New York: India's Right-wing party, Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi talks to our Delhi correspondent M.A.Hussain. Although his detractors say that his interactions with media are fixed, and he knows in advance what shall go into print, but we have found Mr. Modi's interview remarkably candid and forthright. It will surprise his critics as well as his admirers. He talks about the wide range of issues and he has never done before. The fact remains that Indian media's role in the electoral process is not transparent, and most of the media coverage is paid news; opinion polls are doctored, and editorials are "advertorials" as one of a senior Indian journalist calls these. The political commentators say that the Indian media is driven by TRPs, advertising revenues and directly participates in the news event rather becoming an observer with disinterested neutrality. Not surprising media men eventually become politicians. Indian media fixes questions to please leaders and only those media men who ask the questions leaders are comfortable with, get an interview. The media are more accountable to its owners rather than to readers and viewers. As the Indian leaders have the habit of backtracking from what they say before media, alleging that their utterances have been taken out of context. We present here unedited transcription of this interview translated from Hindi.
(Editor New York Times)
Hussain: Namestay Modi Ji
Modi: Welcome, M.F.Hussain
Hussain: My name is not M.F.Hussain. Let me remind you that late M.F.Hussain was a Muslim Indian and a famous artist who was driven out of the country by Sangh Parivar with their cleaver use of Indian blasphemy law that is as strict as it is prevalent in Pakistan. He lived in self-imposed exile from 2006 until his death and died as a Qatari national not as an Indian.
Modi: Sorry, I have heard about him but do not know much what happened to him after he left the country. However, I know both of you belong to same caste jati (caste) or Muslim samaj (Muslim community). Let me tell you, I gave you this interview for two reasons: first because of your community background and second because of you are writing for American media. I have given clear instructions to my personal secretary that no Muslim journalist should be denied an interview as I want to open up communication with them. I want to carve out new BJP different from Advani-Vajpayee's BJP. A political party that functions as an independent political party as any other in the country, not as one that works as a slave or clone of RSS. I expect more and more Muslims from all walks of life join my BJP.
Hussain: During your recent campaign, you wore headgear's of all others, but you denied cap offered to you by Muslims. Please comment.
Modi: That would have been construed as minority appeasement. I believe that in Bharat, all of us are minorities; it may be backward caste, other backward castes, Dalits, Mahadalits, higher or lower castes. It pesters me to be called an OBC (other Backward Caste). I believe that in India all of us are backward. Some of my countrymen live as if slum dogs; some are millionaires and a few billionaires. Higher caste is not a marker of being culturally forward but politically dominant.
I am against appeasing a particular minority; I am against caste reservations. The Congress appeases Muslim minority that seeks level playing field with higher caste and strives to reverse century's old Brahmanic pecking order. RSS shall never let it happen. As I still depend on RSS for support, I cannot extend my hands to Muslims. Muslims thought they were rulers of this country once, but I take them as converted Hindus and my jathiheen and ghoterheen circumcised countrymen. Most of them belong to lower castes. They asked for a separate homeland, and they got it. Some Muslims still stayed in Hindustan. There is no problem if they live as second rate citizens. They should understand that in their struggle to seek parity with higher caste, they have been virtually disenfranchised by Congress and BJP. It is how Muslims in Gujarat felt after voting against me and in favour of Congress candidates. However, I promise you the situation will change after I become Prime Minister of India.
Hussain: What about Modi wave?
Modi: My supporters call it a Modi wave, but I call it Modi Tsunami that will destroy everything old in BJP. Modi Tsunami is unstoppable, even God cannot stop it. It is everywhere. It is in RSS, listen RSS cadres chanting NaMo Namha. After elections are over, they will worship me in temples and chant Modi Chalesa. Modi wave is in BJP, listen BJP workers chanting Har Har Modi. At-least 160 old RSS guards working in BJP for decades have been marginalized by this tsunami. After I become Prime Minister of India, they will become part of history for ever.
There is also Modi tsunami in print and electronic media even in social networking. You will see NaMo everywhere, in Google's ads, in road shows, on roadside banners. Even some people earn their bread and butter by selling NaMo merchandise that is available online. If you have a credit card, you may buy it. Media give me full coverage of what I do and what I say, 24 hours a day.
There is Modi tsunami in the market also, when opinion polls put me ahead of my opponents, it makes investors happy and Sensex goes up. The rate for lunch with me is higher than any other leader. I get more donations from corporate companies. Everyone wants me as Prime Minster of India.
Hussain: Is corruption an election issue?
Modi: Corruption and communalism are issues for AAP, for no one else. These are not national issues. In our country conviction of politicians for their involvement in corruption scandals and scams evoke sympathy of the people of their caste, how would you say that corruption is an election issue? In a country where the people do not vote as Indians but on communal and caste lines, communalism cannot be an issue. When you vote on caste lines, you create casteism and when you vote as a community, you create communalism. Civil society in India is a media constructed myth and a fiction. Every one of us belongs to one or the other caste or community. Period.
We are a horizontally and vertically divided caste ridden society. Congress thrives on communalism and has done nothing to eradicate casteism. Bihar Chief Minster has made a good job still is losing election because of casteism. The political leaders are vulnerable once they stand on this precarious ground. See the compulsions of electoral battle for every political party. BSP a Dalit party is fielding more candidates from higher castes than Dalits, BJP a so-called higher caste party is led by an OBC leader like myself. By the way, RSS is not doing any favour to me. The situation has changed backward's, OBC's and lower castes are everywhere in administration, politics, education competing with higher castes, and it has put higher caste hegemony under threat. First time in our political history, Muslims got a choice that is AAP; it has fielded more Muslim and woman candidates than any other political party. Otherwise, they had no choice but to vote for Congress.
Hussain: How BJP will become a different party under you?
Modi: In fact, Congress and BJP are self-similar. If a Congress leader leaves his party for whatever reason, BJP welcomes him, and he walks with an election ticket. When a disgruntled BJP leader betrays his party, he joins Congress. Both parties are driven by RSS mind-set, one overtly and the other covertly. It is not only in BJP and Congress; this mindset permeates the whole fabric of Indian society and its institutional structure.
It is tragic that a national party like BJP is being treated and used as an asset by RSS. BJP is accountable and answerable to its electorate, but RSS rules without any responsibility. It floats and funds new political outfits with the same agenda and these become members of the Sangh Parivar in which RSS behaves like a patriarch. It humiliates and sidelines those who are seen to be disloyal or a liability. It was humiliating to work in Advani-Vajpayee BJP. However, all this will change after elections, when I become Prime Minister of India, this paternalistic relation between BJP and RSS will cease to exist.
RSS is not an organization or a group alone. It is also a mindset. Its kernel is Dawkins's selfish genes, narrow identities, ethnocentricism, traditional social hierarchies and exclusivity. After post-Ghodra violence, I realised that RSS mindset is low level racism. It has divided my country horizontally and vertically on caste and communal lines. Here in India we do not have feelings of brotherhood with our countrymen, and just we take everyone else as an out group. For example, Biharis and Bengalis are treated in Mumbai as if they are foreigners.
It is not only Hindus, even Muslims and Sikhs are having RSS mindset that got its full expression in the massacre that happened during partition in which Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs participated proactively. Twelve million people were uprooted and became refugees in their own country. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed; thousands of children disappeared; thousands of women were raped or abducted; some were forcibly converted to other religions. It was one of the greatest human displacements of the recent history, and 30 lakh people were killed. Pakistan almost completely cleansed non-Muslim population. RSS wanted same to be done in India the way Pakistanis did. Congress led by Nastik Nehru and Ghandhi stopped them from doing so. This led to intractable conflict between RSS and Congress, and it became a cause for anti-Muslim riots in India. RSS strives to treat Muslims in India the way Hindus are being dealt with in Pakistan. Both parties politicized partition tragedy and benefited from it.
Hussain: Your becoming P.M evokes fear in the minds of minorities, particularly in Muslims and Christians. Why it is so?
Modi: BJP is not against minorities or lower castes. I do not belong to higher caste; I am leading BJP because I understand the Brahminic pecking order. The communal riots during Congress rule prove Congress wrong that it can safeguard and secure minorities in this country. Only BJP can do so. Just my request to Muslims is not to cross lakshaman rekha and never dear to violate the Brahminic pecking order. They should not seek parity with higher caste. Why should Muslims get angry over this when they have Islamic pecking order under which only Muslims own the earth along with its resources, and their left over belongs to rest of the humanity? The plight of minorities in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, etc. is a proof of this.
Hussain: Whatever wrong happens in Pakistan cannot justify violence against our own countrymen, whether Muslims or Christians.
Modi: In my political career, I never got involved in communal riots. The special investigative team (SIT) that held an inquiry into post-Ghodra violence gave me a clean chit. The violence against Muslims in Gujarat was societal action as people were full of anger. My government tried to stop it, but we could not. For that I regret. RSS mindset is one of the factors behind post Gujarat violence and Sikh riots of 1984. Congress party or Gujarat government alone are not responsible for these. In India, RSS is a non-state actor. Has anyone questioned why every time, there is a massacre of minorities, a political party that has engineered such a pogrom wins elections with thumping majority? It has happened in the case of anti-Sikh riots and post Gujarat violence also.
Hussain: If you were Prime Minister when 26/11 happened, how you would have dealt with it?
Modi: There would have been a war with Pakistan whatever the consequences.
Hussain: Pakistan did not leave any irrefutable evidence of its involvement in 26/11.
How could have you waged war against Pakistan?
Modi: We cannot have proof on record against terrorist acts like we do in ordinary criminal acts. The state or non-state actors of such criminal acts are known by their agenda and motives for their crimes. The charges against them cannot be proved or disproved in the court of law. These can be raised in public domain only and remedial action taken. International community knew that Pakistan was involved in 26/11.
Hussain: If Rahul Ghandhi questions SIT's clean chit to you, giving the same reason, what wrong has he done?
Modi: Now you talk of public domain and political agenda, after this violence I won elections with thumping majority in spite of Congress opposition. That means I am innocent in the eyes of the people.
Hussain: Your senior leaders call BJP under your leadership as a duplicate and fake BJP that has deviated from the right path. Please comment.
Modi: No one has the right to question my ideology after post-Ghodra violence against Muslims. The talk of original and duplicate, ideologists and pseudo-ideologists, and fake and real is an exercise in futility. This election is "perform or perish" for BJP. Do not they understand that AAP is coming with its broom. It is not only Congress that we have to defeat. We have to confront AAP that has the same social base as ours. And worst RSS committed a blunder when it sent its supporters to Anna's agitation. Cunning Kejriwal has won the hearts and minds of those supporters. The situation is very critical.
Furthermore, everyone in BJP is an outsider or on deputation from RSS. BJP is not of its own, and it belongs to RSS. It can send anyone on deputation from one of its assets to the other. I am not to be blamed for sidelining senior leaders. They did not own BJP, and they had merely taken BJP on rent from RSS. Their franchise contract has expired now, and BJP has been given to me on rent. Every month, I have to pay the rent to RSS chief. Why do not senior leaders blame RSS instead?
No one understands our tragedy. We, in BJP, are not responsible to our electorate and the constitution only but also to RSS. They have become power brokers without any responsibility and accountability. You cannot implicate RSS in post-Ghodra violence or Mahatama Gandhi's murder. They have disowned both. Had the court implicated me in post Ghodra violence, RSS would have disowned me too.
Hussain: We listen a lot on your strong leadership. Tell us more about it.
Modi: Corporate companies and big capitalists are convinced that the country needs a strong leader. The people want a strong leader, and they are not interested in right to health, and housing, or more spending on social sector; these are non-issues. Only a strong leadership can bring glory to India. Enough is enough, the country is waiting for a strong leader for centuries now. A strong leader needs to be elected. This is reflected in tagline of my campaign, Ab ki bar Modi sarkar. That means you will vote for Modi not to erstwhile BJP. I am more shrewd than Kajriwal; RSS has dumped Advani-Vajpayee team, but they cannot do this to me. I am stronger than Advani, who used to rush to touch the feet of RSS chief. When I become Prime Minister of India, RSS chief cannot dictate me and has to seek appointment before having meeting with me.
Hussain: How will you reciprocate those who fund your election? Corporate companies and big-business men invest in political parties as they invest in the share market. How can the common people get represented when politicians sell themselves to big business? How can you become a strong leader when you are dependent on RSS for their cadres and corporate for their funding?
Modi: When I become Prime Minister, I shall make everyone happy.
Hussain: What will happen if you fail to cross to get half way mark?
Modi: Third front is in disarray; Congress is demoralized. They will be unable to form a government AAP is not a national player yet. All political parties know that AAP is their enemy. No party will be ready to seek its support. My challenge comes from old RSS guard like Advani, Sushma, Joshi and others. I have this linger doubt; one of them might become Prime Minister of India.
As I know how Suras played the trick with Asuras after sagarmanthan, this could happen again. I consider backwards and lower caste as political assurs. The way RSS dumped Advani and Jaswant Singh, they can do it with me too.
If such thing happens, I will join AAP as an ordinary paracharak. I will work against communalism and casteism. I will work for jatheheen and ghoterheen multi-cultural multi-racial composite India under AAP banner. I will work for India in which Biharis will not be considered the outsiders, and for India in which Bengalis will not be harassed outside West Bengal? AAP is a new experiment and is not yet infested with RSS mindset, if such a thing happens that will be a national tragedy.