The Red Fort on the eve of Independence Day. Picture by Yasir Iqbal
New Delhi, Aug. 14: Narendra Modi has jumped the gun by leaps and bounds.
The BJP’s poll campaign chief today virtually declared himself the prime ministerial candidate, well before the party officially does so, the Gujarat chief minister’s website said two Independence Day speeches will be heard intently and parsed — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s and his own.
The nation will want to know what is being said from the Red Fort and R.R. Lalan Government College in Bhuj, from where Modi will hold forth, a release on the Gujarat chief minister’s website quoted him as saying at an event today.
On the one side, declared the BJP’s poll campaign chief, there will be a slew of promises and announcements. On the other, he said, he would present a “balance sheet” of the Congress-led UPA government.
On one hand, there would be despair (nirasha) and on the other, there would be “hope and optimism”, he said. Modi was speaking at a Bhuj development council named after Swami Vivekananda, whom he calls his icon.
BJP insiders said today’s address by Modi, along with the one lined up tomorrow, and his attempt to equate his speech with that of Manmohan Singh’s confirmed he wanted a head start in the race.
“Modi is confident that with the RSS’s full backing and the cadres’ total endorsement, he is the BJP’s (prime ministerial) candidate. He is no longer worried about sulking colleagues making snarky comments,” a party source said.
The Congress was quick to slam the remarks, saying they betrayed Modi’s arrogance and represented a rare attempt in the nation’s post-Independence history to compare a Prime Minister’s August 15 address with any other.
Rajiv Shukla, the junior parliamentary affairs minister, said: “I kept saying from Day One that he is full of himself. If this kind of person gets higher in politics, you can understand what he will do to the country.”
Shukla’s Congress colleague, Union information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, also denounced Modi’s remarks. “In the past 66 years, there has never been an attempt to compare the address which the PM delivers from the Red Fort ramparts with any other articulation. It (Modi’s claim) betrays his complete frustration and complete arrogance. He should withdraw his remarks.”