusations against him relating to money and cricket. He got up in Parliament and said that the woman who had 50 crores (500 million rupees) deposited in her bank account, he had nothing to do with those 50 crores … within a month their wedding invitations were circulating. Tell me, has anyone seen a girlfriend of 50 crores in this country? A 50-crore girlfriend in such a poor country?” he said at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh in 2012.
At another rally in Gujarat the same year, he targeted Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s foreign trips for medical purposes:
“To those Congress friends, who are accusing our government of uncontrolled expenditure, I want to ask: is it not true that on the foreign travels of the president of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, in the past three years, 1,880 crore (18.8 billion) rupees has been spent from the public exchequer … This clearly means that more than the total yearly budget of Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagadh and Rajkot Municipal Corporation combined has been spent only on the foreign trips of Sonia Gandhi and on her luxury hotel stays.”
Critics panned some of Modi’s responses in a 2012 interview published in The Wall Street Journal. When asked about high malnutrition rates in Gujarat, he said:
“Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state. And secondly, Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle-class is more beauty conscious than health conscious – that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they’ll have a fight. She’ll tell her mother, “I won’t drink milk. I’ll get fat’”.
And when asked about apologising for the 2002 riots, he replied:
“One only has to ask for forgiveness if one is guilty of a crime. If you think it’s such a big crime, why should the culprit be forgiven? Just because Modi is a chief minister, why should he be forgiven? I think Modi should get the biggest punishment possible if he is guilty. And the world should know there isn’t any tolerance for these kind of political leaders.”
In a separate interview to The Economist last year, Modi was asked if he would like to be the prime minister of India. This is what he said:
“Before I became a chief minister I never thought that one day I’d be the chief minister. My basic philosophy is, I don’t want to be anything. But I want to do something. So I’m not interested in becoming anything, but I am interested in doing something for my country and for the poor people.”
Have we missed any of Modi’s memorable quotes? Share your views in the comments below.
(You can follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan)