Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime minister nominee Narendra Modi on Sunday came down heavily on the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), saying they are talking about secularism ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in a bid to mislead people and reap political dividend.
Addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh's capital Lucknow, Modi also said there was a "saffron wave" in the state and a "tsunami" would wipe out the SP, Mayawati's BSP and the Congress after the polls. The Gujarat chief minister added eight successive BJP rallies in UP had received an overwhelming response.
There is a talk that Modi might contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from a key segment in UP. Besides, an opinion poll conducted by ABP News-Nielson recently had predicted the saffron party could win 40 of the 80 seats in the state.
Shortly after being attacked by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav at a rally in Allahabad over the 2002 Gujarat riots, Modi put emphasis on secularism and said some political parties were "misleading the people by wearing the veil of secularism to hide their failures".
"Though heat of elections is yet to be felt, there is a wave in favour of the BJP due to which there will be a complete rout (of the SP, BSP and the Congress).
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"For them, secularism is all about vote bank. Secularism is article of faith for us. It is to unite people and carry out development... For them, it is a tool to grab power and an election slogan," Modi said.
He accepted the SP chief's challenge to compete on the development front after Mulayam accused the saffron party of exaggerating Gujarat's development story.
The BJP's PM candidate hit back, blaming the ruling SP for deteriorating law and order, and failing to protect women. Modi said "netaji" had conceded defeat in UP. However, he did not name Mulayam.
"There have been 150 riots during this SP government's rule in the past one year. In Gujarat, no case of riot has been reported in the past 10 years. Not even a curfew has been clamped.
"Netaji has accepted defeat. I have been telling the leaders of this country to discuss politics of development. Now, netaji is talking about development. This is our victory," Modi said.
While Mulayam reached out to Muslims, who make up 20% of the population in UP and also have 17% vote share, at his rally on a power-packed Sunday, Modi said members of the minority community in Gujarat were better off than their counterparts in UP.
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"When I took over as the chief minister, the kite industry in Gujarat was worth Rs. 35-40 crore. The industry is a source of livelihood for many Muslim families. Now, the industry is worth Rs. 500 crore," Modi said, around a week after BJP president Rajnath Singh wooed the minorities and said the party was ready apologise for "any mistake and shortcoming".
Modi also listed out Gujarat's achievements to counter Mulayam's claim that "there is nothing (in Gujarat)" and slammed the SP government over poor power supply and "hooliganism".
"He is spreading lies about Gujarat....He should first visit Gujarat and see that electricity is available there 24 hours, 365 days... In UP, there is reservation as far as distribution of electricity is concerned. Areas of netaji are getting power, while other places are deprived.
"The politics of hooliganism will not be tolerated anymore....These misdeeds say everything and I do not need to elaborate," Modi said.
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The BJP's PM candidate also raked up the issue of deaths at relief camps for people affected in the Muzaffarnagar riots in western UP last year. The government led by the SP chief's son Akhilesh Yadav has drawn flak, including that from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, for failing to carry out speedy rehabilitation of people at the camps.
Training guns on the Congress, Modi accused a minister from UP of being involved in the coal scam. The reference to Union coal minister and Kanpur parliamentarian Sriprakash Jaiswal was unmistakable.
He also mocked Azam Khan without naming the SP strongman. Seven buffaloes owned by Khan were stolen and recovered by the police recently. "I thought they would say secularism was under attack," Modi ridiculed.
(With PTI inputs)