Narendra Modi speaks to the Indian diaspora in Tampa, Florida, via live satellite transmission. Picture by Jay Mandal/On Assignment
Ahmedabad, Sept. 22: Narendra Modi today urged Indians in the US to play a “meaningful role” in the BJP’s victory, saying an “Emergency like anti-Congress mood” was sweeping India.
The videoconferencing-based appeal, his first address to overseas Indians after being named the party’s prime ministerial candidate, also signalled a change in presentation.
The familiar stress on his own performance by trumpeting the “Gujarat model of development” was missing as he applauded the “good work” by other BJP chief ministers and recalled the “Golden era of Atal-Advani” of the NDA years.
Modi said a “vested interest group” was shielding the Congress from its record of “misgovernance”, accused the UPA of “running away” from giving a “performance report” and asked people to “uproot” the government.
“There is a vested interest group that is a raksha kavach (protective shield) for the Congress. This vested interest group is active and come 2014, we have to fight both the Congress and this vested interest group,” Modi told a convention of the Overseas Friends of BJP-USA.
He hoped people would do in 2014 what they had done after Emergency in 1977: “throw the Congress out”.
In this, Modi said, overseas Indians could play a key role. Not only can they influence relatives and friends back home but, with many being Indian passport holders, they could cast ballots themselves after registering as voters, he said.
He would not have been unaware that one of the largest groups of Indians in the US is from Gujarat.
But few missed the lack of Modi’s usual stress on his state and his achievements as chief minister.
The only time he referred to himself today was when he slammed the UPA’s rule of nearly a decade.
“As soon as I finish my speech, they (rivals) will ask what Modi has done in Gujarat. Well, I have already answered in (the state polls in) December 2012. I have passed the test of the people thrice, with distinction.”
He said the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee “gave a new direction and inspiration not only to India but also the world”.
The words the “golden era of Atal-Advani” assumed significance because of L.K. Advani’s opposition to Modi being anointed shadow Prime Minister. “Under the Vajpayee government, it looked like the 21st century would be India’s century. But with the departure of the NDA government, our dreams were dashed. The downfall of the country started.”
Modi lavished praise on fellow BJP chief ministers Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan for their “good work”.
Both face Assembly polls this winter. But the mention of Chouhan drew attention as he was once said to fancy his chances as prime ministerial candidate and was perceived as an internal rival to Modi. Some saw Modi’s praise as an indication of his political compulsion to take everybody along.
But rivals didn’t spot any change. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh wondered whether a “leopard can change its spots”.
”Good to hear Modi talking about inclusive politics. But can a leopard change its spots?” tweeted Digvijaya, who had earlier dubbed Modi feku, a colloquial Hindi coinage about a bragger. Digvijaya contested the claim that the UPA was running away from a debate and a performance report.
He cited the RTI Act, education, education and food security laws as some of the government’s accomplishments. “The list can go on. Would Modi have courage to debate with one of us on issues of governance, development?” he asked.
Digvijaya also took potshots at Modi’s praise of Vajpayee. “Modi – ‘Atalji’s was a Golden Era’// Because Modi didn’t follow raj dharm?” Digvijaya tweeted, referring to Vajpayee’s advice to Modi to follow raj dharm (ruler’s duty) during the 2002 Gujarat riots.