Hours after his elevation as the BJP’s central campaign committee chairman, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addressed a convention of Goa party workers, positioning himself as the BJP’s future prime ministerial candidate. And Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley showered praise on him, virtually presenting his prime ministerial candidature as a certainty.
In his 50-minute speech, Modi, clad in a white kurta-pyjama, attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA government, saying they couldn’t inspire faith and projected himself as a leader who could do much better.
He further compared Gujarat’s development under him to China’s.
He attacked the UPA over policy paralysis, saying power plants didn’t have coal as government didn’t take decisions, internal security and lack of credibility.
He also mocked law minister Kapil Sibal, saying a lawyer-politician was unaware that sports was a state subject when he said the centre would make a law to curb match-fixing.
But there were other themes too - an attempt to reach out to BJP activists as the 'Karyakarta' who had finally made it big, and making an oblique gesture towards LK Advani.
“My seniors have moulded me, guided me and held my finger to teach me. They have invested their energies and time in me, more than their investment in their own children,” he said, which many saw as an oblique reference to Advani. The target, however, seemed to be the goodwill of party workers.
“Well begun is half won,” he told activists, saying he too had been one. “Investing all our energy is our sanskar. Lakhs of party workers have a right on my abilities,” he said.
He said that Goa had been lucky for him in 2002 – when he was allowed to continue as Gujarat chief minister after the riots, leading to the state’s “development” – and hoped it would be lucky this time too.
Modi dealt at length with his recent interventions at the recent chief ministers’ meet on internal security in Delhi, taking personal digs at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and projecting himself as a man having greater credibility in solving issues.
He recalled how he had mentioned to the Prime Minister that there have been instances where members of the NAC and Planning Commission had been accused of Maoist links, adding it was impossible for the government to solve the problem in such a situation.
“The Prime Minister doesn’t move. He looks straight and still. He wasn’t even moving, but stirred when I told him that not just madam but you were also doing the same.”
Modi attacked the NAC as a sign that the PM wasn’t in power, and a body had been thrust over the Planning Commission the PM headed.
“They respected a body headed by the PM acting as a bridge with the states. They placed an NAC over it with Madam as chairperson,” Modi said as the audience applauded.
He accused the Congress of being against the federal structure, and setting CBI against state governments formed by other parties.
Modi obliquely attacked the Congress’ Bharat Nirman media campaign, saying, “Listen carefully. And you’ll hear Bharat Nirman pe haq hai mera (my right to Bharat Nirman) as ‘shak’ hai mera (I have suspicion on Bharat Nirman campaign).”
He then gave a similar sounding slogan to the BJP workers: “Congress mukt Bharat nirman (Congress-free development of India).”
Dramatically speaking before Modi - despite Modi’s name being announced - to make the point that justice demanded that the most popular leader speaks last, Rajnath Singh told the delegates “we have given you a strong leadership”.
Arun Jaitley’s indication was even clearer.
Congratulating Rajnath Singh for giving a face (Modi) to the sentiments of crores of Indians, Jaitley said, “The office of the Prime Minister has become a target of humour, jokes and sarcasm. The Congress has given post but not power to the PM. He’s neither leader of the country nor party. So a strong (damdaar) leadership is required.”