New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday made a strong pitch for simultaneous parliament and assembly polls, as he slammed caste politics and decried the abundance of allegations in place of constructive criticism of his economic policy.
In a wide-ranging hour-long interview with Zee News television, PM Modi said the polls should be like festivals such as Holi -- you throw colour and even mud on that day and forget about it until the next time.
Instead, "from logistical view, the country always seems to be in an election mode now," he said. "One election finishes, the second starts."
Having simultaneous parliament, assembly, civic and panchayat polls, once every five years and completed within a month or so, will save money, resources and manpower, given that a large section of security forces, bureaucracy and political machinery seems to be devoted for 100, 150 to 200 days every year on electioneering, he said.
"If the elections are held together the country will be free from such a big burden," he said, adding "Otherwise we are spending so much resources, money."
After the 2014 general election, which brought Narendra Modi to power, the country has witnessed a spate of assembly elections including in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh last year. Several more states will go to polls this year, before the next Parliament elections in 2019.
Asked if he will be able to achieve his goal of simultaneous elections, PM Modi said: "It is not one party's, one person's agenda; for the country's benefit everyone should work together. Let there be a debate on it."
PM Modi also spoke about the dangers of caste politics, saying it has been India's misfortune to be afflicted with this phenomenon.
PM Modi was also asked about the criticism he faced when GDP growth came down.
He replied that "one should never feel bad about criticism. That's the strength of democracy. Everything should be analysed. The good work should be praised and shortcomings should be criticised."
"But sometimes criticism is almost non-existent and allegations are more. Still, it is good that the nation is discussing GDP, agricultural growth, industrial growth and (stock) market," he said.
On expectations of a populist budget on Feb. 1, PM Modi said: "Whether there is budget or not, election or not, first budget or last budget, Modi has one mantra, BJP has one mantra 'vikas, vikas, vikas: sabka saath sabka vikas.'"
"Whatever is needed for that we have been doing and we will continue to do it," he said.
PM Modi also praised his government's work, saying GST and demonetisation are not its only achievements. There are many others like financial inclusion, toilet construction and electrification that can be talked about for days together.
"If you consider only these two things (GST and demonetisation) as my government's work, it will be a big injustice to me," he said.
He listed bringing unbanked people into the banking network, construction of toilets in over four lakh schools, cooking gas connections to three crore families, electrification of left-out villages, ramping up of urea supply, low-cost insurance for poor, LED bulbs to save power bills and environment as the other areas his government has focused on.
"I am only talking about work done on the economic front. I can list so many things that Zee News will have to run my interview for the entire week," PM Modi said.
To a question on job creation, he said just in the formal economy, 70 lakh people have enrolled in the provident fund scheme and 10 crore people have taken loans under the collateral-free Mudra Yojana, while a large number of jobs are also being created elsewhere.
Asked about whether he is confident of winning the 2019 elections, he said "I don't waste time thinking about elections. I have to worry about 125 crore people."