What was planned as a celebration of the BJP’s foundation day turned into the Narendra Modi show on Saturday as the Gujarat chief minister continued his high-voltage march towards 2014.
Making his first public address after his induction into the party’s powerful parliamentary board on Monday, he hit out at the Congress-led UPA government and at Rahul Gandhi — seen by many as his rival in the race to be prime minister after the general elections.
“It pained me when I heard one Congress leader’s speech calling India a beehive. For them, this nation could be a beehive but for us, this nation is our mother. This India is my mother,” Modi said, an obvious reference to the Congress vice-president’s speech to business leaders two days ago.
Accusing the Centre of “harassing BJP governments by using constitutional authorities like the CBI and governor”, he said the people would give a “befitting reply to the Congress”.
“We will not bow down to the threats of the CBI or the governor,” he told the 50,000 BJP workers gathered at the Sardar Patel stadium.
The function seemed to be a show of strength by Modi as national BJP president Rajnath Singh was the only invitee and the CM’s presence overshadowed everything. It came two days after he dropped the strongest indication yet of his PM ambitions, when he said he had served Gujarat and it was now time to "repay his debt to the nation".
Singh addressed the gathering before Modi and hailed him as the "most popular leader in the country" whose government is admired globally for development. "My heart hurts when such a CM is called ‘maut ka saudagar’, but I congratulate the people of Gujarat for giving a suitable reply to such remarks."
Earlier, asked if he and Modi made a formidable pair in the BJP, Singh said, "It is an outlook. I won’t reject or endorse it. We have been together. We will be together. The entire party is united."