Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hit back at Congress President Rahul Gandhi for his statement that the Congress had dismantled Modi's image over allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal.
"Modi's image has not been created by the Khan Market gang, or Lutyens Delhi, but 45 years of his toil," Modi told The Indian Express.
The PM was referring to Congress President Rahul Gandhi's statement to a TV channel in which Gandhi said the Congress had dismantled PM Modi's image over allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal. Modi also clarified why he had highlighted late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's holiday at a naval ship in an election rally and made it a poll issue.
"When the Congress president, at a press conference, says that the Army isn't a personal jaagir (property) of Modi - all of you missed this -then I have to say what's it like to have a personal fiefdom. Rajiv Gandhi is not my issue," the prime minister said.
"Then I have to say what's it like to have a personal fiefdom," Modi said.
Talking about the charges made by the Opposition for failure of his government on the jobs front, Modi said Congress and its allies tried to create a 'data-free mahaul' around unemployment and lack of jobs.
Eventually, it turned out that Atalji's one-term government created many times the number of jobs the UPA's two terms did. The same 'data-free mahaul' tactic on jobs is now being employed against our government.
Mentioning the achievements of his government in the infra sector, Modi said, "Just like Atalji's government did, we have put the economy on a high-growth path and made it the fastest growing major economy in the world. Our government too, even our most vehement detractors concede, has done very good work in the infrastructure sector. We built rural roads at double the pace we inherited and highways at more than double the pace we inherited. India is, in fact, the world's fastest builder of highways today."
On being questioned about the feeling among Muslims to prove their nationalism, the PM said this question must be asked to the opposition. "This situation was created by those who played the politics of votebank. Used them as a vote bank and did not bring them into the mainstream. Why do they not consider them (former president A P J) Abdul Kalam as their own? This question should be asked to them. Why do they not consider Sania Mirza as their own? Why do they not consider Abdul Hamid (1965 war hero) as their own? This question should be asked to them."
Modi added that BJP had requested for a second term for Abdul Kalam. "What was wrong in Abdul Kalam? We believed he should have been given another term with consensus. But it was not done."
When asked about demonetisation, Modi said, "There is no question of shifting goalposts here. Right from day one, have we not spoken of demonetisation as a measure against corruption, as a way to identify and crack down on black money? Through our initiatives against black money, have we not brought undisclosed income of Rs 1.30 lakh crore to tax? Have 3.38 lakh shell companies not been detected and de-registered? Have their directors not been disqualified? This apart, as I keep saying, now every rupee in the system has a name tag attached to it, something we did not have earlier."
"Demonetisation was also a good means to boost formalisation, curb tax evasion and ensure a cleaner economy through digital payments. These too have happened. The number of returns filed increased from 3.8 crore in 2013-14 to 6.8 crore in 2017-18, showing 80% growth in tax base. The rise of digital payments is there for all to see, both in terms of statistics and as a way of life," PM Modi told the Indian Express.