Positioning himself as a national leader ready for a bigger role, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched an all-out attack on the Gandhi family and the Congress, asking BJP cadres to launch a "second freedom struggle” to overthrow the party that was “destroying the country like a termite”.'
With the possibility of the BJP naming him prime ministerial candidate growing, Modi stuck to the script — rousing oratory with a dash of hyperbole — as he spoke for more than an hour on the concluding day of the BJP’s three-day conclave here on Sunday.
The way ahead, he said, was for the BJP to become the alternative. “Whether we move forward or not, the nation is already on the move. It has decided to throw the Congress out,” he said.
The rhetoric was shrill as Modi sought to address the party cadres, who have been calling for him to lead the BJP into 2014 polls. “The Congress is destroying this country like termites… The only medicine for this ailment is sweat of the BJP worker.”
Accusing him of being “abusive and indecent”, the Congress said Modi didn’t have the makings of a national leader. “The kind of language that Narendra Modi ji used today does not behove any leader of national stature. I think he is yet not capable of attaining the stature of a national leader,” union minister Rajiv Shukla said.
Former Congress minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, however, matched Modi word for word. “He is a poisonous snake, a scorpion. If he criticises us, it is like a compliment.”
Comparing the 'task' of overthrowing the Congress to a second freedom struggle, Modi said while the first brought Swaraj (self-rule), the second would bring Suraaj (good governance). The Congress, he said, was “a party of commission” and the BJP “a party with mission”.
He accused the Gandhi family of putting “interests” of its members above national interests and referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- without naming him -- as a “night watchman” keeping the seat warm for the “the family”.
Many see Modi's thrust on “leadership” as an oblique attempt to pitch himself as a better leader. Modi praised President Pranab Mukherjee, saying he wasn't made the PM because “the family” did not want anyone competent at the helm.
“No night watchman can play for nine years. I think he (Modi) should first learn the definition of night watchman,” retorted Shukla.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi reminded the BJP that Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister of the country and not that of the Congress.