Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday blew his party’s poll bugle in the Capital with oblique potshots at Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, asking him to join the Maoists if he wants to be an “anarchist”.
Kejriwal called himself an anarchist about a year ago and Modi took it as the keyword to attack him without taking his name during his 30-minute maiden poll address in Delhi as Prime Minister.
“Have you ever seen a political leader calling himself an anarchist? If so, join the Naxals. Naxalism cannot be brought to Delhi. Delhi can’t be surrendered to anarchy,” Modi said.Voters should punish him for "wasting" a year, he told a crowd of over 45,000 at Ramlila Maidan, referring to the Central rule in Delhi since the Kejriwal government quit last February after 49 days in power.
His outright attack on the AAP put the spotlight back on Kejriwal who immediately seized the opportunity to pitch his party as the BJP’s main rival this election. Modi holding fire on the Congress, which had ruled Delhi for three consecutive terms till 2013, only helped his cause.
Modi dished out a pack of promises but made no big-ticket announcements for Delhi, such as granting statehood to the Capital which he had pledged earlier. He promised uninterrupted electricity but said nothing on power subsidy.
His speech, though punchy when he was firing away at Kejriwal, lacked the characteristic fire and brimstone associated with his rhetoric.
“The nation’s mood is Delhi’s mood,” he said, presenting his party as the frontrunner with the new BJP chief ministers of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand in attendance.
He showcased his flagship Jan Dhan Yojana in which zero-balance bank accounts are being opened for the poor as proof of his party’s pro-poor credentials, saying the government had already reached 11 crore families, including more than 19 lakh in Delhi.
"Is it pro-poor of not? Will it not reassure those who sleep in jhuggis and on footpaths?” Modi asked. “I had said on Day 1 that this government is committed to the poor.”
The only attack on the Congress was the one on Indira Gandhi’s leftward turn in 1969, with Modi saying nationalisation of banks led to corruption rather than reaching the poor.
Modi defended his market-friendly policies vis-à-vis Kejriwal’s redistributive economic pitch.
“We have brought a new politics of Vikas-waad (development-ism) that is above regionalism, casteism and communalism,” he said.
Amit Shah, whom Modi extolled as the most successful BJP chief, sought to defend the government on the black money issue: “In two months, we gave black money account details to the SIT. It’s a complex issue India alone can’t solve. International laws come in the way.”
The turnout at Ramlila Maidan was much lower than his huge 2013 rally at Japanese Park.