Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored his government’s corruption-free image to take on the scam-stung Trinamool Congress in poll-bound West Bengal on Sunday, urging voters to give the BJP a chance.
In his first election rally in Bengal as Prime Minister, he promised to build a new Bengal and peppered his 47-minute speech with uncomfortable topics for the ruling Trinamool, such as the Narada bribery sting, Saradha deposit scam and illegal arms factories.
“The entire leadership is accepting loads of cash in front of the camera. It’s your money that has been looted. Did you vote for this poriborton (change, the Trinamool’s 2011 poll catchphrase)?” he asked, referring to the narada.com’s sting.
Thirteen Trinamool leaders — MLAs, ministers and MPs — were shown taking money from a fictitious company in the Narada sting.
“We have been running the government in Delhi for two years. Did you see any taint?” Modi asked again.
The Prime Minister’s speech, interrupted briefly at the muezzin’s call to prayer at 6pm, was peppered with rhetoric, jibes, and an occasional pause for audience reaction.
A clandestine bomb and firearm industry has mushroomed in Bengal, he alleged. “But the government of this state doesn’t consider it a problem at all. Your lives are not safe in the hands of this government,” he warned.
“Give me a chance and I will build a Bengal. Forty years have been lost. I am a person who works for change ... Bengal has to be saved.”
Modi offered a three-point agenda: development, fast development and widespread development.
“Give us an opportunity to serve Bengal and Assam, and see where we take you,” he said.
He criticised chief minister Mamata Banerjee for taking credit for central schemes.
Modi didn’t spare the Congress and Left either, saying their strategy of fighting in Kerala and striking an alliance in Bengal is a direct insult to the intelligence of Bengalis.
“Kerala me kusti, Bengal me dosti … None can insult the intelligence of Bengalis. If anybody does it, Bengalis don’t forgive them.”
He told the 40,000-strong rally crowd that the ruling party has dashed the hopes and dreams of millions.
“Five years ago, I had the fond hope that the state will emerge from the darkness of 34 years (of communist rule). But in the past five years, the state has been undone,” Modi said. “No other state has witnessed such a ruin.”
The Prime Minister’s choice of Kharagpur for his maiden rally was significant as this railway township about 100km west of Kolkata offers one of the most intriguing battles this election.
The incumbent is 92-year old Gyan Singh Sohanpal of Congress, who not only enjoys the support of the Left but is also a giant in his own right having won from this constituency 10 times since 1969 with a lone defeat in 1977.
The BJP state president, Dilip Ghosh, a hardliner with an RSS background, faces an uphill task against Sohanpal, who is fondly known as Chacha, and the Trinamool Congress candidate Ramaprasad Tiwari.