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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Modi's attack on PM on I-day leaves some BJP leaders squirming

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 15, 2013
First Published: 15:36 IST(15/8/2013) | Last Updated: 20:50 IST(15/8/2013)

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's unconventional attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Independence Day has left some BJP leaders squirming.

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But his loyalists see a distinct strategy in breaking some unwritten political norms -- to catch people's attention and their minds ahead of the next elections.

True, no politician before Modi has ever chosen such an occasion to launch a direct attack on any prime minister, preferring to leave his or her audience to read in-between lines -- just as the PM did from the Red Fort, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in Patna, or Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah did from Srinagar on Thursday.

Reflecting the mood of some BJP leaders opposed to him, Modi's approach saw an indirect rebuke from his own party's senior-most leader LK Advani.  "Today is Independence Day. Without criticising one another, people should be aware on this day that India has unlimited possibilities,” Advani was quoted as saying by TV channels.

Other BJP leaders, who are not too comfortable with Modi's ascent, privately echoed what many Congress leaders like external affairs Salman Khurshid said. These BJP leaders agreed with Khurshid’s comment that "targeting the PM on a day when he is speaking for the unity and integrity of the country is not appropriate."

But, countering this view, a senior BJP leader, who is very close to Modi, recalled the convention in the US where its President's State of Union address every January is countered by his political rivals immediately with equal vigour.

Some BJP leaders said, by now, it was clear that Modi would dare to be unconventional to convey his message that, as "rank outsider to the comfortable Delhi politics” he would use "shock and awe" approach. He had given notice a day earlier that he'd do so.

Modi wants to show he is determined to bring the desired change in India if he is given a chance though he is yet to be declared the PM candidate, a BJP leader added. 'Power is meant to deliver governance and efficiency in the system. That’s Modi’s loud message."

Also, Modi does not believe in pretensions--trying to show disinterest while secretly nurturing a big ambition, said a key BJP strategist. "You get, what he actually is-- a straightforward, no-nonsense leader. Some may think he is arrogant but he does not want to use humility as a weapon."

Modi nurtures the belief that, ultimately, the Indian elections would have to be styled on the American model where personalities present alternative governance models before voters, said another BJP leader. Hence, Modi's constant barb at the PM to take his challenge for a debate, he added.

Modi's loyalists said even Dr Singh may not have named Modi his address but it was clear who he meant when he asked people and political parties to prevent "narrow and sectarian ideologies" from growing. The Congress always accuses Modi of being divisive and questions his secular credentials.

Similarly, Nitish Kumar, in his address, harped on his "inclusive approach" as opposed to what he considers Modi's "exclusivist" methods.  J&K CM Omar Abdullah used his I-Day speech to attack the BJP for fanning communal clashes in Kishtwar, they said.

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