As regional parties get serious about joining hands and cobbling a Third Front ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi Wednesday slammed their effort and ridiculed it saying such an alliance would make India a “third rate” country.
Addressing his first election rally at the historic Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, Modi also offered an olive branch to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and appealed to Bengali pride by claiming that the Congress high command had twice in the past denied President Pranab Mukherjee — Pranabda as he referred to him — the opportunity to become prime minister. Modi’s “Janachetana Sabha” was attended by an impressive 2-lakh-plus people and came days after the Trinamool’s mammoth rally at the same venue on January 30.
At that rally, Banerjee had attacked Modi and hinted that he was heading a “government of rioteers”. But Modi and BJP president Rajnath Singh seemed to ignore her barbs Wednesday as they wooed Banerjee with an eye on a possible post-poll alliance. Modi reminded the cheering crowd that they had already brought “parivartan (change)” to Bengal by voting out the Communists after 35 years. “But now you have to bring change at the Centre by giving me as many Lok Sabha seats from the state as possible. Let Mamataji work for development and for change in the state and you should now have a government in Delhi that will work for the development of Bengal.
“You give me a chance to fill up the ‘gadda’ (crater) left behind in the last 35 years. You then have a balance sheet of what parivartan the state government has brought and what parivartan Delhi’s government would have given you. I promise to give a ‘Sonar Bangla’ to you,” Modi said amid thunderous applause.
Trashing for the first time attempts by regional parties to forge a Third Front, Modi said the legacy of the Third Front was evident in the eastern parts of the country. In contrast, the western parts of India have seen some progress and development as the Third Front does not have a presence there. “Third Front is always striving to make Hindustan third rate and the time has come to isolate them totally from Indian politics,” he said. The Gujarat Chief Minister also targeted those raising the issue of secularism when it came to Narendra Modi or his state.
This “secular geet (song)” will be heard particularly from those political “thekedars (contractors)” who are steeped in vote bank politics. Muslims in the country have been treated as vote banks by such politicians and have never been treated as human beings, he added. Seeking to stress his own secular credentials, Modi once again talked about the high demand by Muslims in Gujarat to go on Haj pilgrimage. He said 37,000 applications were filed by pilgrims even though the quota for the state was fixed at 4,800, indicating the economic stability of Gujarat’s Muslims. West Bengal, he said, got only 12,000 applications while its quota is 11,600.
Modi claimed illegal infiltration from Bangladesh had hurt the opportunities available to local Bengali youth and this was forcing them to migrate to other states in search of jobs. “Give me an opportunity to serve Bengal for several reasons. First, there is parivartan in the state after long. One should now have parivartan in the Centre. And finally, Pranabda is there as the President at the top,” Modi said.
“You have a laddoo in one hand now. You will have one more laddoo in the other hand. You will have double laddoo. And then, Pranabda is there at the top. You will see the benefits it brings you,” he said, explaining the advantage of having Banerjee, Mukherjee and himself in the three key positions of power.
The Congress, he said, did not give Mukherjee the chance to become PM after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 and again in 2004 even though he was the most senior member in Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s team.
Speaking earlier, Rajnath Singh referred to the Centre’s refusal to declare a moratorium on West Bengal’s outstanding loan repayment of Rs 28,000 crore per year as demanded by Banerjee. A bailout package would have revived the state’s economy, Singh said. Both Modi and Singh said the BJP would contest all 42 seats in the state on its own. “You see in English, the alphabet ‘N’ comes after ‘M’. So, after Manmohan Singh comes Narendra Modi,” Rajnath Singh said.