LONDON: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a charm offensive on what was supposed to be an unscripted townhall-style meeting in London. The programme, titled 'Bharat ke Saath Sabke Saath' saw the Prime Minister touch on topics ranging from the high-profile rape cases to the economy and from democracy to personal legacy.
"Democracy cannot succeed without constructive criticism. I want this Government to be criticised. Criticism makes democracy strong. Your criticism is a gold mine to me. My problem is not against criticism. To criticise, one has to research and find proper facts. Sadly, it does not happen now. What happens instead is allegations," he said to a cheering audience.
Modi also claimed he was not very bothered with the legacy he would leave. "The Vedas, the oldest extant books, continue to guide the world. The fact that we do not know who wrote the Vedas proves that history means nothing. It is about our actions now. Always remember the country, not Modi," he said.
He also sought to address a question on the apparently rising discontent over the slow pace of the reforms that he had promised during his campaign. "Impatience is not a bad thing. If someone has a bicycle, that person aspires to own a scooter. Someone who has a scooter aspires to owning a car. It is natural to aspire for more. India's is getting increasingly aspirational," he said.
"People have higher expectations from us because they know that we can deliver. People know that when they say something, the Government will listen and do it. The days of gradual change are over," he declared.
PM Modi answered questions from the audience, in which he said there was no question of tolerating terrorism. "We believe in peace. But, we will not tolerate those who like to export terror. We will respond strongly in a language they understand. The surgical strikes were one way of conveying that India has changed," he said to strong applause.
PM Modi also returned to one of his pet themes - of moving forward together. He said gone man alone could not bring change. "We have a million problems, and we have a billion people to solve them… We have left no stone unturned to bring about a positive change," he said.