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Urdu, poor on Modi lips

New Delhi, April 7: The manifesto tom-tommed “maximum governance, minimum government” but Narendra Modi tried to give his credo a human and inclusive face, talking of the poor and even spouting Urdu.

For the greater part of the two-hour launch, the prime ministerial candidate had looked grim as drafting panel head Murli Manohar Joshi’s opening remarks dragged on.

Modi occasionally chatted with his neighbour on the stage, Rajnath Singh, or shared a joke with anchorperson Ravi Shankar Prasad till his turn to speak came.

Then, true to style, the Gujarat chief minister encapsulated his outlook in three succinct undertakings.

“I wish to make three promises personally. I will not be found wanting on hard work, I will not do anything for myself and I will never work with bud irade (mala fide intentions),” he said.

The choice of Urdu was read by political observers as an assurance to the country’s minorities who are largely hostile to Modi despite his occasional outreaches through state-sponsored “harmony” or “sadbhavna” missions.

Modi said the core issues before the voters were “good governance” and “development”.

“When we speak of development, it should be integrated, all-round development that will be appreciated by one and all. When we talk of good governance, it should be governance that first thinks of the poor and the oppressed and listens to them,” he said.

“To the country’s Dalits and poor, a government is the only lifeline to shelter, food, education and affordable health. Our vision is based on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s (Jan Sangh founder) principle of antodaya (serving the last person in the queue).”

He issued a call to make the country strong so that “whenever India has to negotiate with a world power or another country, it should be from a position of parity”.

Duniya humein aankh dikhaye nahin, lekin humse aankh milane ka usko man kar jaye (Let not the world browbeat us but want to meet us as equals),” he said.

Modi claimed the essence of the manifesto was contained in the pledge to “take the country out of the morass it has sunk into, fulfil the dreams of India’s 125 crore people with determination, and bring a whiff of fragrance from the bouquet of dreams to their lives”.

Sharing the stage were L.K. Advani, Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh. Arun Jaitley was away filing his nomination in Amritsar while Nitin Gadkari is tied up in Nagpur.