The crowd at Modi’s rally at Akola on Sunday. (PTI)
Nagpur, March 30: Narendra Modi today launched a direct attack on Sharad Pawar, accusing the Union agriculture minister of doing nothing to stop farmer suicides in the cotton heartland of his home state Maharashtra.
The BJP mascot also targeted former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan over the Congress leader’s alleged involvement in the Adarsh housing society scam.
Chavan, who had to step down in 2010 after his name figured in the scandal, has been fielded from Nanded in Marathwada.
Modi’s broadside at Pawar for “talking more cricket than agriculture” came at a rally in Amravati, the first of three he addressed through the day. Modi said the agriculture minister, a former BCCI and International Cricket Council chief, had failed to help debt-ridden farmers in his own state. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide over the past decade in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, the cotton belt that includes Amravati.
At an election rally in Amravati yesterday, Pawar had said Modi was in a hurry to become Prime Minister. “Is it that easy to rid India of the Congress?” he had asked. “It’s a party that was built on the tradition of sacrifices — a tradition that can’t be undone in a moment.”
Modi returned the fire today in Akola, where he addressed his second rally of the day. “Usually coalitions are formed to defeat the incumbent government, but this is the first election where everyone is coming together to stop Modi,” he said in a dig at the UPA.
“I want to stop price rise, corruption, unemployment,” he added, “but the Congress only wants to stop me.”
Corruption was again in Modi’s crosshairs when the Gujarat leader addressed a mammoth crowd on Chavan’s home turf, Nanded, his third rally of the day in the western state.
Modi said if he came to power at the Centre, his government would not spare tainted leaders. Such leaders, he asserted, would be sent to jail.
The Congress has hit back at Modi, questioning his silence over the BJP’s decision to field B.S. Yeddyurappa, the former Karnataka chief minister who had to step down following allegations of corruption.
Modi said Chavan’s nomination had shown how serious the Congress was about tackling corruption. The former chief minister got the ticket on the ground that though the judicial commission that probed the Adarsh scandal mentioned his name, the CBI had found no case against him.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had defended the party’s decision to field Chavan from Nanded, saying no law “barred” him from contesting elections.
Modi said Rahul Gandhi must answer if fielding Chavan was in keeping with his promise last year that the guilty would not be spared. In December, the Congress vice-president had said he did not agree with the Congress-NCP state government’s decision to reject the judicial commission’s report.
The Prithviraj Chavan cabinet later accepted the panel’s findings on bureaucrats, but rejected the findings on political leaders.
Analysts said the Adarsh controversy was unlikely to have a bearing on the outcome in Nanded, a town far removed from Mumbai. Chavan remains a popular leader in his home town.
Pawar, in a campaign rally at Jalna, said Modi needs to be “treated in a mental hospital for talking rubbish”.
“Modi is talking about Congress-mukt Bharat. Does Modi know the sacrifice and contribution of Congress in the freedom struggle?” he said.