Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed his first press conference in his five-year tenure today (Friday, May 17) on the last day of campaign for the final phase of ongoing Lok Sabha election on Sunday.
PM Modi has been repeatedly criticised by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders for not addressing a single press conference since he took the top job. But during his campaign for this national election, the Prime Minister gave a series of interviews, capping it with his first press conference right before the end of Lok Sabha polls.
In a surprise move, Modi showed up on the dais for a scheduled press conference by BJP president Amit Shah, who gave a detailed report card of the campaigning as well as performance of the NDA government. Modi told reporters that he will not take any questions because the press conference is being addressed by Shah, and in BJP’s system, discipline has to be followed.
“We are disciplined soldiers of the party,” Modi said.
This, again invited criticism. Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a dig at him: “Congratulations Modi Ji. Excellent Press Conference! Showing up is half the battle. Next time Mr Shah may even allow you to answer a couple of questions. Well done!”
Another jibe on Modi’s refusal to answer questions came from fake news buster Pratik Sinha who tweeted “Modiji got confused between press conference and mann ki baat.”
Modi basically confined the briefing to what he had to say. Addressing journalists after Shah, Modi exuded confidence that the BJP will return to power with a bigger mandate.
“The people of the country have decided that our government will be formed. I hope that the new government will start functioning at the earliest,” PM Modi said.
“It will happen after a long time in the country, our Government will come to power with absolute majority for second consecutive time,” he said.
“The election campaign was a success. In the last two elections, even the IPL couldn’t be held. When the government is strong, IPL, Ramzaan, school exams and others tend to take place peacefully,” PM Modi told reporters.
“Elections have been amazing (shandar). There will be a government with a full majority. During campaigning, I told the people of the country ‘I am thanking you’ for your support,” PM Modi said.
PM Modi also said that the start of an honest government began on May 17, 2014, a day after the Lok Sabha election results were announced. “We ensured last-mile delivery which was a new structure of governance,” he said.
Modi, however, did not take any questions from journalists.
Speaking earlier, BJP chief Amit Shah, too, said, “We will come back with a much bigger majority.” Shah also lauded party workers over their efforts in the poll campaign. He said, “Today is the end of a long and successful campaign for the BJP. From BJP’s point of view, this election campaign has been the one in which we have put in a lot of hard work, and also most extensive since independence.”
Amit Shah said that when results will be announced on May 23, “the BJP is confident that we will win more than 300 seats”.
“Our government has enhanced the respect of the country. Modi government has established India as a world power,” said Shah.
Speaking further on the performance of Modi government, Shah said: “This is the first election where there was no issue of inflation and corruption. After a long time the people of the country have seen such an election in which these issues are missing.”
“Every section of the country — poor, peasant, women, village, city — has been reached by our government with 133 schemes. Based on 133 plans, there is a new consciousness in the country,” he added. “We have raised the level of life of 5 crore poor. By giving them basic amenities, they have realized that they have a stake in the development of the country,” he said.
He spoke of how BJP’s base has expanded in the country, saying, “We have achieved success in almost all the elections. We had six State governments in 2014, we have governments in 16 States today.”
As the question round began, PM Modi, to the very first question addressed to him, said: “I am a disciplined soldier, party president is everything for me.”
Amit Shah, to another question, said, “I have answered your question. It is not necessary for the PM to answer every question.”
On Opposition’s allegations that both Modi and Shah were responsible for lowering the political discourse during the campaigning, the BJP president said “what else do you expect from the opposition,” but BJP has never initiated low quality debate.
Amit Shah said the press conference was organised to give the party’s view on the completion of campaigning for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Speaking about the campaign Amit Shah said slogans like ‘fir ek baar Modi sarkar’ and ‘main bhi chowkidar’ were not given by the BJP leadership but by the “common BJP volunteers”.
Responding to a query on violence in West Bengal, Shah said, “What proof does West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has to say that the BJP is spreading violence across the country. Several of our workers have been killed this time. How can she say that?”
On comments for Mahatma Gandhi assassin Nathuram Godse made by BJP leaders, including Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Amit Shah said, “We have issued a notice to the three leaders. These views are purely independent and have nothing to do with the party. We have sought a response and will initiate disciplinary action accordingly.”
On Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur’s candidature from Bhopal, Amit Shah said, “The case against Sadhvi is false. Levelling allegations against someone does not make that person an accused. Who is responsible for the vote bank politics? It is nonetheless than the Congress. The party chief must apologise to the nation.”
Shah added, “Pragya Thakur’s candidature is a ‘Satyagraha’ against a fake case of fake Bhagwa terror. I want to ask the Congress, some people were earlier arrested in the Samjhauta blast case who were related to the Lashkar-e-Toiba. A fake case of ‘bhagwa terror’ was made in which the accused have been acquitted.”
The press conference of the top two BJP leaders came on the last day for campaigning for the Lok Sabha election. A total of 59 seats will go to poll in Phase 7 which is scheduled on May 19. The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha election will be declared on May 23.