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EXCLUSIVE! PM Narendra Modi speaks to Asianet News on Elections, ED arrests, North South divide & more (WATCH)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an extensive 82-minute interview with Asianet News Network, covering a wide range of topics including governance, politics, diplomacy, and socio-economic issues. Reflecting on his tenure, he emphasized the importance of the upcoming 2024 elections and outlined the BJP's approach to democracy and governance.

Amid a high-voltage election campaign, it is rare for the Prime Minister to speak at length on issues ranging from politics to governance, from promoting tourism to setting the agenda for Bharat's growth. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his own words, prefers to do things differently. In a special 82-minute interview -- the longest ever -- with Asianet News Network, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reflected on his two tenures at the helm of affairs and reflected upon the importance of the mandate of 2024. 

During the no-holds-barred interview with Asianxt Digital Technologies Private Limited Executive Chairman Rajesh Kalra, Asianet News Executive Editor Sindhu Sooryakumar and Asianet Suvarna News Editor Ajit Hanamakkanavar, the Prime Minister spoke on a range of issues, including the party's South focus in 2024, how the Congress squandered away the post-independence advantage and why the Left today finds itself afflicted with  

in an exclusive interview with Asianet News, reflected on the significance of decisive victories in the elections of 2014 and 2019 and their intrinsic connection to India's growth narrative.

In a democracy, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the importance of every political party aspiring to contest elections, earn the trust of the people, and subsequently, implement their principles and visions upon assuming power. He highlighted the necessity for all political entities to harbour the ambition of serving the nation based on their ideologies, stressing that this ethos is fundamental for the vitality of democracy.

Reflecting on the political landscape before the BJP's ascent in 2014, Prime Minister Modi underscored the missed opportunities and gradual deterioration witnessed under previous administrations. Despite scepticism and challenges, the electorate bestowed their trust upon the BJP in 2014, marking a period of hope and expectation.

Prime Minister Modi elucidated his approach to governance, emphasizing a commitment to service over mere rule. He reflected on the transition from hope in 2014 to confidence in 2019, attributing it to the tangible implementation of inclusive development policies encapsulated in the mantra of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Prayas."

Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, Prime Minister Modi expressed a sense of guarantee based on his extensive experience as a Chief Minister and Prime Minister, coupled with the accomplishments achieved during his tenure. He highlighted the global recognition garnered by India under stable governance, contrasting it with the instability witnessed in previous decades.

Addressing the ground sentiment during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Modi noted the evolving environment marked by unprecedented support from the populace. He emphasized the importance of informed voting decisions based on a comparative analysis of past performance and current agendas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed concerns about the alleged misuse of government agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Drawing an analogy, Prime Minister Modi likened the role of these agencies to that of a ticket checker in the railways, emphasizing their responsibility to ensure compliance and integrity. He stressed that the government should refrain from interfering with their operations for political gains, advocating for their independence akin to the autonomy afforded to a ticket checker.

Highlighting the ED's efforts in combating corruption, Prime Minister Modi revealed that only a small fraction of their cases, about 3%, are politically related, with the majority targeting individuals involved in various forms of misconduct. He underscored the agency's significant increase in activity and effectiveness since 2014, demonstrating its commitment to fighting corruption across different sectors.

Regarding political prospects in South India, Prime Minister Modi refuted misconceptions about the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), debunking stereotypes and affirming the party's growing presence in the region. He expressed confidence in the BJP's electoral performance in upcoming elections, citing a surge in support and the party's outreach efforts.

Responding to queries about the Congress party's welfare schemes, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the importance of citizen empowerment over-reliance on government handouts. He cited examples of government initiatives aimed at reducing financial burdens on citizens while fostering self-sufficiency and economic empowerment.

Turning to Kerala, Prime Minister Modi condemned corruption within cooperative banks, describing it as a betrayal of trust against vulnerable communities. He pledged decisive action against those responsible for misappropriating funds, signalling a commitment to uphold the interests of ordinary citizens irrespective of political considerations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed concerns about perceived disparities between North and South India, particularly regarding allegations of neglect toward southern states like Karnataka and Kerala.

Prime Minister Modi emphasized a unified approach to serving all citizens of India, regardless of regional distinctions. He likened the country's resources to flowing rivers and emphasized the importance of equitable distribution for the nation's collective benefit. He refuted claims of bias, citing increased financial allocations to states compared to previous administrations.

Responding to questions about North-South divisive rhetoric, Prime Minister Modi stressed the importance of upholding the unity and integrity enshrined in the Indian Constitution. He cautioned against inflammatory language that could sow seeds of discord and urged political parties to prioritize national cohesion over immediate gains.

Regarding drought relief in Karnataka, Prime Minister Modi underscored the government's commitment to disaster response and emphasized the need for timely and efficient assistance to affected regions. He criticized the politicization of relief efforts and urged the media to present factual information to the public.

Addressing tensions between governors and non-BJP state governments, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the importance of upholding the dignity of constitutional positions and maintaining mutual respect between state and central authorities.

Regarding BJP's efforts to expand its presence in Kerala, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the party's steady progress in the state and attributed challenges to misinformation campaigns by rival factions. He reiterated the BJP's commitment to inclusive governance and reaching out to all sections of society, including the Christian minority.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to allegations of a soft approach towards Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and controversies surrounding the PM Awas Yojana in Kerala.

When questioned about accusations of leniency towards CM Pinarayi Vijayan and his family, particularly in the gold smuggling case, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the independence of institutions in handling such matters. He dismissed claims of partiality, stating that his government refrains from interfering in judicial processes. Accusing Congress and Communist parties of being two sides of the same coin, Modi reiterated his government's commitment to combating corruption in Kerala.

Regarding the controversy surrounding the inclusion of the Prime Minister's photo in the PM Awas Yojana in Kerala, Modi defended the decision, citing the scheme's identity and the necessity to adhere to parliamentary budget allocations. He argued that the inclusion of his image was emblematic of the scheme itself and not a personal endorsement. Modi further criticized opposition parties for politicizing the issue and emphasized the role of state governments in implementing schemes under cooperative federalism.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed India's efforts to enhance relations with Middle Eastern countries, highlighting significant developments and achievements in diplomatic engagements.

Prime Minister Modi acknowledged the historical neglect of India's relations with West Asian nations by previous governments, emphasizing the importance of shifting from a simplistic buyer-seller dynamic to a more comprehensive approach focusing on mutual development. He underscored the diversification of India's engagement beyond oil imports and labor exports, citing trade agreements with the UAE, technological collaborations, and agricultural partnerships as examples of this multifaceted strategy.

Reflecting on his personal involvement in fostering closer ties, Prime Minister Modi recounted his visits to the UAE, marking the first such visit by an Indian Prime Minister in three decades. He expressed concern for the well-being of Indian expatriates in the region, particularly those from Kerala, and highlighted instances where his interventions facilitated the safe evacuation of Indian citizens from conflict zones such as Yemen and Sudan.

The Prime Minister also outlined successful diplomatic efforts in resolving issues faced by Indian nationals abroad, including the release of prisoners in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the expansion of Haj pilgrimage quotas for Indian Muslims. He further celebrated the construction of a grand temple in the UAE, facilitated by his government's collaboration with the Emirati authorities.

Regarding the challenges of repatriating Indian citizens during crises, Prime Minister Modi emphasized India's credibility as a global ally and first responder in times of need. He stressed the inclusive approach of his government's foreign policy, prioritizing the welfare of Indian diaspora communities and affirming their integral connection to the nation's identity.

The interview provided insights into India's proactive diplomacy in the Middle East under Prime Minister Modi's leadership, showcasing efforts to strengthen bilateral relations and safeguard the interests of Indian citizens abroad.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a wide range of topics, including healthcare, tourism promotion, youth engagement, and the eradication of VIP culture.

Responding to a question on healthcare, Prime Minister Modi expressed his perpetual dissatisfaction, emphasizing the ongoing efforts to enhance access to quality healthcare for all citizens, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. He highlighted the Ayushman Bharat scheme as the world's largest health insurance initiative, aimed at providing comprehensive medical coverage to over 60 crore individuals. The Prime Minister underscored significant reductions in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses and emphasized the government's commitment to expanding medical infrastructure and education.

Shifting the focus to tourism, Prime Minister Modi emphasized Kerala's untapped potential as a tourist destination, citing its rich cultural heritage and natural landscapes. He outlined efforts to promote Kerala's diverse attractions, including spiritual tourism sites and wellness retreats, with the aim of positioning the state as a global tourism hub.

Discussing youth engagement, Prime Minister Modi underscored the importance of embracing technology and fostering innovation to harness the potential of India's young population. He highlighted initiatives to promote indigenous gaming development and educational applications, emphasizing the need to leverage digital platforms for constructive purposes.

Addressing the issue of VIP culture, Prime Minister Modi condemned its historical roots in colonial-era privilege and reiterated his commitment to dismantling its remnants. He cited personal examples of eschewing VIP privileges, such as declining priority access to vaccines and advocating for inclusive policies in education and public ceremonies.