At his much-awaited rally in Barmer on Saturday, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi refrained from targeting expelled party veteran Jaswant Singh, who is contesting as an independent. Interestingly, Modi also refrained from supporting the party’s candidate, Col Sonaram Choudhary, or seeking votes for him.
During the course of his 38-minute speech, Modi did not mention Choudhary, a former Congress leader, even once. Instead, he said, “If you trust me, then vote for BJP or else don’t. To have a stable government at the Centre, you need to fulfill the party’s Mission 25 in Rajasthan.”
Modi remained silent on Singh even as senior party leaders made direct attacks, accusing him of abandoning his “mother” (BJP) for pursuing his own interests.
Former Sheo MLA Jalam Singh alleged that Singh had pushed for his son’s candidature from the seat in the last assembly elections. “I was denied a ticket but I did not leave the party. Instead, I worked for Manvendra (Singh) and helped him win by a huge margin,” he said. Senior party leader Lokendra Singh Kalvi also claimed that he was denied a ticket in 1999, as Singh had lobbied for his son.
While Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had cited their examples at a rally in Barmer last month, Modi neither acknowledged these leaders nor hailed Choudhary for shifting to the BJP. At a time when Raje has upped the ante against Singh, Modi’s silence on the issue gave rise to speculation that he does not want to offend the latter or appear to be taking sides.
Besides targeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Robert Vadra, Modi focussed his speech on development issues. “Just like the Northeast has a separate body to look after its development, we have promised something similar for the desert regions of the country,” he said.
He also accused the UPA government of trying to level false charges against him through the CBI and Intelligence Bureau.