Eyes firmly on assembly elections coming up in four key states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday promised to protect the interests of the poor and fulfil the aspirations of the people even as he launched a veiled attack on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Without naming Gandhi — who last week led the Opposition in Lok Sabha in seeking a debate on communal violence and complained that the only person being heard was Modi — the PM said the Congress was still playing vote-bank politics despite being decimated in the general elections.
“They are still trying old tactics of disturbing social harmony. Our workers have a special responsibility to keep society united,” he said, addressing the BJP’s national council meeting.
“Those who have not done anything for 60 years are asking for our account of 60 days,” he added in another dig.
Gandhi had also said, in an interview to the Indian Express, that communal clashes in UP were part of a deliberate strategy to “divide the poor and pit brother against brother”.
Hailing the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls, Modi praised home minister Rajnath Singh as the “captain” of the team that led the party to power and declared party president Amit Shah the “man of the match”.
Shah, in his pep talk to party leaders, said returning to power in Maharashtra, Haryana, J&K and Jharkhand was the BJP’s “foremost commitment”. Once again calling for a “Congress-free” India, he said, “For long, Congress ‘vichar’ (thought) has been pre-dominant. Now it is time to ensure our vichar has an imprint on the nation’s politics.”
Modi, who swept to power in May on the promise of ushering in achhe din (good days), admitted it was time for his government to deliver. “People have set higher standards of scrutiny for me. But I accept the challenge. I am pretty confident after spending 60 days in government that things can change.”
The PM also spoke of India’s tough stand on food security that led to a breakdown of the WTO negotiations last month.
“There is an attempt by the international community to isolate us. Should we bother about roti on the plates of farmers and the poor or praises in the Western media? Between the two, we chose the former,” he said.
With the primary focus of the conclave being the upcoming polls, both Modi and Shah spoke in detail about building the party structure, even in areas where it is traditionally weak. The PM insisted on “horizontal expansion” of the party and “vertical growth” of workers to. “We cannot do with one PM for the country. We need a PM (primary member) in every booth,” he said.
Shah, credited with the BJP’s stunning victory in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, said his experiment in the country’s most populous state needed to be replicated elsewhere.
He asked party leaders to set up online membership booths in colleges and universities and warned that they must not be complacent after victory.
The PM suggested the party take up apolitical programmes every year to champion causes such as energy conservation and education of the girl child, which would help the party connect with the people.
Read: Modi praises Amit Shah, calls him man of the match in LS polls