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New Modi: No Hindutva

PTI | By, Lucknow
May 04, 2004 11:22 AM IST

What works in Gujarat doesn't work in UP. Modi's campaign in UP presented a mellowed image.

What works in Gujarat doesn't necessarily work in Uttar Pradesh. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi began campaigning in UP on Monday, presenting a much mellowed image. Steering clear of a hardline Hindutva pitch, Modi said in Lucknow that he was appealing to 100 crore Indians and not one section of the people.

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In Lakhimpur Kheri, Modi campaigned for Vinay Katiyar, the BJP state president and former Bajrang Dal chief. Katiyar, a key player in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, was shifted out of the Faizabad constituency, of which Ayodhya is a part. But Modi's campaign in Lakhimpur avoided a sectarian angle. Sources said Modi, a backward-caste leader, was called in to campaign for Katiyar to consolidate the backward-caste Kurmi vote.

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Katiyar, sources said, was finding the going tough, like other Ram Janmabhoomi leaders and the party was trying hard to play down the Ayodhya issue.

Modi tried to bolster the BJP's attempts to win over the Muslims. While underlining the need for a debate on contentious issues like Hindutva, he said he had only talked about swabhiman (self-respect) during the campaign for the Gujarat assembly elections in 2002 and denied having pursued a discreet Hindutva agenda.

In trying to win over the Muslims, Modi also avoided attacking 'Mian Musharraf', which he customarily does. This is obviously a concession to Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's Himayati campaigners, who, in their effort to mobilise Muslims for the BJP, have been putting up billboards showing the prime minister shaking hands with the Pakistani president.

Modi focussed his campaign on attacking the Congress, accusing it of performing poorly during its long tenure at the Centre. He said that people now had the opportunity of distinguishing between good and bad governance.

In Hardoi, Modi targetted the backward caste and Dalit vote-bank of the SP and BSP. He accused them of hindering development. Modi also said they were mercenary: "After the elections, these regional parties will enter the political market and sell their seats."

(With AS Gaur, Hardoi and DK Pandey, Lakhimpur Kheri)

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