New Delhi: On the first day of 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on a range of contentious and politically-crucial issues ranging from Ram temple to the controversy over the Rafale fighter jet deal.

In the 95-minute long exclusive interview to news agency ANI, broadcast by various television channels, PM Modi talked about a host of issues including the surgical strikes, cross-border terrorism, upcoming Lok Sabha elections and personal attacks on him by the Congress.

PM Modi has completely demolished the “motivated agenda” of opposition parties with his comprehensive interview, the BJP said, as the Congress alleged that it was “fixed and full of rhetoric”.

Let’s take a look at what PM Modi said on different issues that have been grabbing the headlines of late:

Ram Temple

PM Modi said that any decision on bringing an ordinance on Ram Temple can be considered only after the judicial process gets over. He also suggested that the legal process was being slowed down because Congress lawyers were creating “obstacles” in the Supreme Court.

“We have said in our BJP manifesto that a solution would be found to this issue under the ambit of the Constitution,” the Prime Minister said about the Ram temple matter when asked whether the Ram Mandir issue had been relegated as merely an emotive issue for the BJP.

Asked whether the government could consider issuing an Ordinance on Ram temple, the Prime Minister pointed out that the matter is before the Supreme Court and possibly in the final stages.

“Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever will be our responsibility as the government, we are ready to make all efforts,” he added.

The matter is slated to be heard by the Supreme Court on January 4. Petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court for day-to-day hearing in the case.

Welcoming PM Modi’s remarks as a “positive” step towards the construction of the Ram temple, the RSS said it was in line with a resolution passed by the BJP in 1989 in Palampur in which the Saffron party had committed to the construction either through mutual consultation or an enabling legislation.

However, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut reacted sharply, wondering “whether law is bigger than lord Ram.”

Rafale Controversy

PM Modi slammed the Congress for attacking him over the Rafale fighter jet deal and said that those levelling allegations on him are actually weakening the Indian security forces.

The prime minister said that despite the allegations from the Congress, he will continue to expedite the procurement process in defence so that the country security is not compromised.

“Those people who want to weaken the Army are levelling allegations. Should I worry that they are making personal attacks on me, or whether my country’s needs should be met? I decided that whatever abuses are hurled at me, whatever allegations are levelled against me, I will continue on the path of honesty and give primacy to the country’s security. I won’t leave my Army jawans merely to their fate. Whatever be their requirement, I will expedite the procurement processes. I will do it even if allegations are levelled me,” PM Modi said in response to allegations of corruption in the Rafale jet purchase deal.


BJP’s Electoral Losses

“In Telangana and Mizoram, nobody gave BJP any chance or even thought that we would form government. In Chhattisgarh, a clear mandate was given, BJP lost. But in two states – Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – there was a hung assembly,” said PM Modi.

“Secondly, 15 years of anti-incumbency was being fought by our people. We are discussing what was lacking. However, in Haryana local polls we won all, Tripura there was 90-95 per cent victory, in Jammu and Kashmir 74 per cent polling took place and in many of those the BJP won. Winning or losing is not the only yardstick,” he added.

Surgical Strikes

The prime minister said that the surgical strike was a ‘big risk’ but he had told the Army commandos going across the border to return safely irrespective of the mission’s success or failure.

“I gave clear orders that whether you get success or failure, don’t think about that but come back before sunrise. Don’t fall for the lure and prolong it,” said PM Modi in an exclusive interview to ANI.

“I Knew it was a big risk. I never care about any political risk to me. The biggest consideration for me was the safety of our soldiers,” he added.

The prime minister said that the surgical strikes were planned as there was a “rage” building up within him as well as the Army after soldiers were burnt alive in the terror attack in Uri.

Economic Offenders

Questioned about the government’s efforts to bring economic offenders like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya, PM Modi said, “Those who fled during this government, they will be brought back, today or tomorrow. Diplomatic channels, legal courses, and seizure of properties being done. Those who have stolen India’s money, they will have to compensate for each and every penny.”

He said that the government is using all means, including diplomatic channels, to ensure that fugitives are back in the country to face the law.

“Those who have fled, there are international laws to bring them back. Those are being implemented. For such fugitives, we have made stringent laws. Seizure of property is happening even in foreign countries. Therefore, we are using all tools available with the government,” said PM Modi.

Attack on Congress

Attacking the Congress over the National Herald case, PM Modi said that those who ran the country for four generations are today facing charges of financial irregularities.

“It is a fact that those considered first family, who ran the country for four generations, are out on bail, that too for financial irregularities. It is a big thing. A set of people, who are at their service, are trying to suppress such information and push other narratives,” he said.

Targeting Congress, PM Modi further said, “Even Congress people say Congress is a thought, a culture. When I say Congress-mukt, I want to rid the country from this culture and this sort of thinking. And I say that Congress too needs to be mukt of this Congress culture.”

Farm Loan Waiver

Dubbing the loan waivers announced by the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka as “political stunts”, PM Modi asserted that a majority of farmers do not benefit from these “misleading” announcements as only a few of them take loans from banks.

Rejecting opposition charges that his government was anti-farmer, the Prime Minister said, “there is a small segment of farmers who take loans from banks. A majority of them take loans from money lenders. When governments make such announcements, those farmers do not become beneficiaries of waivers. The farmers who are dying are out of the purview of such schemes.”

Responding to criticism that his government has been insensitive to the farmers’ woes, he said, “If loan waiver helps, it should be definitely done. But it has been done by earlier governments also. Since (former Deputy Prime Minister) Devi Lal’s time (in 1989-1991), loan waiver was done.”

Message to Pakistan

Speaking on the continued cross-border terrorism despite the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army in September 2016, PM Modi said India will make all efforts to keep pressure on Pakistan, but it will be huge mistake to believe that the country will mend its ways anytime soon.

Amidst criticism that the surgical strike failed to check Pakistan’s support for terrorism, the Prime Minister asserted that it would be a “big mistake” to think that Pakistan will mend its ways after just “one war”.

“Pakistan will never improve on the basis of one war.That nation will still take some time to improve. All PMs of India, across all parties never opposed dialogue with Pakistan,” he said.

“But, can we hear anything in the midst of bombs? Today, terror supporting Pakistan is isolated,” Modi said.

Demonetisation

PM Modi said that the said that the demonetisation drive announced by him on November 8, 2016 was not a shock as the government had warned people having black money a year ago.

“This wasn’t a jhatka (shock). We had warned people a year before, that if you have such wealth (black money), you can deposit it, pay penalties and you will be helped out. However, they thought Modi too would behave like others so very few came forward voluntarily,” said PM Modi, in an exclusive interview to news agency ANI.

Urjit Patel’s Resignation

On the opposition’s charge that Urjit Patel was forced to quit as the RBI Governor, Modi said he had been requesting to be relieved for six-seven months due to personal reasons and these requests were made even in writing.

“He himself requested (to resign) on personal reasons. I am revealing for the first time, he was telling me about it for past 6-7 months before his resignation. He gave it even in writing. No question of political pressure. He did a good job as RBI Governor,” said PM Modi.

GST And Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ Jibe

PM Modi refused join issue with Congress president Rahul Gandhi who has been describing GST as “Gabbar Singh Tax” and “Grand Stupid Tax”, saying, “jiski jaisi soch, waise uske shabd (the way someone thinks, the same are his words).”

The prime minister further said that the government is in favour of bringing construction-related material in the 5 per cent slab of GST. He also said that changes in the tax structure will continue as there is scope for improvement.

2019 Lok Sabha Polls, Mahagathbandhan And ‘Modi Wave’

“The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be a ‘Janta versus gathbandhan’ (public versus coalition) contest,” PM Modi said while ridiculing the alliance proposed to be formed by anti-BJP parties.

Responding to a question whether people have now considered the ‘mahagathbandhan’ to be an alternative to Modi, he said that the people will again repose faith in the BJP considering the work done by his government over the last four and a half years.

The prime minister also dismissed the claims by some political pundits that the BJP might not get more than 180 out of 543 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, saying that there were a similar “set of persons” who echoed a similar narrative even in 2014.

Attacking the anti-BJP parties who are trying to forge up the grand alliance, PM Modi said that there is no unity among them in any way, nor any joint articulation about what they would do for the country.

“Their single point agenda is Modi, do this to Modi, do that to Modi… There is no articulation on what they would do for the nation and why and how they will do it,” he said.

BJP’s Different Stands on Triple Talaq And Sabarimala

PM Modi defended the BJP’s different stands on the controversial Triple Talaq Bill and the ban on entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years in the Sabarimala temple.

He said that the Ordinance against Triple Talaq was brought keeping in mind the gender equality and social justice and it should not be seen as interference in religious issues.

However, on the entry of women of menstrual age in the Sabarimala Temple and protests by Hindu groups, Prime Minister Modi said that the issue relates to tradition and the Supreme Court judgement that saw a dissent by a lady judge should be read carefully.

Congress Slams PM’s Interview, BJP Hits back

While Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala termed it as, “bereft of ground reality, ‘jumlas’ (rhetoric) galore, Modiji’s interview looks like a parody”, his party colleague and former Union minister Anand Sharma alleged that it was “fixed”.

“Nation suffers – DeMo, Gabbar Singh Tax (GST), bank frauds, black money, Rs 15 lakh in every account, corruption in Rafale deal, price rise, national security imperilled, farm distress, and ‘acche din’,” Surjewala said.

In his counter-offensive, BJP’s spokesperson Nalin Kohli said, “It is a comprehensive, detailed and candid interview in which the PM has spoken on a wide range of issues that have been in the media space for some time. This interview completely demolishes the motivated agenda of opposition parties and vested interests that seek to malign the sterling performance of his government.”