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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Modi asks people to choose ‘majboot’ government, says Grand Alliance a failed experiment

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Jan 12, 2019 22:58 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives speech at BJP National Executive Meet, at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Saturday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives speech at BJP National Executive Meet, at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Saturday.(ANI Photo)

The choice in the 2019 Parliamentary elections will be between those who believe in the sultanate and those that repose faith in the Constitution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said to a crowd of around 10,000 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers at the party’s national council meeting on Saturday, as he sought the support of voters for a second term in office.

Modi asked people to choose their “pradhan sevak” (prime worker), as he refers to himself, and hoped the country would prefer a “majboot” (strong) government over a “majboor” (helpless) regime of political parties that are seeking to unite because of their fear of him.

The BJP’s national council meeting, on Friday and Saturday, was the party’s first major preparatory event this year for the Lok Sabha polls, although Modi has already started his campaign. HT reported on December 31 that starting December, Modi would address 100 rallies in three months as part of the BJP’s preparation for the polls. The national council meeting saw the party put forth three resolutions: one on agriculture, the second on pro-poor schemes; and the third on the political situation in the country.

The party believes these will be big issues in the coming parliamentary elections. Analysts and some members of the party say the Ram temple issue, currently before the courts, could be one too. Modi accused the Congress of creating hurdles in finding a solution to the issue of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Modi also sought to dismiss criticism over his government’s record on agriculture, and said it was trying to find a long-term solution to the problem in the agrarian sector – and not go for populist short-term policy making. The crisis in the farm sector is because of neglect of agriculture over several decades, he added.

“Do you need a servant who will work for 18 hours or someone who goes on a vacation for two to three months without disclosing the location,” Modi said, taking a dig at Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

The prime minister sought to dismiss criticism about centralisation of power in the BJP even as he downplayed his own abilities to make things work in the elections. The party has a “collective leadership”, he said, and while it sounds good when people say Modi will change the situation at the last minute, “the worker in the (poll) booth is like that farmer who has to plough the field for a good harvest. Without him, a good rainfall or good quality seeds can’t ensure a bumper harvest.”

In a more than hour-long speech at the Ramlila grounds in central Delhi, Modi tried to draw a distinction between his party and the opposition, mainly the Congress, referring to the two as “we and us” and “they and them” respectively. They stand for corruption, he explained. “We stand for work and inclusion”.

They want a “majboor sarkar”, he added, so that they can indulge corruption and further their vested interests, and a “failed idea” (of a coalition) has been revived again in the name of a grand alliance.

His remarks came shortly after the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party – two arch rivals in Uttar Pradesh – joined hands for the April-May parliamentary election.

Sidharth Mishra, president of the Centre for Reforms, Development and Justice, said the “majboot” versus “majboor” narrative was to discount the signs of revival of the Congress, which recently wrested power from the BJP in three Hindi heartland states.

“No alliance will be credible without the Congress, and the BJP knows this well. The whole narrative that is being built around the opposition alliance is also to deny the fact that the Congress was on a path of revival and it will be the principal challenge to the BJP in the next parliamentary election,” Mishra said.

Modi said India would have been different had Congress leader Sardar Patel been the prime minister after independence, or the BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee returned to power in 2004. After the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance suffered a loss in 2004, a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government ruled India for 10 years. Modi said this was a lost decade. “Ten years were wasted. We inherited in 2014 a country that was in poor shape. The foundation is strong now. Imagine the pace with which we can transform this country again after returning to power,” he told the crowd.

The Prime Minister also pitched his government’s corruption-free record. There isn’t a single taint on the government, he said. It has been established, he added, that a government can function without indulging in scams and brokers can be removed from corridors of power.

Modi is facing heat from Congress president Rahul Gandhi for alleged irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jet, and the prime minister sought to dismiss the charges, saying some people refuse to understand an issue that even a less educated person would understand easily. “You can wake up a person from sleep,” Modi said. “But, you can’t wake up a person who is pretending to sleep.”

Modi also sought to link Christian Michel, the middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, with Rafale. He said a middleman (he didn’t refer to Michel by name) in a helicopter deal currently being investigated by agencies had revealed several things and it now transpires that his role was not limited to helicopters, and he was lobbying for a different company in the purchase of fighter jets, something which led to delay in their purchase under the UPA.

“Now you know why the Congress is sending lawyers to protect this middleman,” Modi said, referring to the fact that Michel’s lawyer was a Congress member who quit the party after the connection was pointed out. “This chowkidar will not sleep…he will not spare any thief, whether in India or abroad.” Modi often calls himself as chowkidar (watchman) who is protecting public money, and Gandhi has tried to turn tables on him with his “Chowkidar hi chor hai” (watchman is the thief) jibe over the Rafale controversy.

Amidst a raging controversy over appointments in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the functioning of institutions, the prime minister said he was subjected to a nine-hour grilling by the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) in the Gujarat riots case, and added that he has always believed in the Constitution and the power of truth. He said the UPA used all agencies against him, but that he retained his faith in the process of law.

“Compare this with the Congress, whose first family treats itself like a royal family and refuses to acknowledge the authority of any institution,” Modi said, referring to the National Herald case in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are involved.

Modi said that despite being harassed for 12 years by the UPA when he was Gujarat CM, he didn’t ban the entry of the CBI in his state, and pointed out that now, some opposition-ruled states do not want the agency to probe any cases in their territories. Chhattisgarh became the third state, after Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, to withdraw this week its consent to CBI to probe cases in its territory. “What do they fear?” Modi asked.

“For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s history started from May 2014,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said of Modi’s speech .” He is spreading a blatant lie that India’s progress started only after May 2014. Ironically, today, he has not used the term acche din. He also didn’t speak about demonetisation for even once. Why did he not talk about demonetisation, your biggest achievement? People want to know why farmers are suffering, why Indian farmers are not getting their due.”

Tewari also added that if Modi was indeed so respectful of institutions,he “should explain why two Reserve Bank of India governors have resigned during your tenure?”

Modi also spoke in detail about his government’s decision to accord 10% reservation to people from economically weaker sections in the general category in educational institutions and jobs, and cautioned his party colleagues against a conspiracy by the opposition to misguide people who are currently beneficiaries of reservation that this would come at their expense. “Ten percent quota in education, government jobs to poor youths of general category will enhance confidence of ‘new India’,” Modi said. “We did not interfere or snatch the existing reservation benefit. Nobody can take it away.”

First Published: Jan 12, 2019 22:58 IST