Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Republic Media Network's Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor on Friday in his final interview on the last day of campaigning for the 2019 Parliamentary elections - 49 days after his first election interview to Republic's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.
During the interview, the Prime Minister was probed on a range of topics and spoke about issues that have become headline stories of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, including the bitter spat between the BJP and the Trinamool in West Bengal, his 'Bhrashtachaari No. 1' reference to predecessor Rajiv Gandhi and even Thursday's controversy over Sadhvi Pragya calling Nathuram Godse a 'deshbhakt'.
In his opening remarks, PM Modi expressed gratitude to the voters who exercised their franchise in the biggest celebration of democracy anywhere in the world, during the first six phases of the 2019 polls.
Moving immediately to his 'Majboot sarkar' vs 'Majboor sarkar' contention, PM Modi spoke about how festivals like Navratri, Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti, Easter, events like IPL took place concurrent to the 2019 polls, contrasting this with the UPA governments which he opined 'lost not only their political self-belief but also their administrative self-belief during elections. Remarking on the fierce election campaigning during the 2019 polls, the Prime Minister said that it had been a very good election.
When asked about how the identity of his opponent in the race to become Prime Minister was still unclear, the Prime Minister said that it was up to the Opposition to answer the question. He spoke about how the Opposition had failed to name a 'neta' or speak about 'niti' (planning) and had failed to convince people about its 'niyat' (intent).
Referencing to the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka, PM Modi busted the myth of Opposition unity, reciting a lyric - 'Milte hai log yahaan, milke bikharne ko' - to describe the kind shows-of-strength that have become commonplace since Kumaraswamy's swearing-in and proclaiming, "From Bengaluru to Delhi, the Opposition stands divided".
On being questioned on whether he is confident whether the BJP will win a clear mandate in 2019, he said that the election is not about winning the polls, it is about people of the country who are fighting for a better future. He predicted that the people of India would make an even stronger government than they had in 2014 and that support for the BJP and NDA would especially come from those areas that had been left out over the last five years.
Responding to the question on the barrier created by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to the BJP's campaign in the state, PM Modi asserted that the Trinamool chief has the right to speak against him as India is a democracy and that it's his responsibility to protect her right, but also claimed that in Banerjee's case the anger is not towards the BJP or Modi, but towards the people of Bengal.
Asked about the repeated Opposition attempts to attack him and the BJP via the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), PM Modi hit out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, saying that he does not know what RSS is or even its full form.
Coming to one of the biggest controversies of recent weeks, namely his 'Brashtachaari No. 1' reference to his predecessor Rajiv Gandhi, consequent to which Rahul Gandhi had attempted to take a moral higher ground by saying that he would not speak ill of the Prime Minister's family no matter what was said about his own, PM Modi shot back a challenge to the Congress chief to present any and all evidence he had against his family. Modi went so far as to say that he would even sponsor a press conference if Rahul Gandhi wanted to put something on the table against his family.
Coming to the most recent controversy which had triggered a storm just a day earlier - namely over Sadhvi Pragya Thakur's remark wherein she called Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse a "deshbhakt" - PM Modi condemned his own party's Bhopal candidate and said that she may have apologised, but wouldn't forgive her.
Further, responding to the question on whether regional parties (TRS, BJP, Jagan) will play a big role once the results come in on May 23, he asserted that counting day will bring BJP-NDA to power with an even greater mandate than in 2014.
The Prime Minister later emphasised the BJP's mantra for governance, saying that it for the public welfare and not right wing or left wing, while asked about the allegation that he was appropriating Sardar Patel's legacy by constructing the Statue of Unity with such aplomb.
Speaking the stock market and whether the BJP government would bring in new robust economic policies if it comes back to power, the Prime Minister said: