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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

‘India First’ is Modi’s definition of secularism

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times  Washington, March 10, 2013
First Published: 07:52 IST(10/3/2013) | Last Updated: 09:43 IST(11/3/2013)

Snubbed by Wharton for his alleged role in the 2002 riots, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Sunday not only addressed Indian-Americans through a video call but also came up with his definition of secularism: “India First”.

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“I have a very simple definition of secularism: India First. In whatever we do or decide India must get priority,” said Modi. The chief minister took to his favourite theme —  development — to drive home the point. “When we get a mandate of five years, we must work on that and serve people selflessly. If we do that then people will forgive our mistakes as well,” said Modi, without referring to the 2002 communal violence.

The Gujarat strongman, who is positioning himself as a national leader and BJP's prime ministerial candidate for 2014, seems to have found his poll slogan — “Ek Bharat, Shereshth Bharat (One India, Best India)”.

"Nothing less than India's wellbeing should be our goal and if this happens, secularism will automatically run in our blood.”

The address was organised by the Overseas Friends of BJP and viewed live in New Jersey and Chicago, US states with significant presence of Indian-Americans.

It gave Modi the chance to speak to Indian-Americans after Wharton India Economic Forum suddenly withdrew its invitation to him to address its annual conference on India after a "furious" protest by some faculty members and students. The US continues to deny him visa over the riots though EU countries have re-engaged with him after a 10-year boycott.

The event was planned much before Wharton withdrew the invite.

Gujarat was showing the way to the rest of the country by making development an election issue. The 2012 election verdict, he said, was a victory for development.

Switching to English sometimes in his 50-minute speech, he said India could become a world leader with confidence in its abilities. "We can and we will," he said.


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