Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has described himself as a "Hindu nationalist" because he was a born Hindu.
"I am nationalist. I`m patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I am born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So I`m a Hindu nationalist. So yes, you can say I`m a Hindu nationalist because I`m a born Hindu," he told Reuters news agency in an interview in his official residence in Gandhinagar.
The Gujarat strongman was asked as to who was the "real Modi" - Hindu nationalist or a pro-business Chief Minister?
"As far as progressive, development, workaholic, whatever they say, this is what they are saying. So there`s no contradiction between the two. It`s one and the same image," he said.
The Gujarat Chief Minister said that he had done "absolutely right thing" in 2002 when the state was hit by riots and that an SIT set up by the Supreme Court had given him a "thoroughly clean chit".
In the rare interview to Reuters news agency, Modi was asked if it was frustrating when many people define him by 2002.
He responded by saying that he would feel guilty if he had done something wrong.
"Frustration comes when you think `I got caught. I was stealing and I got caught.` That`s not my case."
Asked if he regretted what had happened, the Gujarat strong man was quoted by Reuters as saying that the Supreme Court had created a Special Investigating Team which in its report had given him a "thoroughly clean chit, a thoroughly clean chit".
"Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we`re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will be painful or not? Of course, it is. If I`m a Chief Minister or not, I`m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad."
Modi was asked if he had done the right thing in 2002.
"Absolutely. However much brainpower the Supreme Being has given us, however much experience I`ve got, and whatever I had available in that situation and this is what the SIT had investigated," he replied.
Answering a question about being regarded as a polarising figure, Modi cited the example of Democrats and Republicans in the US to emphasise that polarisation was "democracy`s basic nature".
Asked whether he believed India should have a secular leader, the Chief Minister said, "We do believe that. But what is the definition of secularism? For me, my secularism is, India first. I say the philosophy of my party is `justice to all, appeasement of none`. This is our secularism."
To a question about criticism that he was an authoritarian, he said, "If you call yourself a leader, then you have to be decisive. If you are decisive, then you have the chance to be a leader. These are two sides to the same coin."
"People want him (leader) to make decisions. Only then they accept the person as a leader. That is a quality, it is not a negative. The other thing is, if someone was authoritarian, then how would he be able to run a government for so many years? Without a team effort, how can you get success?"
Queried how he would persuade minorities, including Muslims, to vote for him, Modi said he saw all voters as Indians and he would not like to divide the country.
"Hindus and Muslims, I am not in favour of dividing. I am not in favour of dividing Hindus and Sikhs. I am not in favour of dividing Hindus and Christians. All the citizens, all the voters, are my countrymen. So my basic philosophy is, I don`t address this issue like this. And this is a danger to democracy also. Religion should not be an instrument in your democratic process."