Disappointing all those who were expecting him to persist with the controversial twist he had given his election campaign, Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday considerably toned down his rhetoric.
Addressing a host of rallies all day across the state, hopping across by helicopter or travelling by rath from Modasa in the north to Navsari in the south, he never once mentioned Sohrabuddin Sheikh by name.
At Kapadvanj, the only time he came close to his fiery self of the previous two days was when he insisted that Sonia Gandhi’s calling him “a merchant of death” was an insult to all of Gujarat.
At his poll rally in Mangrol on Tuesday, Modi had suggested that Sohrabuddin, who was killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police, deserved what he got since he stocked and sold illegal arms.
It raised a storm of controversy as did Modi’s remark on Wednesday that Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s reference to “Hindu terrorists”
in Gujarat, was an insult to Gujaratis.
Modi’s trademark style of public speaking, in which he asks rhetorical questions of his audience and elicits answers was, however, very much in evidence. But the questions he asked were tame, confining themselves mostly to the development projects he has initiated.
Speaking for about 20-minutes, Modi also noted that the Gujarat Assembly had passed stringent legislation to control organised crime in the state, but the Centre has not ratified it.
He mocked the Congress for finding fault with his development model.
Addressing a modest crowd of about 20,000, Modi claimed his government had done more for development in just five years than the Congress had in 45 years of its rule.
“You weigh the work I have done in five years against that of the Congress in 45 years and only then decide if you want to vote for the BJP,” he said.
“Where is the work that the Congress has done?” Modi asked.
“Has Modi uprooted or removed the roads, schools and hospitals the Congress rulers built in its 45 years of rule?" He implied that not much was to be seen because the Congress had not done much work in the first place.
Lampooning the Congress’s ‘Chak de Gujarat’ slogan, Modi said, the term ‘Chak de’ was to encourage those trying to push-start vehicles which would not move.
“The Congress is a bus without a driver, which no one wants to board,” he said. The reference was to the Congress’s unwillingness to name a chief minister in waiting before the polls.
In neighbouring Kathlal, his next stop, Modi made a very brief eight minute speech, which echoed much of what he had said at Kapadvanj. He noted that the Narmada dam had done wonders for the region.