In his first major speech after becoming Prime Minister, Narendra Modi strongly defended the stance taken by India at WTO, and said he had chosen the interests of farmers and the poor of India over favourable international press.
In a seeming attack on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister accused “those who have lost elections” of practising “votebank politics”. Reacting to a four-part investigation by The Indian Express on current communal “incidents” in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul had told this paper that “communal conflict was being artifically and deliberately engineered”, something that posed “unimaginable long-term dangers” to the country.
Addressing the BJP national council convened at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to ratify the appointment of Amit Shah as party president, the Prime Minister said, “Those who have lost elections are trying to destroy the social fabric through communal riots and votebank politics.”
On WTO, where India blocked a landmark world trade treaty earlier this month, drawing strong western criticism, Modi said, “For us, the country is more important than the party… There are attempts to spread doubts on WTO… to isolate India…, but we have chosen a path where there will be food on the plate of the poor, and our farmers will be able to survive. We have chosen a path where international newspapers would not write favourably about us, but we have taken the right decision for our country.”
The question before India, the Prime Minister said, was, “Should we sacrifice the interests of the country’s farmers and the poor for praise from international newspapers? We had to choose between credit (shreya) and love (prem), and we chose love for our farmers…”
Though Modi dwelt on several issues in his 40-minute speech, he clearly also avoided touching quite a few others, possibly to keep his views on them for his Independence Day address to the nation.
Taking on the Congress, he said, “I am horrified that a party which had asked for votes on the basis of the Food Security Bill had signed an agreement at the WTO that sucked the blood (khoon choosne wala) of the poor.”
He said India’s firm stand at Geneva was in the same line as the bold decision taken by the BJP-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which conducted nuclear tests. “Bharat seena taan kar khada ho gaya tha… We were not worried (about international opinion) then, and we are not worried now.”
The Prime Minister said, “The BJP never accepts incidents of violence, which are now taking place in the country… Peace, unity and harmony are the prerequisites for progress and there will be no compromise on this… In this hour, BJP workers will have to play a crucial role to ensure communal and national unity so that the nation moves forward. When the country makes progress, its 125 crore people make progress too.”
Modi accused “those who have not done anything for 60 years” of “seeking the account of our 60 days”. “But we should accept this challenge,” he said, adding, “It is good for us that we are judged by a more stringent yardstick. We will pass the test… I am a man who has come to this position after 14 years of trial (chaudah saal tapp karke nikla insaan hoon).”
After having been in power for 60 days, he could state that “we will be successful in bringing about change… we have to have faith in ourselves”, the Prime Minister said. A lot of time had been spent “cleaning up” (safai karne mein nikal gaya), he said. But, “Isn’t it great that most of the things promised in our manifesto have found place in the first budget itself and we already have a roadmap for them?” The world viewed India differently now, he said, because it knew there was a government here that had a powerful mandate.
The Lok Sabha polls had been won under “captain” Rajnath Singh, and by the efforts of “Man of the Match” Amit Shah, Modi said. In true RSS style, he advised the party to take up one social issue on a yearly basis to connect to the people en masse.
“One PM at a booth will not do,” Modi said, explaining that he meant “primary member”. “There should be at least 100 to 200 PMs at every polling booth,” he added to laughter from the audience.