New Delhi(PTI): AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal may have inflicted a massive defeat on BJP in Delhi Assembly polls last month, but months earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw him as a “small single city leader” not even worth “my time to ignore”.
These comments were made by Modi to former BBC journalist Lance Price in July last year explaining his decision not to name Kejriwal during the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
Price, who spoke to Modi four times during that period, recounts Modi’s responses on a variety of issues in his new book “The Modi Effect: Inside Narendra Modi’s Campaign to Transform India”.
It makes a mention of the contest between Modi and Kejriwal for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. After Kejriwal announced his candidature and promised a ‘political earthquake’, Modi decided to keep mum.
When asked about it, he told Price, “My silence is my strength..You should know that in the grand scheme of things, Kejriwal was nothing but a small single city leader. He was getting far more coverage than he deserved as compared to other more established Opposition party leaders. So why spend time even ignoring someone. It was, therefore, not even worth my time to ignore Kejriwal.
“Kejriwal was elevated by select group of vested media interests fuelled by the Congress to target Narendra Modi and try and save the Congress. Keep in mind he was not even a Member of Parliament; had lasted only 49 days as CM and had won less than one per cent of the national vote.”
Kejriwal lost to Modi in Varanasi but led AAP to a resounding victory clinching 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly. BJP won the remaining three seats while Congress drew a blank.
Modi recounted that while all eyes were on the Lok Sabha results on May 16 last year, he was alone in his room meditating with no television on and took telephone calls only after 12 noon.
“In the morning when the counting was going on, I was totally alone and had no TV on. I was finishing off my own spiritual activities and enjoying my meditation time after the grueling elections,” the Prime Minister says.
On the day of counting, he says he “started taking calls only from 12 noon and the first call on the results was from BJP president Rajnath Singh telling me that it was a foregone conclusion that we would sweep the polls”.
This and several other titbits about Modi, his life – both personal and political – find mention in the book by Price, former media advisor to the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Published in India by Hachette, the book is based on the author’s interviews with the prime minister, his Cabinet colleagues like Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar and Smriti Irani and his team of advisers and analysts.
On the poll campaign, Modi said, “Past elections have shown that the Indian culture is such that people have tremendous faith and trust in the individual. People want clarity about who the leading person will be and I was seeing this question being asked in every meeting I attended and was hearing vociferous chants of ‘give us a trusted name, not a party name’.”
Modi said, “in all corners of the country, they believed Modi was the only hope and wanted to see him win”.
The book also talks about BJP’s relationship with big corporate donors.
“There was a lot of writing that we were using private aircraft from the corporates. Please keep in mind that if necessary I will also hire cycles to run the campaign,” Modi said.
“We needed aircraft to criss-cross the country to manage a campaign of this scale and handle the diversity in India.
Our party paid for every bit of the expenses that were incurred in leasing anything that we used,” he added.
According to Modi, a key feature of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was “indeed the many independent institutions that backed us all across the nation.”
He also mentions about people like yoga guru Ramdev and legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar besides the Art of Living foundation who wanted to “participate in a mass movement” to “make a difference”.
Modi said that since his win in the Gujarat elections in 2012, he was clear that “I would be one of the (Prime Ministerial) candidates under consideration”.
“But I never really thought about it or ever tried to lobby within the party to be nominated as the prime ministerial candidate. Nor was I really curious as to whether I or someone else would be nominated,” he says.
He then goes on to describe how he formulated a plan on giving interviews before the elections.
“I decided that I would not be available to the media. I did this intentionally to create a vacuum and get attention because of the vacuum,” says Modi.
Modi went in a full-fledged manner to the national media only towards the end of campaigning, first to the Hindi channels and then to the English.
“What this did was to allow me to customize my message all the time and not to spill all the beans at once and keep the curiosity of people alive in terms of what would I say next,” he says.
According to Price, Modi had agreed to give him “unprecedented access to help me analyse the campaign” that had brought him to power.
Modi left no one in doubt that he was a firm believer in God and fate.
“Basically, we have a belief in our religion, Maro Bhagya Vidhata, which means I am putting myself at the disposition for what God has in store for me. If this is the case, why be afraid?,” he said going on to add, “I have never worn a bullet-proof jacket”.
The 2002 post-Godhra riots is one subject that Modi refused to discuss with the author.
“Regarding Godhra, I have said enough and you can read the reports and the Supreme Court judgement for yourself,” he told Price.
On the issue of US having denied him visa since 2005, the Prime Minister said, “Regarding the visa issue, it has never bothered me. I really see these as non-issues and do not let them impact on me or my ego.”
After he assumed the Prime Minister’s post, Modi made a bilateral visit to the US in September at the invitation of President Barack Obama who too visited India as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day celebrations.