Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed his first election rallies in Gujarat on Friday, lashing out at the BJP government for subverting the rule of law in the state to carry out its communal agenda and misleading the masses through hollow propaganda about the state’s so-called ‘development’.
Singh did not mention Chief Minister Narendra Modi even once. His trenchant comments were all directed at the ‘BJP government’. Speaking in Hindi, Singh said that the government, in the name of fighting terrorism, was tacitly persecuting those who opposed it.
“Only those who are on the government’s side in Gujarat are protected by the state,” said Singh, speaking softly, but firmly. “The fate of anyone who speaks against it is uncertain.”
Singh addressed two rallies, the first at Surat and the second at Rajkot, making near-identical speeches at both.
Referring to the fake encounter case involving Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Singh said people were being randomly murdered in Gujarat. “Is this the way the law should function? Are we trying to abolish legal rights from the country?” he asked.
Such unlawful means could never accomplish the end of providing security. “By doing such things, have we been able to prevent the attacks on Akshardham and Raghunath temples? Or the Kargil invasion?” Singh asked. “In my opinion, this is just an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear in the state.”
Despite the public meetings being held in urban areas, Singh attracted a crowd of barely a few thousands in both places. But his speeches drew much applause. “He is always sober and thoughtful,” said 24-year-old Ketan, hearing him for the first time. An elderly Kikubhai Desai, retired government servant, said that he hoped the PM's speech would strengthen the Congress' chance in the polls.
At an interaction with the media later, Singh again referred to Modi’s comment on the Sohrabuddin case and said some people were deviating from the established norms of democracy, which entails not raking up a case, which has yet to be decided by the court.
When asked about reopening investigations in the Godhra incident, Singh said the Congress, if it comes to power in the state, would try to restore people’s confidence in the rule of law.
Singh echoed Sonia Gandhi in saying that the BJP was weaving a web of lies and misinformation to give the people of Gujarat the impression that the state had seen remarkable development.
“Development cannot be seen and heard on television and radio; it needs to be seen with your own eyes. The state government talks about big dreams and big schemes. But clearly there is no intent to implement the schemes,”he said.
Singh dismissed Modi's allegation that the Centre was biased against opposition ruled states like Gujarat. The Centre had given maximum aid to states that are not ruled by the Congress like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, he said.
(with inputs from Haresh Pandya in Rajkot)