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Success for me means people must experience change, says PM Narendra Modi

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“My aim is reform to transform… at the end of my term, success for me means people should experience change…if I am only able to claim certain achievements, I would not consider that as success,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told ET on Monday

Talking to a small group of journalists, including from ET, the PM said Tuesday’s Cabinet changes are an “expansion” and not a “reshuffle”.

“We intend to ensure speed and focus,” the PM said in an emailed reply to written questions from ET. He was laying out his big ideas on governance. “We are Indian in our approach but international in our outlook,” the PM said.

“We will show the same speed and focus in constructing toilets as in constructing airports, in promoting the welfare of fishermen as in promoting our maritime economy.”

Answering questions on political opposition to key economic reforms, the PM told ET that he’s “an optimist” and he “believes more in lifelines than deadlines”. Political opposition to the goods & services tax (GST) Bill is “suicide”, the prime minister said.

To ET’s question on what he would like to achieve by the end of his current term in 2019, the PM said: “Frankly, if in 2019, when my first term ends, I am only able to ‘claim’ certain achievements, I would not consider that as a success.

For me,success would mean that without my claiming things, people should experience the change. That would be the correct yardstick.”

Modi also told ET that he’s in favour of holding Lok Sabha and assembly elections together so that the “Rajya Sabha will also be in tune”.

The prime minister’s point being that the Upper House, the composition of which is determined by the strength of various political parties in state assemblies, will better reflect popular mandate if all elections are held in one shot.

This is a hugely significant response politically because Congress, with its numerical upper hand in the Rajya Sabha, has successfully derailed the passage of GST and other key Bills so far.

The PM’s backing of simultaneous Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls draws from an idea long championed by Bharatiya Janata Party. This argues that a national mandate will be ‘truer’ in voters getting a change to choose all their representatives together.

Elaborating on the issue, Modi told ET: “The government’s work comes to a standstill during elections. That is why many people are calling for holding the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections simultaneously.”

On changes in his Cabinet, the PM said the exercise slated for Tuesday is “an expansion, not a reshuffle”. He said an expansion is “a natural thing (at this time of the government’s term)…two years is proper time for review”.

The PM, answering ET’s question on the likelihood of parliamentary nod for the crucial GST Bill, said it will be “suicide” for any party to oppose GST.

“I do not think any political party will try to commit suicide by opposing GST. You have asked about the deadline for GST. As an optimist, I believe more in lifelines than in deadlines,” he told ET.

Talking to the group of journalists, the prime minister played down suggestions that there’s a communication gap between the government and the leader of Opposition.

He said the government has a larger role to play regarding the functioning of Parliament, but he insisted there was “ample communication” between the Treasury and Opposition benches.

“We have made ample efforts to strike a working relationship… There is ample communication,” Modi said.

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