With venomous words for Congress, Modi seeks to placate voters in poll-bound Gujarat
Amid the economic slowdown and an intense campaign focused on the Centre's failures by the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to placate voters in his home state as he launched a blistering attack on the Congress at a public rally in Gandhinagar.
Continuing with his usual Gujarati pride narrative, Modi alleged that the Congress has inherent hatred for Gujarat and its people.
He also sought to address the growing discontent among traders by assuring them that problems related to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be solved.
While a large part of his speech was in Hindi, Modi preferred to speak in Gujarati to the traders, who have traditionally been BJP voters.
“From day one, I have said we will review GST after three months and we have already made changes. If there are still hurdles, we will try and resolve them too. I am confident that our traders will understand. I am assuring traders. This is my promise,” Modi said.
The Congress-led opposition has been relentlessly attacking Modi over the economic slowdown, blaming last November's demonetisation move and the implementation of GST as the twin culprits. The Prime Minister sought to deflect the blame by saying the reforms were a collective decision.
“The decision to implement GST was not my alone,” he said, adding that all political parties and state governments were consulted and involved in ushering in the country’s biggest tax reform.
“The Congress is an equal partner in GST decisions. They should not spread lies on GST and mislead people,” he said.
“Licenses of more than two lakh companies have been cancelled, but there is no hue and cry in the country. We have seen companies where a single company had 2000 bank accounts and cancelled their licenses. For us it is country that is bigger than the party. For us India comes first,” said Modi.
A 'saffron wave'
Addressing a huge gathering of BJP workers in Gandhinagar, Modi started by recounting the “atrocities unleashed on the party workers” when the Congress was in power.
Claiming it to be the “biggest saffron wave” he has ever witnessed, Modi spoke of how “numerous atrocities and hardships inflicted by the Congress has not dampened your spirits. Today, the BJP’s victory flag is fluttering across the country and it all because of you”.
Devoting much of his speech to lambasting the Congress, he said Gujarat elections were a battle between development and dynasty politics and challenged the Congress to contest the polls on development issue at least for once.
“The party which ruled for so many years, gave so many prime ministers and chief ministers, so many leaders from one family (Gandhi), I wonder how can they stoop so low? Their politics is guided by pessimism, based on lies, misleading people. And whenever there is a poll in Gujarat, their fever rises, and their agony rises. Gujarat has been a prick in the eyes of Congress and (Gandhi) family," he said.
Referring to prominent Gujarat leaders like Morarji Desai, and former external affairs minister Madhav Singh Solanki, Modi alleged that the Congress not just despised Gujarat and the saffron brigade but did not hesitate to sacrifice their own leaders for the sake of the Gandhi family.
“This family, this party, never lets go of any opportunity to destroy people from Gujarat. When I was the chief minister here, and they had all the powers, they conspired in all ways to put me jail,” he said.
Countering Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and his aggressive campaign in the state, Modi said Congress can never contest election on the issue of development.
“Congress blamed us in every possible manner. But when they saw there was no impact on us, they started blaming our development works,” he said referring to the Congress' recent campaign that targeted BJP's idea of 'vikas' in a quirky manner.
“Those questioning us on development of Gujarat must recall what their contribution has been for the state's progress. Congress party always runs away from development," he said, adding that the Congress stalled projects not just in Gujarat, but across the country.
“They (Congress) discussed the projects in parliament, laid foundation stones and collected accolades from the public but did not spend a rupee on them. For 30-40 years, for no reasons these projects remained stalled,” he said.
He claimed that while as the Chief Minister he spent over Rs 50,000 crore in Gujarat to implement long pending projects while as the prime minister he spent over Rs 12 lakh crore in implementing such stalled projects across the country.
While communal polarisation has always been BJP’s forte, Modi alleged it is the Congress which indulges in the politics of division and communalisation.
“I had this wish that for once Congress fought election on vikas (development). But their agenda is harping on communal issues, dividing people, spread the poison of caste and mislead people by resorting to lies. Congress can never fight a poll on the concrete basis of development,” he said.
He also countered the Congress’s claims of the BJP being anti-Dalit and anti-farmer. “Since Nehru’s time Congress has hatred for Jan Sangh and (later) BJP. Every time, they come up with a new abuse."
“They says we are anti-Dalit, but most of the MPs from the community are from BJP. They say we anti-tribal but most tribal MPs are from BJP,” said Modi, claiming that his party boasted large number of MPs representing marginalised and poor sections of the society.
He said the Congress was deeply absorbed in corruption and it was inherent for the party to hate development.
“Their only agenda is to save the (Gandhi) family and the dynasty. They neither bother about the country nor society. This election is a war between development and dynasty politics and we will win.
With the Election Commission breaking away from tradition and not announcing Gujarat elections schedule along with Himachal Pradesh, the BJP government has been on an overdrive in showering sops.
The Congress has alleged "intentionally delaying" by the poll panel in announcing the Gujarat poll schedule to favour Modi.
Besides announcing 1% DA allowance for all the state government employees, the BJP government announced withdrawal of police cases against Patidar youths in Gujarat.
Utilising the leeway given by the Election Commission, Modi announced that he will be inaugurating a ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej during his next visit to the state on 22 October.
“I will come again for my green project, a project which is close to my heart. Since I was in school, I have been hearing about the Congress’s plans of starting a ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej. When I became the chief minister, I looked for papers only to realise that it was merely a promise and they did nothing to fulfil it."
Addressing the rally, BJP president Amit Shah set a target of 150-plus seats in the 182-member assembly.
“When Modi was chief minister, we got 127 seats. Now when he is the Prime Minister, this figure looks too small,” he said.