New Delhi: In an unexpected move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday addressed his first ever press conference since assuming office five years ago, expressing confidence of returning to power with a full majority and thanking people for supporting him.
But what came as a bit of an anti-climax was the prime minister’s refusal to answer any questions at all, even as he “appreciated” the media.
Modi stuck to talking about “safe” issues in a reminder of his monologues during his radio programme ‘Mann ki Baat’. He didn’t address any controversial or uncomfortable matter, including the latest furore created by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s statement on Nathuram Godse being a “patriot”.
All questions were answered by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, who spoke before the PM and gave details of his party’s exhaustive campaign and calibrated strategy for this election.
Modi — who reached the BJP headquarters straight from the airport after he returned from Khargone in Madhya Pradesh where he addressed his last rally of this election season — held the press conference just as Congress president Rahul Gandhi was addressing one himself.
What he said
During the press meet, both Modi and Shah, most strikingly, made it a point to express complete confidence in returning to power, managing a full majority on their own.
“It has not happened often in our country that a government with a full majority returns once again with a majority. The new government will take up its responsibility as soon as possible,” said Modi.
“We will start to work on the promises made in our manifesto once we come to power again.”
The prime minister added that his government’s “specialty” has been “last-mile delivery”, which had brought in a “new culture of governance in India”.
Attempting a more statesman-like approach after a bitter, near-vicious poll campaign across party lines, the PM said he wanted to thank the people for supporting his government.
“When I started out on this election campaign, I told the people I had come to thank them for their blessings through the ups and downs. The country has always been with me. So in a way, the campaign was a way of thanking people. Even today, I am here to thank you and thank the people through you,” said Modi.
Praising India’s democratic structure, the PM said it was “vibrant”.
“I believe we can say some things proudly. Our democracy is vibrant and full of goodness. We are the biggest democracy in the world, but to showcase our capability is a responsibility we all share,” he said.
Modi highlighted how “Navratri, Ram Navami, Easter, Ramzan, IPL, board exams as well as elections” could all happen simultaneously and smoothly in the Indian democracy.
Talking about his frenzied campaign, the PM said it went off smoothly. “We planned our campaign very meticulously. None of my programmes have been cancelled. Even the weather has favoured me.”
The PM, prone to long-drawn speeches, kept this interaction short, leaving it to Shah to field questions and lay down details.
“The party president is everything for us,” he said, when asked to answer a question.
The party president, meanwhile, used the dais to clarify that Pragya Thakur’s Godse remark Thursday were not in sync with the party. However, Shah also defended her candidature despite Thakur being an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case.
“The case against Sadhvi is false. Levelling allegations against someone does not make that person an accused. Who is responsible for vote bank politics? It is the Congress,” he said.
“A show-cause notice has been sent to her and response has been sought. The party’s disciplinary committee will initiate actions as per the party’s constitution,” added the BJP chief.
Shah also claimed the BJP would get 300 seats on its own, saying the NDA would form the government and any other party that wanted to work along was welcome.
Maintaining the high-pitched attack against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Shah said several BJP workers have been killed in the state, claiming it was the Trinamool Congress engineering the violence.
The BJP president also went to great lengths to give details about the campaign, particularly the PM’s, laying out his number of rallies, the distance travelled and even the weather conditions he encountered.