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'The nation is waiting for a strong, experienced leader'

April 8, 2009
Will he, won't he?

How long will Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi stay on in the state? Does he harbour prime ministerial ambition? Does he see a greater role for himself at the Centre if a Bharatiya Janata Party-led dispensation were to assume power after the election? Does he see a connection between the anti-Muslims riots that rocked his state in 2002 and terrorism?'s Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Nikhil Lakshman met Modi at the chief minister's home in Gandhinagar to find out the answers. The first part of a 70-minute exclusive interview:

Why do you believe that L K Advani is a better leader than Manmohan Singh?

It's very simple, Dr Manmohan Singhji in reality is not a leader, and he has himself said that he is not a leader. The nation cannot be ruled by an academician, it can be run only by a leader. What was Indiraji (Indira Gandhi)'s education was never an issue, but she was a leader. (P V) Narasimha Rao was a leader. Only those who know the pulse of the nation can run it.

Lal Bahadur Shastri knew the pulse of the nation very well, which is why he was able to leave his imprint on the nation in such a short time. Atal Bihari Vajpayee knew the pulse of the nation, Morarjibhai (Morarji Desai) knew the pulse of the nation, Chandra Shekharji was a mass leader. We also had (H D) Deve Gowdaji who had never left Karnataka, Indra Kumar Gujralji thankfully never made any claims. Manmohan Singhji is like that.

That is why I say the nation needs a leader. Dr Manmohan Singh has not even visited all the states in the five years of his prime ministership, while Advaniji is a leader who has, at some point in time, spent a night in our 400 districts.

He knows the entire land, there is not a stain on him, he is blemishless, has vast administrative experience having served in various Cabinets, and fulfilled his responsibilities to everyone's satisfaction, whether it was as the chief executive of the Delhi metropolitan council or as information and broadcasting minister or deputy prime minister. Advaniji rose from the ranks to become a mass leader, there's a world of difference between the two.

It is said that in a nation where some 540 million people are under the age of 30, Advani seems out of sync with them, and the nation needs a leader like Narendra Modi.

If you are using age as the basis, how are you differentiating between Advaniji and Manmohan Singh?

I am thankful to the Congress for at least announcing that Manmohan Singh is their prime ministerial candidate, it will help the people decide in whose hand to hand over the reins of power. The nation will now choose between Manmohan Singh and Advaniji. There is no third option before us, so there is no need to get into that debate and waste our time. Now see the age factor for both, there's no problem.

Image: Narendra Modi at his office at the Gujarat chief minister's home in Gandhinagar. Photographs: Rajesh Karkera

Also watch: Narendra Modi on video | Check out our complete coverage: India Votes 2009

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