Amid heated exchange of words during election campaign, Prime Minister revealed that he shares a warm relationship with many opposition leaders, including West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. In an interview with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, the PM said the Trinamool Congress chief still sends him kurtas and Bengali sweets “once or twice” a year.
Reacting swiftly to the PM’s remark, Mamata said at a rally in Hooghly district that it was Bengal's culture to welcome guests with sweets and gifts but not a single vote will be given to his party. The PM said Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina used to send him special sweets every year from Dhaka. "When Mamata Didi came to know about it, she also started sending me Bengali sweets and kurtas on one or two occasions every year." Modi said he had good relations with other political opponents, such as senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
I got detached from family at early age
The interview was billed as “a candid and completely non-political” interaction. It was telecast a day after the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections. Akshay Kumar had announced on Twitter that he would soon be engaging in a chat to help viewers “discover” some interesting facts about PM Modi.
To Kumar's question on whether he had donated the entire amount he got as salary during his tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister before moving to Delhi, Modi said: “This is not the complete truth. I wanted to do so, but on the advice of some officials under me, I only contributed Rs 21,00,000. I asked the officials to spend the money on the education of the children of junior employees in the secretariat.”
Asked if he ever felt angry, Modi said: “If I said that I don’t get angry, people would be surprised. “Anger is a part of life of every human being. When I was about 18-20 years old, I was told that bad habits are hurdles to personal growth. My anger was one such bad habit. I was a chief minister for a long time. Now I am the Prime Minister, but there was not a single occasion when I got angry on anyone.”
Modi added, “I am strict, but I don’t believe in humiliating others. I encourage people. I lend them a helping hand... I learn and also teach. I make a team. There may be anger inside me but I don’t express it.” Asked if he does not want to live with his family, Modi said he left his home at a very young age and so his life totally detached with his family.
Rubbishing his image as a strict person, Modi said, “If anybody says that I force people to work, he hasn't fully understood me. It is true that people connected with me have to work more, but I never force anyone. I develop a work culture because I also work very hard.” He said he had never thought of becoming the Prime Minister because there was nothing in his family that would make him imagine anything like that.
“Common people don't dream of such things. Such ideas only come to people with a certain background. But my family background was such where had I got a good job, my mother would have distributed sweets to the neighbours. We never thought beyond that. We never saw anything outside our village,” Modi said.
Talking about his journey from Gujarat to New Delhi, PM Modi said “Main bhatakta bhatakta yahan pahunch gaya (I was wandering about and reached here),” he said. But he went on to add that the “most valuable thing” he brought with himself to the PMO was his experience as the longest serving chief minister of Gujarat.
“Other PMs did not have the experience of managing a state. Deve Gowda did serve as CM, but my tenure was very long, which gave me the ability to look at things minutely,” he said. Modi also said that he doesn’t have a retirement plan because he is always focused on present responsibilities.
Narrating how he ironed clothes using a lota (pot) filled with hot coal to make himself presentable in school, the PM explained that the need to dress properly was rooted in his deprived childhood that filled him with a sense of inferiority. Talking about an alternative career, Modi said before he entered politics he wanted to be either a sanyasi or an Armyman. Modi also revealed his love for mango.
Shows his softer moments
In a lighter moment, while talking about the use of social media and memes, Modi referred to Kumar’s wife Twinkle Khanna, who is known for her “strong opinions” on Twitter. “I follow you (Akshay Kumar) and Twinkle Khanna ji on Twitter. From the way she targets me, I understand there must be peace in your family life. All her anger must have been spent on me, and so you must be feeling at peace,” he joked.
Twinkle later embedded this snippet on her Twitter timeline, accompanying it with a post that read, “I have a rather positive way of looking at this. Not only is the PM aware that I exist but he actually reads my work.”