Two independence day speeches in totally contrasting styles set the tone for next year’s general elections on Thursday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said under his leadership the country has witnessed major positive changes during the last decade.
The BJP’s unofficial prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, however, started a new trend and launched a direct attack on Singh, during his address at Bhuj.
In his prepared speech, Singh held out a fresh ray of hope for the economy and wrapped up his address calling for “an environment of political stability, social cohesion and security”.
He said the country was within striking distance of getting rid of poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance.
“If in the future we can achieve the same kind of progress as in the last decade, the day is not far off when India will be rid of poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance,” Singh said.
Barely an hour after Singh had finished one of his shortest speeches from the ramparts of the Red Fort, an aggressive Modi took him on, rattling even his own party leadership in the capital.
Modi’s unconventional move earned his an indirect rebuke from the BJP patriarch LK Advani.
“Today is Independence Day. Without criticising one another, people should be aware on this day that India has unlimited possibilities,” he said.
The Congress rallied behind the Prime Minister and hit out at Modi for politicising the independence day address “for the first time in country’s history.”
The food security bill, described by the UPA government as a gamechanger, was specifically chosen by Modi to attack the government. In his address, the Prime Minister termed it as the “largest effort of its kind” in the world.
“Under the food security law, about 81 crore Indians would be entitled to receive rice at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and coarse grains at Rupee 1 per kg,” Singh said.
Modi countered this saying he was not against the bill, but there were many faults in it, which the Prime Minister did not discuss with states.
“Instead of serving food in poor people's plate this government is sprinkling salt, serving acid to poor people's food plate. Food Security Bill fails to increase the number of people who will benefit, it fails to increase quantity of food and it fails to cut the price of food,” Modi said.
On his part, Singh seemed to target Modi without taking his name. “There can be no place for narrow and sectarian ideologies in a modern, progressive and secular country. Such ideologies divide out society and weaken our democracy,” the Prime Minister said.
Ongoing tension along the Line of Control was another point on which Modi attacked the Prime Minister.
Singh, in his address, cautioned Islamabad that Pakistan would have to prevent anti-India activity in territory under its control for relations between the two countries to improve.
Modi slammed the government’s policy towards Pakistan. “The President has expressed his concern on the issue of killing of five of our soldiers. I had expected Prime Minister will raise the same concerns, but he has failed to talk tough,” he said.