Making a scathing attack on the Congress, Gujarat chief minister and firebrand BJP leader Narendra Modi on Monday accused the party of institutionalising corruption.
"Instead of taking action against corrupt leaders, the Congress is rewarding them," Modi said during election rallies at Una, Mandi and Kangra ahead of the November 4 assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh.
Taking potshots at union external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, Modi accused him of appropriating money meant for the handicapped through his non-governmental organisation. Modi stated that despite protests against Khurshid outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence, the latter had not even bothered to question the minister or seek an explanation. Instead, Khurshid was rewarded with a promotion in the cabinet, the Gujarat CM said.
Taking a dig at former union minister Virbhadra Singh, Modi said the person who was asked to resign from the cabinet after the framing of charges in a criminal case by the Himachal high court had been made the state Congress chief within a week.
"His (Virbhadra's) name figures as a beneficiary of Rs 2.28 crore in a diary seized by tax officials from a steel firm," Modi said, adding that "all this makes it amply clear that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is insensitive to corruption by its ministers and leaders."
Not even sparing the PM, Modi dubbed him 'Maun Mohan Singh' ('Maun' means silent in Hindi). "Aaj ki sabse badi khabar hai ki 'Maun Mohan Singh' ne apna maun tod diya (Today's biggest news is that 'Maun Mohan' Singh broke his silence)," referring to the PM's speech during a Congress rally at Una on Sunday.
Commenting on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh's public meetings in the hill state during campaigning, Modi said the UPA had meted out step-motherly treatment to Himachal Pradesh and hence had no right to seek votes here. He said both leaders, during their election speeches, had failed to talk about inflation and the scams involving UPA leaders.
On Sonia and Manmohan's claims that the UPA government had extended economic assistance to Himachal Pradesh to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore, Modi said people of the state, like those of other states, had a right to central funds. "Sonia hadn't brought this public money from her 'maika' (maternal house). It is the hard-earned money of people of the state and they deserve it," he said.
In a veiled attack on union minister Shashi Tharoor, Modi said, "Have you heard of a Rs 50-crore girlfriend? An MP was in the dock recently over Rs 50 crore lying in a woman's account. In Parliament, the MP denied knowing the woman, but a month later, he was distributing cards all over Delhi announcing his marriage with her." The BJP leader said the Prime Minister had also rewarded this MP by re-inducting him as a minister.
The BJP leader said the acclaimed 'Gujarat development model' was possible only because the government there was stable. He called upon the people of Himachal Pradesh to repeat the BJP government here since long-term planning for development could only be successful if a regime got three or four terms.
Wielding an induction plate, Modi told women voters that with LPG cylinders rationed, they would have to buy additional cylinders at exorbitant rates or burn fuel wood. He promised that the BJP, if voted to power again, would give free induction plates to every household. 'The stove will be smokeless and cost much less than LPG," he said.
Modi said chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had done a wonderful job by promising free chulhas (gas ovens) to the people. "This chulha will burn the Congress to ashes," he added.