The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Sunday came down hard on the Congress for the delay in extending one rank, one pension benefit to ex-servicemen and cautioned them against being “misled” by the Centre.
Addressing a well-attended election rally in this Punjab town, 145 km from the state capital Chandigarh, Modi wondered why it took the UPA almost 10 years to extend the benefit. The decision expected to help around three million retired armed forced personnel was announced in the interim budget on February 17 after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi made a pitch for it.
“The finance minister of the Congress had made one rank, one pension announcement a number of times earlier also. But, they never fulfilled it,” Modi, sporting a saffron turban, said. Punjab has one of the highest numbers of ex-servicemen in the country.
Accusing the Congress of committing fraud, the Gujarat chief minister said the BJP would fulfil the pension demand of the ex-servicemen.
Criticising the Congress and Gandhi for making corruption an election issue, Modi said, “How can they point fingers at others when their own government has seen so many scams?”
“They (Congress) have changed ABCD. It is now A for Adarsh (scam), B for Bofors, C for coal scam,” he said, listing out various scandals.
“When Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister… he said only 15 paise reached village against a rupee sanctioned from Delhi. I want to know which ‘panja’ is robbing the rupee,” the Gujarat strongman said.
If elected PM, he would “sit like a chowkidar (watchman) and ensure that the panja (hand — the Congress symbol)” was kept away from the coffers, Modi said.
In an attempt to reach out to the National Conference (NC), a UPA partner, he counted its leader and union minister Farooq Abdullah among the leaders who taught him governance. “I worked with Bansi Lal, Parkash Singh Badal, Om Prakash Chautala, Farooq Abdullah and I saw how administration is run,” he said. The NC, which runs a coalition government in the neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir with the Congress, was once a part of the BJP-led NDA.
Modi dismissed as “a pack of lies” the reports about his government forcing Sikh farmers out of the Kutch region. The issue has caused a great deal of discomfort to the Shiromani Akali Dal, the BJP’s senior partner in the ruling coalition in Punjab. “No Sikh farmer will be displaced from Kutch and Gujarat,” he said.