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EXCLUSIVE: No message for CM Stalin, DMK; people will give a befitting one this LS polls: Modi

From Tamil Nadu becoming an alleged haven for drug smugglers to opposition parties’ charges against him and his regime, Prime Minister Modi was at his vocal best as he met Thanthi TV reporters. Edited excerpts from the interview:

EXCLUSIVE: No message for CM Stalin, DMK; people will give a befitting one this LS polls: Modi

Journalist's Ashokha Varshini and Hariharan interviews PM Modi

Q: You have taken our country to greater heights. But do you believe you have achieved the target you set in terms of foreign policy? What do you think are the top 3 achievements of the External Affairs Ministry?

A: From your point of view, an action may be small, but to me, everything is big. I see even the smallest country in the world from that point of view. Every country in the world has faith in us. Relations between the US and Russia may have soured. But India is a friend to both America and Russia. Same with Palestine and Israel. We enjoy a good relationship with Palestine and an equally warm relationship with Israel. We have a neutral worldview. We are working with India's interest first.

Q: The opposition parties allege that Modi does not work for the poor and works for big companies and corporates. They say the government belongs to corporates…

A: I could list hundreds of things like Ayushman Bharat, Mudra, Jal Jeevan and other schemes created for the poor. We are not people who launch schemes for photo-ops in Delhi and then forget about it. We will work in the houses of the poor until the lights go out. I am helpless if the opposition is running out of ideas.

Q: Another allegation is that you are misusing government agencies. They say you are using CBI and ED as weapons to intimidate the opposition parties

A: Let's talk about the Enforcement Directorate. Is ED made by us? Did we bring the PMLA Act? No. ED is an independent organisation, just that we do not stop it from carrying out its work. Now the ED has around 7,000 cases. Among them, cases related to politicians are less than 3 per cent. 7,000 cases of which only 3 per cent are politically related ... related to those who took money from the poor promising driver jobs and teacher jobs. I am now considering legal procedures. So far, we have returned Rs 17,000 crore to the people. Those known sources...we have returned the money to them. People appreciate it when the ED returns the money.

Q: You have been talking about corruption in Congress and other opposition parties' rule during your campaign. This happened 10, 20 years ago. Do you think these still have an impact on Indian people today?

A: How much India would have developed if these corruption and scams had been prevented in the first place? That is what will come to the people's mind. These scandals happened then and they don't think there is any point in talking about it now. Some people have been jailed for corruption in our country. Today rallies are held to save the corrupt. On the one side are those who work with the slogan of saving the corrupt; Modi, on the other hand, is saying let's eradicate corruption.

Q: They are asking why the ED is targeting only the opposition parties and not doing anything against the BJP leaders

A: No matter which party the politician is, the practice is the same. ED cannot automatically file any case. Various vigilance and investigation departments of the country have to file cases. Only then will ED take action. Look what kind of people these are. The PMLA Act has been there from the beginning but not used. There have been more than 150 court cases seeking repeal of PMLA. Some people have been jailed for corruption in the country. Today rallies are held to save the corrupt. Drug peddlers have gone to jail due to ED raids. Drug addiction and smuggling are major problems in Tamil Nadu today. ED acts against drug peddlers too. Drug lords are involved in large-scale illegal money transfers. Should we protect our children from drugs or not? Drugs are sold to earn money. ED blocks that payment.

Q: Do you think your party has got a bad name due to the electoral bond exposure?

A: I ask these scholars: how many elections were held before 2014? Were not money spent during those elections? Can anyone tell me where the money came from? Today Modi created electoral bonds; that's why you can search about it. You now know who gave and who bought bonds. Otherwise, no one will know where the money came from. In any case, there will be some flaws. Once these flaws are addressed, this will be appreciated.

Q: Opinion polls suggest your party is in a strong position. Is it your strength or the opposition's weakness?

A: The people of India think that the country should progress at the same pace if their thoughts and desires are to be fulfilled. They feel that this stability will continue if the BJP and NDA gain strength. If Modi gains strength, this work will be done on a larger scale.

Q: You are India's most successful politician. You are in the race for the third term as the Prime Minister of the country. What advice would you like to give to the Congress party?

A: I am not a 'Tees Maar Khan' enough to advise others. What I understand as a student of politics is that there are many senior leaders within the Congress. Experienced. They are aware of the fundamental principles of the Congress. Just listen to these cornered Congressmen. Just understand what they are saying. Then good will happen to Congress. They don't need my advice. There are many intellectuals within their party. There are good people. Just listen to them and Congress will do well.

Q: You talk about the succession politics of opposition parties. Will this accusation be taken to the people? Succession politics is present not only in India but also throughout South Asia. Do people care about this?

A: There is a big maze in our country. If more than one person from a family is in politics, I never call it succession politics. I want more people to join politics. I don't call it bad if even ten people from one family join politics. But when a political party is run by a family, when only that family takes all the decisions, and when the next generation in the party comes from that family, it is a family political party. There is no democracy in this. Everyone should be given a chance. That does not happen in family politics.

Q: Despite your many efforts, the political situation in TN remains an insurmountable challenge for you. Why is the scenario like this? Is that scenario changing in this election?

A: Why does this question prevail among media friends? I am in politics, so will I do everything for politics? Act only to get votes? Will I do it just to be in power? I don't like this idea. I am working for the country. Tamil Nadu enjoys a pride of place in our country. I don't care who you give the reins to. If all that was to be seen, I should not have done any work in the North-Eastern states of India…should I? So to measure everything with elections and politics and BJP and such a thought is doing an injustice to my development work. I am working for the bright future of my country. Who the people of Tamil Nadu vote for is not my problem. I think about their skills, I think about their aspirations and their goals. So please don't say I am coming here with some political agenda. At least don't say that in my case.

Q: We didn't say that. But as a politician, looking at the election results, have you ever thought 'I am doing so many good deeds but why do the people of Tamil Nadu refuse to vote for me'?

A: No, never. I don't have any accusations and I don't have any grudges against the people of Tamil Nadu. It shouldn't be. I love them. I have a great affection for them. There is a lot of commitment to their culture. It is that love that draws me there.

Q: Annamalai has now become the state president of BJP in Tamil Nadu. Do you think the party will grow under his leadership?

A: Annamalai is one of the BJP leaders in TN. Now he is attracting people's attention, especially young people. He left his good IPS job and joined the party. If he wanted to earn something, he would have joined DMK or AIADMK. But he has chosen the path of the BJP. This means that instead of personal likes and dislikes, he has taken the interest of the country into his own hands.

Q: You have an alliance in place for the April 19 LS polls. There was an expectation that AIADMK would also join your alliance. Are you sad that it is not in the NDA today?

A: We have to look at it differently. When I was not in the governance itself, I got to know Jayalalithaa Amma. She was a good friend of mine. After the 2002 elections, many people blamed our regime. At that time, Amma came to Gujarat. She attended my swearing-in ceremony. Even when others criticised me, she didn't care. Such was our friendship. So if anyone has regrets, it should be the AIADMK. BJP has no regrets. It is the sinners who are ruining the dreams of Amma Jayalalithaa and should feel sorry for that. BJP has no reason to be upset.

Q: There are two types of voters in Tamil Nadu: one DMK supporter and the other anti-DMK. Why should a voter who doesn't like DMK skip AIADMK and vote for BJP this time?

A: BJP and NDA are very strong this time. A vote for NDA and BJP is a positive vote. Our work for women, our work for farmers, the way the welfare programmes have reached the grassroots. All these things have created a pro-BJP, pro-NDA wave in Tamil Nadu.

Q: What is your message to Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin and his DMK party?

A: I don't think they need any message from me. The people of Tamil Nadu are going to give them a befitting lesson this election.

Q: You have a target of more than 400 seats this time. Is this possible after 10 years of rule?

A: This is decided by the people of this country, not me. They decided several days ago. There has been stability over the last 10 years. Every citizen understands the power of their vote. Modi is just a tool.

Q: What are your expectations from TN? Do you think there will come a time when the BJP will come to power in TN?

A: I do not see Tamil Nadu in terms of elections. As far as I am concerned, Tamil Nadu is the most efficient state in this country.

Q: What is Modi's guarantee to Tamil Nadu if he comes back to power?

A: For a developed Bharat, a developed Tamil Nadu. For a self-reliant India, the largest Defence Corridor will be located here. This is my biggest guarantee. Next is the Port Department. Recently I laid the foundation stone of a port in Thoothukudi. It is going to bring a big change in the industry in future. Thus I can vouch for Tamil Nadu in all fields.

Q: Modi 4.0... will that happen too?

A: Count as many as 4, 5, 6 you feel like. All my thoughts are firmly on 2047. A Viksit Bharat in 2047.

Q: There were some speculations that the PM is going to contest the parliamentary elections from Kashi and Rameswaram. Have you ever thought about contesting from TN?

A: I have never thought of contesting elections in my life. It suddenly came into my life. I have committed myself to other work. I am a soldier of my party, that's all. I will contest from wherever the party asks me to contest. I have no opinion on this.

Q: You are talking about a Viksit Bharat 2047. What will be the role of Tamil Nadu in this plan? What are your plans for TN?

A: A developed India does not mean that only Delhi will develop. In every nook and cranny of India, every citizen should claim a developed Bharat. Second, India is a federal state. When I was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, I worked on “Growth of Gujarat for Growth of India”. We should all act on this basis. Every Tamil should strive for a developed Tamil Nadu.

Q. Can you elaborate on this?

A. See for example industrial production. There are talented youth in Tamil Nadu. Look at IIT-Madras. It is leading the way in terms of 5G. Even in our 6G-related initiatives, IIT-M is playing a key role. Earlier, a TN district (Thanjavur) created a record for producing the maximum paddy per acre... a record which is yet to be broken.

Q: You have shown more interest in Tamil culture than previous Prime Ministers. You have come to Tamil Nadu many times this year. Do you remember the first time when you came to Tamil Nadu in your life?

A: I’ve been coming to Tamil Nadu for almost 50 years. I was in Kanniyakumari when the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was being constructed there. In 1975, the then PM Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in the country. At that time I was absconding, but I had to go to many towns for the coordination work of the movement. I have also come to Tamil Nadu then. During the Emergency, we decided to bring together all the protests across the country. For that, I travelled all over the country and met the leaders involved in fighting the Emergency. I also came to Tamil Nadu and stayed here. After that, I used to come to TN often for party work.

Ekta Yatra is another important episode in my life. The yatra started from Kanniyakumari and reached Srinagar. It was a yatra that started from Kanniyakumari to unveil the Indian Tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. The national flag for the yatra was presented to us by the family members of three national martyrs namely Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar.

Q: Let's talk about Ram Temple and its Pran Pratishtha ceremony. When Lord Ram Lalla entered the temple and performed the first Deepa Aradhana, what went through your mind?

A: You have asked a very emotional question. When the temple authorities invited me for this inauguration of Ayodhya Ram Mandir, the invitation left me reeling. From the moment I received the call, I began to feel a sense of spirituality. I have no words to describe this. In an age where science and spirituality are seen as enemies, some may find this ironic and some might as well use it as a weapon against me. But it was a different experience for me.

Q: What about the allegation of the opposition parties that you planned all these to coincide with elections?

A: Look, it was based on the Supreme Court's judgment that Lord Ram Mandir was built. It was built by other people. Trust is a private organisation. Therefore, God himself must have decided this time. If the Supreme Court verdict, the subsequent construction work, the Pran Pratistha of Ram Lalla, all this can happen correctly and systematically, then it should be His wish only. Even the apex court Justices could not have imagined that all this would happen before the elections.

Q: Opposition parties including DMK say that Ram Mandir and all its related festivals are north Indian festivals. They say that this may impact the north Indians and will not create any impact in Tamil Nadu

A: There are many villages associated with Lord Ram's name in this country. For example Ramanathapuram. Do you know which state in the entire country has the most such towns associated with Lord Ram? Only in Tamil Nadu. There are not so many towns even near Ayodhya. Also, look at male names in South India. Names associated with Ram are the most common.

Q: You are the beloved son of your mother, the proud son of her. But at the time of her demise, you returned to work within hours. Isn't it paradoxical for PM Narendra Modi, the son of a mother? How did PM Modi win it?

A: The glory does not belong to PM Modi. All the credit must go to that mother who created me. If the Prime Minister's mother dies, we know how big a political event it will be in our country. But my mother, even when alive, did not live like the Prime Minister's mother; she did not want such an aura even in her death. I had a backlog of work, work that was scheduled. Accepting my mother's orders, I immediately got back to my duties.

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