New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has expressed confidence that the party will win the strongest mandate since the 1984 general election, in which the Congress returned to power with 49% of the vote and more than two-thirds of the seats in the Lok Sabha.
The Gujarat chief minister made the claim in response to a question about a potential alliance with Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in an interview broadcast by Times Now television channel on Thursday night.
“I will tell you, don’t waste your time in finding allies," Modi said in the interview with the channel’s anchorman Arnab Goswami on the programme, Frankly Speaking. “You have already asked me six questions related to this. I have explained everything clearly that BJP is winning with a clear majority and we will be forming the strongest and most stable government since Rajiv Gandhi’s government."
Under Modi, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has emerged in many opinion polls as the front-runner in the 16th general election, which concludes on 12 May and whose outcome will be known on 16 May.
After back-to-back electoral victories in 2004 and 2009, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is being tipped to lose power under the weight of corruption scandals, and its inability to control inflation and generate jobs.
The BJP would need to win 272 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha for a simple majority to form a government without depending on the support of other parties.
No party has achieved the feat since the Congress in 1984 rode a sympathy wave to a brute majority after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi that year.
In the interview, an English-language transcript of which was provided by the news channel, Modi said he would try and carry all parties along.
“There is an arithmetic needed for the Parliament. That is in its own place," he said in Hindi. “But there is no arithmetic needed to run the country. A spirit is needed to run the country. The spirit is all-inclusive. Therefore, hypothetically, even if I and my party get 300 seats, then it is my duty in a democracy to respect all parties, even my political rivals have a purpose, even those who severely criticize me have a purpose. That is how a democracy functions," he said.
Modi added: “The country will give me the numbers needed to run the government. To run the country, I need everyone’s cooperation. I will do all I can to get everyone’s cooperation, even if it’s the Congress... We will know the numbers on the 16th. Even if we get 350 seats, every single MP (member of Parliament) from a single party is as valuable to me as 125 crore citizens."
In the interview, Modi answered questions about issues ranging from the BJP’s pro-Hindutva agenda, alleged communal remarks by some party colleagues, the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat to the Gandhi family, the economy and relations with Pakistan.
Asked whether a BJP government would revoke the 2012 decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in supermarket chains, he evaded a direct answer.
“All we have said is that the country is now going to face a huge shock in the manufacturing sector, and our youth will lose jobs. Therefore, the country’s priority must be to ensure job creation. Our policies must be implemented for job creation, and that will be our priority. For example, if they try to trade umbrellas in India from the international market, as a result of which small umbrella-making organizations in our country lose their purpose and are forced to shut down, how are our people going to make their living," he asked.
He ruled out talks with Pakistan until that country’s perceived backing for acts of terror in India stop.
Modi said: “Is it possible to have discussions amidst bomb blasts and gunshots? Do you think it is possible to have a discussion amidst the deafening noise of bomb blasts and gunshots? So to have a reasonable discussion, first the blasts and gunshots have to stop."