With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections just days away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s schedule is choc-a-bloc with campaign meetings and rallies. After addressing three rallies on Thursday — at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Rudrapur in Uttarkhand and Akhnoor in Jammu — PM Modi is all set to attend three rallies on Friday too, at Koraput in Odisha, Mahabubnagar in Telangana and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. On Friday, he also appeared in a TV interview where he spoke about his eventful five-year tenure. The Modi interview to Arnab Goswami for Republic Bharat channel, aired at 8 am on Friday, was the first after the declaration of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Modi, who didn’t address any press conference in the last five years, has given interviews to select media organisations including news agencies, TV channels and newspapers.

In his interview to Republic Bharat today, Modi said the 2019 elections would be personality-driven, and predicted that the BJP would win more seats than its 2014 tally.

“After 5 years of being in power, it is usual for the people to make the election campaigns synonymous with a personality and I’ve been constantly among the masses,” he said.

Asked to comment on the preparation for elections, Modi said it was the voter who was at the centre of the election. “Political parties have to go to the polls only to meet the expectations of voters.”

In reply to a query on Mission Shakti, which the PM announced in a special address earlier this week, he said: “India has made its mark in the superspace league with Mission Shakti. It was not a planned move, we announced it when the test was successful and it has taken immense effort over many years.”

On Pakistan, he said the fight was “not with the people of Pakistan”. “Our fight is with terrorism.”

About the five-year BJP rule, Modi said: “Whatever we have been able to successfully execute in the past 5 years, it is because of the trust Indians place in us. We came into power with a sweeping majority, which shows the consent of the people and as of what I understand of politics, people have understood what Modi can do for them, what are the changes our government can bring in, how BJP can help the country progress. There are some spheres where India feels we lack, but we are sure that Indians won’t let us down.”

Recalling the Balakot air strikes, the PM said he was awake throughout and was in constant touch with the officers during the operation. “It is my behaviour, where there is a risk to the jawans of India, I’m constantly involved it. There is no expectation from their end, but I could not sleep and I was aware of what was happening.”

Commenting on the Opposition’s allegation that the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strikes were “match fixing” between PM Khan and PM Modi, he said: “No one can question my patriotism for my country. Everyone was aware of how big the attack was, but you should question the Opposition regarding such personal attacks. If they are sure of what they are blaming us for, they can go ahead with this as their agenda for the polls.”

Castigating the Opposition, he added: “We can debate on the gas connections provided, house built and bank accounts opened with the Opposition. When I speak on progress, they change the topic and pick other issues. We are the government that works 24 hours and these are issues that matter to us but they keep talking about the same thing over and over again. It is unfortunate that when Abhinandan Varthaman was detained in Pakistan, the Opposition started questioning the Balakot air strike and regarding his return. It was their plan and they were going to bring out a ‘candle light march’ for it.”

Speaking about Pakistan, Modi said it had assured India of action but nothing was done.

“Pakistan has constantly tried to assure that they will take action, but we hardly see anything happening from their end. So I’ve stopped responding to their assurances. Regarding the 26/11 attacks, we had given them a detailed dossier, but there was no response again. When PM Khan was elected, I congratulated him and I’ve taken steps for cordial talks but where is the action? It’s good that PM Khan is doing good things for his citizens, but what is necessary right now is for Pakistan to come out of terrorism.”

On BJP’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign, Modi invoked Mahatma Gandhi to say that he was not a chowkidar “literally, but in spirit”.

“I’ve been the longest serving Chief Minister of Gujarat. Yes, I’m a chaiwala and my past was never spoken about during my tenure as chief minister. But when I was elected as the Prime Minister, they started raising these issues while I proudly said that I was a chaiwala. As far as chowkidar is concerned, it is a word I used for myself during 2011-2012 poll campaign too. Mahatma Gandhi also during his time had qualities of being a chowkidar, not literally but in the spirit to ensure safety and security of the country.”

Countering “personal attacks” against him by the Opposition, Modi recalled the allegation that he owns 250 pairs of clothing, and said: “I had a public meeting that day which could mean the 0 was wrong, or 5 was wrong or 2 was wrong. Even if their accusations are wrong, I want to accept it. I’ve heard your relatives and you have earned Rs 250 crore and now the public can make your choice if they want Rs 250 crore leader or a leader who owns 250 pair of clothing.”

On actions taken against corruption and black money, he said it was because of the strict government action that people like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya had to flee and become bankrupt. “The Opposition is slamming us on the basis of these fugitives but it is because of our strict actions in the country that they have had to flee. But do you realise, we have come down severely on their assets, and they have had to run because of our actions. During Opposition rule, you would not have even known the names of such fugitives, leave alone know what happened to them and what action was taken against them,” he said.

On Robert Vadra, Modi said: “In India, there is a proper system of law. Congress has received a number of notices from the Court, but they take their own sweet time to respond. If we had to take the political route, we could have but we cannot and we have to ensure we follow the judicial system and it will the investigation is working at the right pace.”

Answering the last question, which was on the Opposition Mahagathbandhan,

People of the country have decided to give us full majority, then how can Opposition keep us out?: PM Modi on Mahagatbandhan

PM Modi to Republic Bharat: Regarding the Mahagathbandhan, PM Modi said: “In Bengal, Kerala and Odisha, has there been any understanding between the Opposition parties then how is the gathbandhan working? It is not yet happening. If people of this country have decided to give us the majority, then who can keep us out even if they decide to ally up after the polls are done? The country has made its decision to ensure full majority and reinstate the NDA government, no one can question that.”