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Modi pits Adarsh vs ‘audacity’ Barbs at Rahul at Mumbai meet

Mumbai, Dec. 22: Narendra Modi today wondered how Rahul Gandhi had had the “audacity” at an industry event yesterday to hold up the Congress’s record in combating corruption.

Without naming the Congress vice-president but leaving none in any doubt who was the target, Modi noted that Rahul’s “straight-faced” assertions coincided with the Maharashtra government’s rejection of a judicial commission report on the Adarsh housing scandal.

The report indicted four former Congress chief ministers of Maharashtra, including current Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, for their alleged role in allowing the housing society to carry out illegal construction.

At a weekend event held by industry chamber Ficci in New Delhi, Rahul had projected the passage of the Lokpal bill as a “huge step” for the UPA government, which he said had “done more than any other government to combat corruption”.

Modi’s rejoinder came at his first rally in Mumbai as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

“Yesterday, I heard a top Congress leader speaking against corruption. I marvelled at his audacity. His party is full of people with tarred reputations. Yet this leader talks of taking on corruption with a straight face,” Modi told the crowd at the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground.

“It is the Congress government in Maharashtra that refused to accept the Adarsh report after its corrupt ministers were named. Indeed, the Congress defended these ministers. Yet this leader preaches.”

In a speech that lasted well over an hour, Modi claimed that next year’s general election would not be a vote for a party but a “vote for India”. He presented his “idea of India” as a counter to the Congress’s, which is founded on the notions of secularism, inclusion and a welfare state.

Modi said his idea of India rejected dynasty rule and “bhai-bhatijawaadi rajneeti” (the politics of nepotism) and envisaged a country free of corruption, inflation and poor governance.

It would create an India that places an equal premium on national and individual security and ensures a home, food, medicines, education and jobs for all as well as the “dignity of women and the welfare of farmers”, he said.

His litany of “promises” was a regurgitation of the statements of intent enshrined in BJP election manifestos over the years.

Modi is reputed to be sceptical of “populist” politics — he has not handed out doles or big subsidies in Gujarat and yet not lost an election. Many in the BJP believe that the party’s next manifesto would reflect Modi’s lack of faith in “dolonomics” and emphasis on individual enterprise.

Modi cited the dismantling of the INS Vikrant to contrast the Congress’s “cavalier attitude” to history with his own “respect” for the past.

The navy’s first aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1997. The government’s efforts to preserve it as a museum piece was foiled by lack of financial support, and it decided to auction the ship on December 3.

“The INS Vikrant is a symbol of India’s pride and history but the Centre is hawking it away. Now see what the Gujarat government is doing,” Modi said.

“We are collecting iron nuggets and slivers from across the country to erect a huge statue (to Vallabhbhai Patel) because we wish to restore a valuable chapter in our history that was in danger of being obliterated.”

The BJP’s inability to claim a slice of pre-Independent India’s history — its predecessors either had no role or were involved for the wrong reasons — has over the years led it to try and appropriate several leading personalities of that era.

A contemporary figure too influenced Modi’s speech today. He cited Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s success in the Delhi polls, which has dampened the BJP’s claim of a 4-0 win, to debunk “VIP culture” and the use of “sifarish” (recommendations) to secure one’s legitimate rights.

He held up his own beginnings as a “chaiwallah” (tea seller) to buttress his point. “The newspapers said tea sellers were being seated in a VVIP enclosure. This means a wind of change is blowing. I assure you that in the days to come, every poor person will be a VVIP, regardless of whether he is a chaiwallah or not.”

BJP sources claimed that Modi’s “vote for India” slogan was born out of his distaste for sectarian politics.

In his speech, the Gujarat chief minister claimed the Centre had recently admitted that nothing had been done in the past three years in the 90 districts with sizeable minority populations that had been earmarked for special schemes.

“This shows how cynically the Congress plays vote-bank politics,” Modi said.