Kanpur, Oct. 19: Narendra Modi today called upon voters in Uttar Pradesh to oust the Congress, which he accused of “sprinkling salt on the wounds of the poor” as he played up his under-privileged childhood to mock the party-led Centre.
The BJP’s mascot for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, however, didn’t utter a word on Hindutva during his address, tailored for the state’s politically perspicacious audience that knows what to expect of putative Prime Ministers and of leaders unabashedly playing to the gallery.
Modi, who kicked off his Uttar Pradesh campaign with a massive rally at Kanpur, said the battle to “liberate” India would be “fought and won” in the heartland. “India’s first war of independence was fought from Uttar Pradesh’s soil, from Kanpur, Meerut, Jhansi… its leaders were born here. Now we are fighting a war to liberate India from the Congress. That will also be fought and won in Uttar Pradesh. It is a fight for ‘surajya’, for good governance.”
With the Congress, he added, the heartland’s voters must also “weed out” its “chatte-batte” (flunkeys), the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
“To free themselves from their crimes, these parties seek the Congress’s protection and in turn help the Congress save its government through the back door,” he told the crowd.
This was Modi’s first public appearance in Uttar Pradesh after the BJP named him as the party’s candidate for Prime Minister.
|Narendra Modi at the Kanpur rally. Picture by Naeem Ansari
Modi’s address nurtured an image especially created and marketed by the RSS-BJP for the heartland audience: his hard-luck origins in a poor provincial family and his “commitment” to a “welfare state” born out of “experience”.
The Gujarat chief minister mocked the food security law. “Do you know the quantum of grains under this law given to an able-bodied adult will be the same that it takes to feed an under-nourished child in a mid-day meal? So instead of ensuring food security, you are leaving the poor hungry. That’s because those who are born with a golden spoon in their mouths don’t know what it is to be hungry,” he said, before delving into his early life when he worked as a tea-stall boy.
“I was born into poverty, I spent a childhood in poverty. That ‘shehzada’ (prince),” he said, alluding to Rahul Gandhi, “says poverty is a state of mind. It makes my heart ache because it’s like sprinkling salt on the wounds of the poor. Worse, an MP from your state (Raj Babbar) claims you can eat a full meal for Rs 12 in a city like Mumbai. Another, who’s mercifully in jail now (Lalu Prasad), says why Rs 12, you can get a meal for Rs 5.
“The Planning Commission, headed by an economist Prime Minister, says anyone earning Rs 26 a day in a village is above the poverty line. God alone can protect my country’s poor at this rate,” Modi said to thunderous applause.
He urged his audience to uproot the Congress for promises made and betrayed” and “for being arrogant enough to not even face up to their omissions and commissions”.
“A government may be any party’s. But a government is meant only for the poor, for their welfare and not to fatten the pockets of the rich,” he said, belying the ground realities in the state he rules.
Gujarat’s social indices on health, literacy and nutrition have been critiqued by eminent economists.
But he didn’t utter a word on Hindutva or issues like minority-appeasement, leaving it to speakers like Vinay Katiyar and Kalyan Singh to expatiate on the “perils” of minority reservation for the backward castes.
For the Uttar Pradesh BJP, tense moments preceded the rally. The venue, the Buddha Park that’s slightly away from the city, was sanctioned by the administration at the last moment. This morning, a large number of buses ferrying people from rural Kanpur and neighbouring districts were stopped mid-way for no ostensible reason, sources claimed.
Finally, it is learnt that BJP president Rajnath Singh requested Samajwadi boss Mulayam Singh Yadav to remove the hurdles. Within moments the place was more than packed.