Modi says committed to Dalit welfare, pitches for simultaneous polls

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decried attempts to politicise atrocities against Dalits, cautioned BJP leaders against reckless statements and said he had not nurtured thoughts of carrying out a vendetta against his political opponents.

In an interview with CNN-News 18, Modi also said he wanted to bring a White Paper on the condition of the country’s economy after assuming power in 2014 but refrained from it in the national interest.

He made a strong pitch for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha, assemblies and local bodies and hoped a favourable decision would be taken by various stakeholders in consultation with the Election Commission as it would boost the country’s development.

Modi took digs at the previous Congress-led UPA government, saying that his two-and-half-year old government had ended “mood of despondency” and “condition of paralysis”.

Talking on a wide range of issues in the 75 minute interview including the Kashmir situation and black money, Modi was more vocal about the Dalit issue and condemned some recent attacks on the community that have shocked the nation after self-styled cow vigilantes beat up four youth for skinning a dead cow in Gujarat’s Una.

“As far as some incidents are concerned they need to be condemned. There is no place for (such incidents) in a civilised society,” Modi said.

Noting that “law and order is a state subject”, he ridiculed attempts to turn this “social problem deeply rooted” in Indian society into a political issue and said he was not to be blamed for any anti-Dalit violence.

“Some (people) are selectively picking issues and blaming Modi. Politics over social imbalances is a disservice to society, to all those who have faced injustice for generations,” he said, adding some people had a problem with the fact that he is a “devotee” of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar.

“I’m devoted to the welfare of all Dalits, the oppressed, underprivileged and deprived. Those who have fed this country with the poison of caste divide have destroyed the country.”

The caste factor is considered critical for the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh that has a sizeable Dalit population and where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not been in power since 2002. Elections are due next year also in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur.

Modi said the BJP will fight these polls on the issues of development, and its focus will be jobs, peace, unity and social justice.

“Our focus will be the welfare of farmers, villages, jobs for the youth and we will stay committed to the cause of social justice.”

The Prime Minister also rejected any notions that he was following the politics of vendetta.

Asked if he will not be sparing any “dynasty”, Modi said he has never tried to get any file opened to settle political scores.

“I do not think from a political perspective… I have been a Chief Minister for 14 years. I never opened a file for political reasons. We have not advised opening any file from a political point of view. This interpretation that we are not sparing any dynasty is wrong,” he said, in an reference to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s questionable land deals in Haryana.

Terming the proposed Goods and Service tax as the biggest tax reform since Independence, Modi also said he has warned those with black money to declare it before the given deadline of September 30, as stern action might be taken after that.

On some controversial remarks of his own party leaders, he said: “I want to tell the politicians also… I will ask my party leaders also that reckless statements, saying anything about anyone or any person’s community… Media will come to you, they need their TRP but you are answerable to the nation.”

In another veiled attack on Congress, Modi said that the “crowd in Lutyen’s Delhi” had not duly acknowledged contributions of leaders like Sardar Patel, Morarji Desai and Charan Singh.

On restive Kashmir, Modi said people of the Valley need both “vikas (development) and vishwas (faith)” and the government would continue to work in that direction. He expressed confidence that the situation will return to normal soon.

On his legacy, he said he was not worried about how history would judge him because he loves living in the present and was just one among India’s 1.25 billion people.