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Aam, IITian and CM but he’s Modi man

Panaji, Jan. 12: Narendra Modi today showered praise on an “aam aadmi” and IITian chief minister but the object of the Prime Minister aspirant’s admiration is usually not seen wrapped in a muffler.

Modi used the shoulder of his Goa counterpart and party colleague Manohar Parrikar to fire at Arvind Kejriwal, who is increasingly giving sleepless nights to the BJP.

Modi tangentially confronted the potential challenge from the AAP without taking the names of either the party or its face. Instead, the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister asked a question: would India gain in 2014 by voting for a “big face splashed on TV screens” or by opting for a “vision (articulated) on the ground”?

Addressing a huge rally on a ground that was created from farmland in Goa, Modi, who never spoke out on the season’s political flavour, depicted Kejriwal and the AAP as a “media event” celebrated by the Delhi press and TV.

However, for a change, Modi did not project himself as the cure-all solution. He banked on Goa chief minister Parrikar and invoked the example of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Long before India discovered Kejriwal, Parrikar had set a standard for himself when he first became chief minister. He continued living in a private apartment, used the official residence only for work and drove a self-owned car.

A lifestyle that was never emulated by Modi who lives in the designated chief minister’s house, travels with a security-fortified entourage and chopper-hops to political meetings.

“Imagine what would happen if Parrikar was based in Delhi? The country will learn how simple, honest and transparent he is. And how educated he is (like Kejriwal, Parrikar is an IITian). When there was a tragedy in Goa recently (the collapse of an under-construction building that killed 27 people), Parrikar stood on the spot to oversee the rehabilitation. His training as an engineer proved useful. Alas, the Delhi media never sees anything outside Delhi. There are many ‘navaratnas’ (jewels) outside the national capital,” said Modi.

About Vajpayee, Modi said that despite serving long years as a parliamentarian, an Opposition leader and finally as Prime Minister, he did not own a house even today.

Modi played the victim and claimed that he never got a fair deal from the media — a grouse that is certain to be interpreted by critics as an admission that he was beginning to feel the heat in the perception battle with Kejriwal.

“I have never been able to make a place in the hearts of the media for some reason. I have never won them over. But I never ever lost the battle to win over people’s hearts,” said Modi.

He outlined the broad contours of the next Lok Sabha election in contexts grounded in the belief that the AAP was an entity he could no longer ignore: India needed a vision that encapsulated “new thinking, new hopes” and the BJP alone was destined to rewrite the country’s destiny.

Why? Because the BJP was the only party in the political spectrum that was truly the Congress’s adversary. “People have made up their minds to throw out the Congress, to liberate the country from the Congress. When I say people want an India liberated from the Congress, I do not mean just the Congress as a party and its leaders.

“The Congress represents a system, a culture whose manifestations are visible in several other parties that either supported the Congress or functioned like a security carapace around the central government for the past 10 years,” Modi contended.

Two, the Congress was “shamelessly corrupt”. For the first time, Modi accused a former central minister of graft by name: Jayanthi Natarajan, who was environment minister until recently.

“I heard of various taxes, income tax, sales and excise tax but for the first time, I heard of a Jayanthi tax. It seems unless a Jayanthi tax was paid, no file would move,” he said.

Comparing the Congress to a “beloved family member who nonetheless became a liability after a point”, he alleged that the UPA government had destroyed institutions and statutory bodies and enfeebled India’s federal structure. “People ask me, what will Modi do (as Prime Minister)? I will restore the dignity of institutions, give states their due respect and ensure there is accountability,” he said.

On enhanced decentralisation, Modi claimed that problems of the kind that arose after the Centre banned mining in Goa could be resolved if all natural resources were auctioned through a “transparent” process and granting of special status to states was de-coupled from doling out special fiscal packages.

In a direct hit at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has been demanding a special package from the Centre, Modi said a delegation from Goa had called on him today with a similar request. “But it was not for more money. It was a special status to protect Goa’s fragile environment and its identity,” Modi said.