At his first election rally in Uttar Pradesh since polls were announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Samajwadi Party and Congress, saying “the corrupt” had joined hands to bring him down.
Saying he wanted to return UP’s “debt” to him for making him the PM — the BJP won 72 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state — Modi urged people to get rid of “gangs” and “SCAM”, so that development could be brought to the state, jobs could be provided to youths and security could be ensured for women. “By SCAM, I mean S for Samajwadi (Party), C for Congress, A for Akhilesh (Yadav) and M for Mayawati. If you want to change UP’s fate, change the government. You demolish the rule of SCAM with your votes,” the PM said.
He added, “No matter how I try to help UP from Delhi, if the state government is not in our side, nothing can take place.”
In his hour-long speech at the meeting, dubbed ‘Vijay Shankh Nad’ rally, corruption, nepotism, criminalisation and opportunism remained the main themes, with Modi talking of ‘surgical strikes’, demonetisation and the Union Budget sparingly. He also concentrated his attacks on the SP and Congress, and mentioned the BSP only twice.
The crowd at Madhav Kunj Maidan cheered Modi every time he targeted his opponents.
The BJP is facing a tough battle in western Uttar Pradesh, a region where it had made considerable gains in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls following the 2013 communal violence. BJP leader Chandra Mohan admitted the party campaign here would focus on law and order, alleged exodus of Hindus from the region, and the plight of sugarcane farmers.
Invoking Meerut’s link to the beginning of the 1857 mutiny against the British, the PM said he had chosen the city to start the “war” against poverty, corrupt forces and land-grabbers.
“It is the people of UP who made me the Prime Minister. And I have done everything in my capacity to bring honour to the state. It’s been two and a half years. Is there any spot on me? However, I have not been able to repay my debt. I can repay my debt to the people of Uttar Pradesh only by joining hands with a state government that will work with me,” he said.
Only about Rs 2,800 crore of the Rs 7,000 crore the Centre had sent to UP for healthcare development in 2015-16 was spent and not even Rs 40 crore of the Rs 950 crore sent for ‘Swachh’ campaign was used, the PM claimed. The funds could have been diverted by SP leaders, he added, but they could not do it because of him. “Ye Modi hai, pai-pai ka hisaab manga hai (This is Modi. He accounts for each paisa).”
Modi went on to accuse Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav of using Central funds for particular communities for vote-bank politics. “It (the SP government) believes if the money cannot be spent on those who are its vote bank, it will let the funds rot. Tell me if assistance to those who are ill should be based on vote-bank politics,” he said.
The PM also ridiculed the new SP-Congress alliance, after the Congress had spent years criticising the SP government. “Raaton raat, aisa kya ho gaya (What changed overnight)? They are embracing each other. They are sitting on each other’s shoulders to help each other. But those who could not save themselves cannot save UP,” the PM said as the crowd cheered him.
Targeting the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family’s internal fights, Modi said, “The whole day the government is busy with uncle, son, papa, nephew… If you want to change UP’s fate, change the government.”
Addressing the note ban issue, the PM said his move had upset those who had “accummulated wealth over 40 years and filled their rooms with currencies”. “Those who filled rooms with currency notes collected by selling party tickets are very anguished as I forced them to deposit their money in banks. I knew they would all gang up against me. They will kick up a storm because Modi has robbed them.”
He reiterated his commitment to “eradicate” black money. “Modi will not sit in peace until the fight against corruption reaches a conclusion. I will not let the robbers rest.”
Modi also tried to evoke the nationalism plank, which had earlier kept the party upbeat, by referring to the border ‘surgical strikes’, One Rank One Pension issues, and the Diwali he spent with soldiers. “Now countries across the world are studying as to how Indian forces did such an operation on Pakistani soil. We made them (enemies) account for everything,” the PM said.
Criticising those who had expressed doubts on the ‘surgical strikes’, he said, “Some of them doubted the operation because no Indian soldier lost his life.”
He reiterated the party’s promise to waive loans of small and marginal farmers and to pay the dues of sugarcane growers within 14 days of coming to power.