NEW DELHI -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi rarely does interviews and gets criticised a fair bit for indulging in one-way communication (through social media and his radio programme) and shying away from interviews in which he would have to face questions from journalists.
Making an exception, Modi spoke for 85 minutes with Arnab Goswami, the editor in chief of Times Now news channel, which aired the interview on Monday evening.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
On communalisation of U.P. State Election, Modi said that it was his "conviction" and "commitment" that the upcoming polls would not be communalised, and the focus would be entirely on development. Modi also asked the media not to "make heroes out of those people," who make statements that spark religious tensions.
"It's my conviction, it's my commitment. You must have seen during the 2014 elections that I fought elections on the issue of development. The new generation of the country only believes in development. I believe that solution to all problems is in development. Development is also the solution to the tension that people talk about."
On foreign policy, Modi said that it was important for him to meet world leaders so that they could get to know him, and not rely on the impression of him created by the media because that would be detrimental to the country.
"The world didn't know me. The world wants to know who the head of the state is. If someone would want to know Modi through the eyes of the media, then he would be disillusioned on which Modi is the real Modi. If this happens, the country will be at a loss."
On the witty bits of his speech which went down so well in U.S. House of Congress, and on humour in politics, Modi said that he is afraid of being funny.
"I have a humourous side but these days humour can be a risky thing. I am not conscious. I am in fear, there is no humour left in public because of this fear. Everyone is scared. I am in fear. My speeches used to be humourous. I see it in Parliament, that humour is finished there too."
On whether India should deepen ties with United States if Washington continues to give military assistance to Pakistan, Modi said that Pakistan cannot be a factor in all of India's foreign policy considerations.
"I would especially like to appeal to my country's media that we should stop looking at everything in India from the prism of Pakistan. India is an independent country. It is a country of 125 crore people. Whenever it approaches any country, it will only be concerned about its own interests. It has been our biggest shortcoming and mistake that we have been tagging ourselves with another country and trying to do things".
On why he has gone out of his way to engage with Pakistan, Modi said that he wants to make India's position clear to the world that New Delhi is not the "obstacle" to peace, and this puts Pakistan on the back-foot.
There is an outcome due to my continuous efforts like my visit to Lahore and my invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister to come to India. Now I don't have to explain to the world about India's position. The world is unanimously appreciating India's position. And the world is seeing that Pakistan is finding it difficult to respond. If we had become an obstacle, then we would have had to explain to the world that we are not that obstacle. Now we don't have to explain to the world. The world knows our intentions.
On the exit of RBI chief Raghuram Rajan, Modi said earlier the debate was on whether his government would let Rajan stay considering he was an appointee of the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance government. Modi praised Rajan, wished him well, and dismissed those who had questioned his patriotism.
"It will be doing injustice to him if one says that he will serve the country only if he is at a particular post. As much as I know Raghuram Rajan, whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country. He is someone who loves his country."
On Subramanian Swamy's attack on Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser to the Modi government, and other bureaucrats, Modi slammed the firebrand lawmaker for making " inappropriate" remarks.
"Whether it is someone from my party or not, I believe that such things are inappropriate. The nation won't benefit from such publicity stunts. One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong."
On the Parliament logjam, Modi said that he was not disheartened by the key legislations being stuck in Parliament, but he was disappointed that ruckus was prevailing over "discussion."
"That's why I say that, those who have been in power for so many years, shouldn't be doing this. If there is a new party in the Opposition, they have a small demand for their state or if an MP has a demand for his/her constituency and does something like this, then we can understand. Ones who have been in power for very long, shouldn't be doing such things."
Modi described the Indian voter as "mature."
"The Indian voter today is very mature. He votes in one fashion in the Lok Sabha elections, he votes in a different manner in the State Assembly elections. We have seen this. In 2014, the General Elections conincided with the Odisha Assembly elections. The same electorate gave one judgement for Odisha and another judgement for Delhi. So this country's voter is very mature and we should trust his maturity."
On whether he is thinking about the 2019 election, Modi said that he only engages in politics at the time of elections, otherwise he is preoccupied with governance.
"Governments must not run only for elections. The government should be a bona fide attempt of meeting the demands and expectations of the common people. Elections should just be a bi-product. It is a democracy. Winning and losing is a part of it. It shouldn't be hyped."
On what motivates him, Modi gave the example of of Shrimaan Chandrakant ji, a retired teacher with a pension of Rs16,000, who donates Rs 5000 every month for Swachh Abhiyaan.
"If a 70 year old retired teacher with children and family at home, without worrying about them, worries about the country, then being the Prime Minister, I should work a thousand times more than Chandrakant ji. This is my inspiration. People of this country who work day and night, they are my inspiration. I look at them and I work even harder."