On a day when he shared a political stage with Telagu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu – who had parted with the BJP nine years back – the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi spoke at length on secularism, an issue on which he is considered to be on a weak wicket because of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Naidu had met BJP chief Rajnath Singh recently, leading to intense buzz that the BJP and TDP may join hands. Even if the TDP isnt really a force today, an alliance can be a symbolic gain for Modi while giving Naidu a chance of clawing back in Andhra Pradesh.
“My image is that of Hindutva, but I’ll tell you my real thinking. I have said in my state: pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya (toilets first, temples later),” Modi said, insisting that governance issues like sanitation were his priority.
“Every village has temples, but no toilets.” He reiterated that his approach to secularism was “India first”, “no vote-bank politics”, “justice for all and appeasement for none”.
“For some, secularism is just a weapon to deceive the public. But people have recognised those who deceive them. The PM should realise these statements of the 1980s won’t work today,” Modi said, apparently referring to the Prime Minister's call for secular forces to unite against him.
While Naidu wasn’t seen with Modi on stage when the latter spoke in the evening, the two had shared the dais earlier in the day, with Naidu praising the NDA regime from 1998 to 2004 and hitting out at the UPA for corruption, economic downturn and inflation. He also praised Modi for his work in Gujarat.
Meanwhile, speaking at a BJP youth wing function, senior party leader Arun Jaitley called for all parties against corruption to join hands with the BJP.
"Those who go with the Congress will sink with a party that is going down," he said, taking a dig at the Prime Minister for calling upon secular forces to unite against Narendra Modi.
Naidu showered praise on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 1998 to 2004 for developing infrastructure – be it rural roads or the Golden Quadrilateral aimed at covering the country – and for creation of 6 million jobs, which, he said, had come down to “zero” under the UPA.
Even as he welcomed the Supreme Court verdict automatically disqualifying a convicted legislator, Naidu hit out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his “drama” on the issue. “Rahul Gandhi was aware of everything. Today he is finding fault with the Prime Minister ... The Prime Minister has also become a tool in the hands of Sonia Gandhi,” he said.