Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday exhorted party workers to work relentlessly as the country prepares to choose between a majboor (hapless) and a mazboot (strong) government in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
In his 80-minute speech at the BJP national convention, the Prime Minister pitched strongly for a renewed mandate with formidable numbers, and sought to address the two major issues that the Opposition has targeted his government with — the Rafale aircraft deal and the crisis in the agrarian sector.
Had the earlier NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee come back to power in 2004, India would have been in a different place today — just as its destiny would have been different if Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had been the country’s first prime minister, Modi said.
The content of Modi’s speech was in sharp contrast to the one that he delivered to the BJP national convention at the same venue — Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan — five years ago in January 2014. Then, as a prime ministerial hopeful, he had presented a blueprint of his vision — which included promises such as bullet trains in at least four directions, concepts such as smart cities, health cities, sports cities, twin cities, and networks of satellite cities, and several catchphrases such as the 5Ts, standing for Talent, Tradition, Tourism, Trade and Technology.
As an incumbent Prime Minister seeking a renewed mandate on Saturday, he employed his rhetoric almost entirely to fend off the Opposition’s charges against his government, and to underline its achievements of the last five years. He asked BJP workers to strive to internalise, and to take to every household, details of the resolutions passed by the national convention on agriculture, welfare of the poor, and political affairs.
“I am not claiming that I have tackled every challenge,” Modi said. “But I have made an honest effort.” He pitched himself as an “honest, sincere, hardworking, committed Pradhan Sewak”, contrasted with someone “who siphons off the country’s money to distribute among his family and friends, runs away for a holiday when the country faces difficulties, and who goes around badmouthing India in other countries”. He did not name Congress president Rahul Gandhi, however.
In the speech that began minutes after BSP leader Mayawati and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav formally announced their alliance in Uttar Pradesh, Modi trashed the idea of a grand alliance against the BJP as a “failed experiment”.
“We want a strong government so that we can put an end to corruption,” he said. “These days there is a failed experiment being attempted in the country, which is known as the grand alliance. They have all come together to create a hapless government. They don’t want a strong government which will lead to the shutting down of their self-serving businesses. They want a hapless government, so that their relatives can benefit.”
“Swatantrata ke baad agar Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel desh ke pehle pradhan mantri bante toh desh ki tasveer kuchh aur hi hoti, waise hi 2004 ke chunav ke baad against Atalji pradhan mantri bane rehte toh aaj Bharat kahin aur hota (India’s situation would have been very different if Patel had been its first prime minister, and if Vajpayee had been re-elected.),” Modi said. “It will not be wrong to say that India wasted 10 years in the dark period between 2004 and 2014 in scams and corruption.”
During the UPA’s rule, when he was chief minister of Gujarat, the Congress had unleashed the CBI on him, Modi said. It had also foisted utterly corrupt governments on the people, and introduced a “Congress process for issuing loans” to cronies. Unlike the governments in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh that have restricted the entry of CBI officials, he had never tried to stop federal investigators when he was in Gujarat, Modi said.
Much like he did in 2014, Modi continued to project himself as the outsider — the battle of 2019, he said, was between those who believed in the “Sultanate” and those who believed in the “Samvidhan” (Constitution). He was referring to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi’s alleged attempts to delay the legal process in the National Herald case. In a swipe at the Gandhis, he asked the audience if he had named any government scheme ‘Narendra Modi’.
To counter the Opposition campaign over the agrarian crisis, Modi said his government was “sincerely” working to solve the problems faced by farmers. “The annadata (provider of food) was turned into a mere mattdata (voter) by previous governments. We are making sincere efforts to empower them. We want to make farmers the carriers of the new energy of a new India.”
“I am not saying that all issues have been resolved. We have many more things to do. But our efforts are as sincere as the size of the problems,” he said.
Recalling that the BJP was a result of a collective leadership and efforts of leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Kushabhau Thakre and Sunder Singh Bhandari, the Prime Minister urged the party leaders to ensure that the party is back in power.
He cautioned party cadres against complacency — the assumption that “Modi will come and deliver victory” — and asked them to work hard for victory. “The seeds may be good, rains may arrive and everything else may be in order, but the crop won’t be good if farmers do not till the land at the right time. Liike farmers, we have to apply ourselves,” Modi said.