Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, on Tuesday said he would reach out to Muslim "brothers" like any citizen of the country and made it clear that the contentious issues of Ram temple and Uniform Civil Code would be addressed within the Constitutional framework.
Mr Modi underlined that he saw all Indians as one and that it was his "responsibility" to reach out to all sections of the society, which includes Muslims.
"As Chief Minister of Gujarat, I have tried to connect to six crore people of the state as much as possible. Now, I have been entrusted with a national responsibility. I will use all efforts at my command to reach out to 125 crore people. This is part of my responsibility and I must do it.
"It may mean walking 100 steps. I may walk three steps, five steps or seven steps, that is a different matter. But it is my responsibility that I must make demonstrative efforts to reach out to every citizen of the country," he said in an interview to ABP news channel's 'Ghoshnapatra' programme.
Asked specifically whether his effort to reach out to every citizen included Muslims, Mr Modi replied, "I will never go by this terminology of yours. Even if you drag me, I will not. I will meet my countrymen. I understand only one language that they are my countrymen, they are my brothers. You may see with whatever colour you want, Modi will not go into that colour."
He went on to add, "Even if I lose elections, let it be so, I have no problem. But the country has been destroyed by this language, the mindset of you people, and I will never own that mindset. And you please stop such attacks on my freedom."
Mr Modi also responded to questions about the campaign for a Ram temple at the disputed site of the razed Babri mosque and a Uniform Civil Code, which have been a major point of contention between the BJP and the Muslim community.
Asked whether he would work on these unresolved issues in his party's agenda, considering his 'tez tarrar' (feisty) image, Mr Modi said, "The country does not run by 'tez tarrari' (feistiness) but by the Constitution. A feisty spirit is for elections, not for running the country."
The 63-year-old made it clear that he would abide by the Constitution on these issues. (India Votes 2014: full coverage)
The Gujarat Chief Minister was also asked whether his work as Prime Minister would have the "RSS imprint" since he had been groomed by it. RSS or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the ideological mentor of the BJP.
"Let me tell you, I have to run the government. A government runs according to the Constitution. I believe that a government has only one religion - India first. A government has only one holy book - our Constitution. A government has only one kind of devotion - towards nation. A government has only one style of functioning - 'sabka saath, sabka vikas' (cooperation of all, development of all)," he said.
On a question about the communal riots in his state in 2002, the Gujarat Chief Minister said he was "ready for any test" but would "never surrender before lies and political motives."
"...Till 2007, I have spoken a lot on this issue. Whether you like it or not, I will not succumb to you (on the issue)," he said.
The UPA government, Mr Modi said, "dragged" him to the Supreme Court on the issue and "now I should not speak" as Supreme Court should not be influenced.
"Till now, no chief minister has been grilled by policemen for nine hours. It was done on the orders of Supreme Court. Supreme Court has seen the video of that recording. I have stood that test and even in the future, I am ready for any test," he added.
Asked about BJP leader Giriraj Singh's statement that those opposing Mr Modi should go to Pakistan, the BJP's PM candidate said "nobody can agree with that (statement)." (No irresponsible statements please, says Narendra Modi after Togadia controversy)
To buttress his point that he would not be vindictive, Mr Modi said, "After the election victory of 2002, I went to thank the electorate of Maninagar (in Gujarat). There, I said 'this government is of those who have elected it, this government is also of those who voted against and this government is also of those who did not go to vote'."
Asked about the different voices in BJP over possible action against Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, who is accused of making a fortune in controversial land deals, Mr Modi said he would focus on development rather than such issues which would be dealt with by the law.
"We get elected for five years and for five years, should we roam around with this mess or do some good work? My personal belief is that my energy should not go into this, that my energy be utilised for positive and good work. Otherwise, five years is very less time. If we get entangled in this, what good work can we do," he said.
Citing his "track record" as a Chief Minister for 14 years, he said, it "shows that I have never opened any file against anybody. I believe that one gets entangled in such things and cannot do good work. I have only focused on positive initiative. I do not even keep information about old cases. It is for the government, let them do."
At the same time, he said, "Nobody is above the law. Imagine if there allegations against Modi and he is the Prime Minister. Should the case not be pursued just because he has become the PM. It should not be so that it should be stopped. I am not above the law. I am not answering the question you asked. So do not mix up."
On the controversy after he admitted to his married status in his poll affidavit, he said, "I do not get surprised by anything. There is nothing in my life. They (rivals) have no issue so they will continue to do it."(In poll affidavit, Narendra Modi says Jashodaben is his wife)