In their last huddle at the party’s National Council meeting before the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP top brass on Sunday projected a united front, with both Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and party patriarch L K Advani stepping up to rally behind Narendra Modi’s bid for prime ministership.
Modi, on his part, tried to silence critics by providing a peek into his vision for the country, while issuing a veiled warning against the Aam Aadmi Party’s national ambitions, saying the people should trust his “track record” on governance and not the “tape record” of AAP’s promises.
Advani, however, cautioned party workers against “over confidence”, reminding them about the party’s debacle in the 2004 elections. While Modi sought to suggest that his vision for India does not discriminate on the basis of identity, Advani reminded cadres about the founding principle of “integral humanism” and urged them to reach out to Muslims, claiming that the party’s attempts in this direction were rewarded in the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan recently.
Both Modi and Swaraj criticised the Congress’s decision to refrain from declaring its prime ministerial candidate. “It is a drama similar to that of (Sonia Gandhi’s) ‘voice of conscience’. The Congress has not declared its candidate out of fear. Our leadership is visible, theirs is invisible,” said Swaraj.
“I see a human angle behind this decision. When defeat is imminent, which mother will sacrifice her son politically? The heart of a mother (Sonia) decided to protect her son (Rahul Gandhi),” said Modi.
Playing the “lower caste” card, Modi said, “Woh naamdar hain, main kaamdar hun. (They are from the elite class, I am from the working class). Elites consider it below their standard to fight with the working class. There has been a tradition of higher caste-lower caste sentiments. Why should a person born in higher class contest with one born in backward caste. This is also a reason, apart from the political reason.”
Accusing Modi’s detractors of a sustained campaign to blame him for the Gujarat riots, Swaraj said, “Satyamev Jayate. This is an episode that Narendra Modi had to suffer for the last 12 years… Only a person with self-confidence can remain steadfast on his path. Justice has been done after 12 years.”
Advani said Modi’s selection as the party’s chief campaigner and his subsequent projection as prime ministerial candidate had enthused the party cadres. His reference to both these events is significant as he had not only skipped the party’s National Executive at Goa where Modi was annointed chief campaigner but also resigned from the party post in protest last June. He had also skipped the party’s parliamentary board meeting at which Modi was announced as the prime ministerial candidate.
“There is a visible change in the last six months, during which he (Modi) was first announced campaign committee chief and then we projected him as our PM candidate…. High ambition is not a crime, low ambition is. I have never seen such enthusiasm and self-confidence. I congratulate Rajnath Singh who decided to make Narendra Modi our PM candidate and set a target of 272+ seats. I do not remember any other leader who has addressed such massive rallies,” said Advani.
He also reminded the cadres about the need to reach out to Muslims. “The Congress had created a sense of distrust in the minds of the Muslim community. But this time, the community expressed its confidence in us in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. I want to tell the Muslim community that all these years they have been used, but have not benefitted,” said Advani, urging party cadres to communicate to the community that “we are for everyone’s welfare”.