Senior BJP Leader and Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, feels Balakot (referring to India’s air strike on a terrorist site in Pakistan) is a key issue during this election. Also, there is a feeling that only Narendra Modi has the guts to initiate action against not only Pakistan, but also China. BusinessLine spoke to him about diverse factors impacting the elections. Edited excerpts:

What is the difference between the 2014 and the 2019 elections?

I campaigned in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and now for the 2019 elections. There is a bigger wave in favour of Narendra Modi now. In 2014, people were not aware of Narendra Modi except that he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and he took the state to new heights.

However, during the last five years, he has proved himself, at the national level, as an excellent administrator and a man who can take tough decisions. A man who can work for 18 hours a day. If I talk about Bihar, even in the remotest village people are chanting the name of Modi.

Is there an anti-incumbency sentiment?

No. Neither against the Centre nor against the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar. The credit for the good work by the Centre and the State goes to the NDA. In other states, where we have different political parties ruling, we see a tussle with the Centre. There is race among them to take credit.

Your take on the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana vs NYAY...

Merely mentioning something in the manifesto does not mean that it will be done. The late Rajiv Gandhi had announced a Bihar package then, but he still lost the election and the curtain was brought down on the announcements. The Congress has been talking about poverty eradication ever since they have been in power. So, mentioning a new measure to eradicate poverty will not bring in votes.

The people’s vote for Narendra Modi in 2014 was not only based on the BJP manifesto. There was feeling that being an honest person, he will serve the country well. In Bihar, people do not know what is ‘NYAY’.

Balakot-Pulwama, unemployment, demonetisation and GST... what are the pros and cons of these factors in this election?

Balakot is one issue which has made a strong impression in the voters’ minds. People feel strongly about how the Modi-government retaliated after the unfortunate incidents in Uri and Pulwama. A mention of these issues during an election speech draws maximum cheers and claps. There is feeling that only Modi has the guts to take strong steps against China and Pakistan. They want a strong PM like Modi, who not only worked for the development but also took India to greater heights, globally.

But what about economic issues?

Employment has been an issue since 1947. This is the first election when inflation and water-road-electricity is not an issue. For GST, I will use Bihar as an example. This state has low urbanisation and GST is not an issue. Traders did face problems initially, but all of them have adjusted. Even the Government helped them overcome the problems. Remember Uttar Pradesh (UP) went to polls after demonetisation and BJP won. People have noticed that post demonetisation the Government has initiated many measures to curb black money.

Unemployment has been an issue during every election and this problem can not be resolved by one PM or any Government in a single term. Even then, one needs to take note of theemployment opportunities created in the informal sector and its impact can be seen in a state like Bihar. No doubt that there are limited employment opportunities in the formal sector, but people forget about informal sector. In Bihar, ₹1 lakh crore is spent on constructing roads and taking electricity to villages, this has created employment. People are not able to differentiate between work and job, job and employment.

We were told you are filing defamation case against Rahul Gandhi?

Notice the kind of language, he is using. He exhorts people in every election rally to say chowkidar chor hai . Narendra Modi does not have a image as that of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav or that of Mayawati. Not a single allegation of corruption could be levied against him during his 14-year stint as Chief Minister of Gujarat, and you have slogan against person like him ‘ chowkidar chor ha i’. When did the Supreme Court said anything against Narendra Modi in the Rafale deal case? When did the CAG find any misconduct in its report?

Now during an election rally in Karnataka, he said, "Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?" Are all Modis in the country thieves? Are all watchmen thieves? In Bihar, most people from a caste called ‘Paswan’ are watchmen, does this mean all ‘Paswan’ are thieves?

I am deeply hurt by his statement and there are million and millions of Modis in the country. Now you are saying that from Nirav Modi to every Modi is a thief. If Nirav Modi is in Jail now in UK, it is only because of another Modi, the man who never compromised on the issue of corruptions. And you are alleging that Narendra Modi is shielding Nirav Modi.

Since Rahul Gandhi has spoken against all the Modis, I have decided to file a defamation case against him.