Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday made a strong defence of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, the prime accused in the Malegaon blast case, saying the BJP nominee from Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency was being “defamed” by the Congress which had also insulted Hinduism and its sages.
The Prime Minister also rubbished the Congress’ poll promise of giving up to Rs 72,000 to the 20 per cent poorest families of the country, saying this should be seen in the context of the opposition party’s track record.
He recalled the accusations he faced as Gujarat Chief Minister as he defended the candidacy of Sadhvi Pragya’s from Bhopal.
“I faced so many allegations that a wave was generated against me. If you look at newspapers and online media, you’d find lakhs of pages written against me. That’s what influenced the United States to revoke my visa,” the Prime Minister noted.
“But when the truth came out, the same United States extended an invitation to me. This is the Congress’ modus operandi to propagate lies,” he said in an interview to India Today news channel.
The Prime Minister also referred to the court’s decision not to bar the Sadhvi from contesting elections.
“India’s age-old legacy has been tarnished by coining the term ‘Hindu terror’. This thing has to be taken head on. They said ‘chowkidar chor hai’. I challenged it upfront by becoming a chowkidar.”
Attacking the opposition, “which keeps targeting me”, Modi said that he was thankful to them for having aroused people’s curiosity about him and that the people would give them a befitting reply.
“As Gujarat CM, I was painted a villain for 10-12 years…it is the Congress strategy to spread lies,” the Prime Minister said.
Recalling his days as Gujarat Chief Minister, the Prime Minister said he respected institutions and cited how an SIT was set up over the 2002 riots and how a policeman interrogated him for nine hours.
“The judiciary should be independent,” he stressed.
Criticising the Congress, the Prime Minister defended the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax Department raids on opposition politicians, saying if a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was found involved, he too should be probed.
“The question to be asked is, was cash recovered in these raids or not,” the Prime Minister said, adding the Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan had “looted funds meant for the poor over the past six months”.
Attacking the previous UPA government, Modi said there was a huge farm loan waiver scam but it got buried due to the 2G and coal block scams which got highlighted.
Taking on the Congress’ concept of minimum income guarantee for the 20 per cent poorest, the Prime Minister said people should compare the track record of the two governments.
“The MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan governments came on the promise of unemployment allowance and farm loan waivers but nothing has been done so far,” he said.
Noting that he had an “ideological fight with Mamata Banerjee”, Modi said he was sad over the conduct of West Bengal Chief Minister who had changed over the decade.
“I thought she was a committed politician, but it is sad to see what such leaders have turned out to be…she talked of driving out Bangladeshis earlier,” he said, adding that “we don’t consider anyone as enemy”.
Dismissing the opposition’s charges against the electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Prime Minister said that Congress leader Kapil Sibal organised a presser in London for the same.
“The controversy around EVMs is baseless. We should in fact promote Indian democracy abroad,” he said, adding the opposition was raising the EVMs issue as it had accepted defeat and was trying to find excuses.
He slammed the poll-eve talks of opposition unity, saying they had all come together during the oath-taking ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy but were not together anymore.
“From Bengaluru to Lucknow, friends became enemies,” he said in reference to the coming together of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, ahead of elections.
“There is no alliance but only a competition among them to abuse Modi,” said the Prime Minister.
Defending his controversial demonetisation move, he said it helped curb inflation and black money. Noting that he was satisfied with economic growth, Modi said note ban had doubled the tax net and promoted honesty.
Responding to the charges over jobless growth by the opposition, the PM said in fact, more Mudra loans indicated job creation. On the controversy over lack of job data, the Prime Minister said an expert panel was working on it and soon a new system would evolve.
Flagging national security as a concern, Modi asked why the Congress was neglecting the armed forces and demoralising them.
“They need to be exposed. Will Pakistan PM remove the Indian PM?” he said, adding that he only briefly mentioned about the surgical strikes in his speeches.
He also questioned the previous UPA’s track record in dealing with terrorism in 2008 when blasts took place in several cities.
Asserting that there were no doubts among the people’s mind over the Rafale fighter jets deal, Modi said the Congress had been alleging corruption in the purchase as it was election time.
“They will keep raising Rafale till elections are over,” he added.