In a rare New Year day interview ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday broke his silence on the Ram Temple issue highlighting his government’s resolve to go the extra mile on the emotive issue, but cautioned that any decision on passing an executive order (ordinance) on the Ayodhya matter cannot be taken unless the judicial process in the Supreme Court is over.
The detailed interview to news agency ANI also offered an opportunity to Mr Modi to present his version on a host of issues, including Rafale jet deal, triple talaq, surgical strikes, mob lynching, anti-corruption fight, note ban, GST, Pakistan talks and his foreign visits, on which he has been targeted by Opposition parties.
Apart from presenting a report card of his performance, Mr Modi spared no opportunity to hit out at the Congress for most of the problems confronting the nation today.
He also unleashed special punches on the party’s “first family”, a term he uses to refer to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, over their alleged financial irregularities and the resultant bail granted to them by a court.
Looking to woo Hindu voters on the Ram Temple issue, considered to be the backbone of the BJP’s strategy to win a second term at the Centre, Mr Modi virtually promised an ordinance to ensure that a temple is built at Lord Ram’s birth place.
“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 said.
“We have said in our BJP manifesto that a solution would be found to this issue under the ambit of the Constitution,” he added.
He alleged that the Congress was slowing down the judicial process to resolve the Ayodhya issue.
“In the court, Congress (leaders appearing as) lawyers, who are creating obstacles, should stop. Let the judicial process take its own course,” the Prime Minister commented.
“Don’t weigh it in political terms… I beseech the Congress, for the sake of national peace and amity, they should stop their lawyers from stalling this (Ayodhya issue) in court,” he added.
Responding to Rahul Gandhi’s attacks on Rafale deal, Mr Modi said, “The Congress is weakening security forces by slinging mud at the Central government. I decided that whatever abuses are hurled at me… I will continue on the path of honesty and give primacy to the country’s security. The matter has been cleared even by the Supreme Court.”
Reaching out to Muslim women, Mr Modi highlighted his government’s efforts to enact the law criminalizing triple talaq. “It is not a matter of religion, it’s an issue of gender equality… Even in Pakistan, triple talaq is banned,” he said, adding that the instant talaq matter is different from that on women’s entry into Sabarimala temple in Kerala as the latter is related to tradition.
Brushing aside questions raised about the BJP’s prospects following the setback in the Assembly elections in the three heartland states, he said he had faith in the country’s voters.
“Experts will say all kinds of things, to defend their position and drive their narrative. But we should never underestimate the political understanding of the common man,” the Prime Minister noted.
Exuding confidence of the BJP emerging victorious in the Lok Sabha elections, Mr Modi said, “It is janata versus mahagathbandhan, the polls will reflect the public’s aspirations. Opposition parties are trying to save each other through gathbandhan.””
Asked if the 2019 elections were heading towards a US Presidential style of elections between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, he said, “I believe this election is going to be a contest between those who fulfil and take forward the aspirations of the people and those who stop these aspirations. There is track record of 70 years to see. The public is the decider.”
Mindful of the impact of agrarian distress on Lok Sabha elections, Mr Modi said that the only solution to farmers’ problems is to empower them and his government is committed to it.
Attacking the Congress on the issue, he described the farm loan waiver announced by governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as “political stunts” and asserted that a majority of farmers do not benefit from these “misleading” announcements as they take loans from money lenders, not banks.
The Prime Minister, who had earlier described the farm loan waiver announcements of Congress governments as “lollipops”, said, “To lie and mislead, that is what I called lollipop. Like saying that we have waived all farm loans. The truth is that nothing like that has happened… They should not mislead… And particularly a responsible political party should never do it.”
“These are political stunts,” he said.