Imphal/Guwahati, Feb. 8: BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi kept it simple: “You have given the Congress 60 years. Give me 60 months and I will make things happen,” he told the gathering at Guwahati, his second public meeting in the Northeast today.
Earlier in the day in Imphal, Modi spoke of the potential the Northeast had in tourism, bio-resources, agro-based industries, horticulture, and sports. “And yet all the region has is militancy and drug addiction.”
Modi’s speeches at both the rallies, his first in the region after becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, had more hits than misses, especially when compared to his list of goof-ups at his Hunkaar rally in Bihar in October last year, when he had said the ancient city of Taxila, located northwest of Islamabad in Pakistan, was in Bihar.
And he did offer the occasional “national” sop when required, offering to pay salaries of 200 women police personnel with free accommodation from each of the northeastern states, if chief ministers of the region sent them to Gujarat on deputation for two years. “This will help foster national integration and also solve the problem of unemployment in the region,” Modi told the gathering in Imphal.
Nearly one-lakh people turned up at the Langjing Achouba ground, defying a ban call by three Muslim organisations and a general strike by the United Revolutionary Front.
“The crowd accepted Modi. He presented a clear picture of a national framework and a Manipur framework for development and also integrated the two. He impressed the crowd,” Amar Yumnam of the economics department of Manipur University said.
Modi chose not to use the bullet-proof podiums set up for him at the Imphal and Guwahati rallies despite Manipur having 40 insurgent organisations and Assam 16. Manipur’s latest blast occurred just an hour before his arrival.
In Guwahati, Modi played the regional card to perfection and at the expense of the Nehru-Gandhi family. “The Congress knows just one family. So, how do you expect them to think about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Gopinath Bordoloi?” he asked. “Bordoloi should have received the Bharat Ratna a long time ago. It was only Atal Bihari Vajpayee who conferred the award on him,” he said.
“Assam has given the country its prime minister for nearly 10 years,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Rajya Sabha tenure from Assam. “Now you tell me, you made such a big investment but what have you got in return? If the Prime Minister cannot do anything even for his constituency, what do you expect him to do for the country? Why has he failed to develop the Northeast?”
In an exercise that seemed to have been carefully crafted, Modi “remembered” a number of religious, social and political icons of Assam, including Bhaskarvarman, Bordoloi, Srimanta Xankardeb, Sri Madhabdeb, Ajan Phokir, Naranarayan, Kanaklata, Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Xoti Joimoti, Xoti Radhika, Bishnu Prasad Rabha and Bhupen Hazarika. In a fairly direct statement of the BJP’s stand on the illegal influx in Assam, Modi remembered the state’s martyrs and said the 1985 Assam Accord should have been implemented “long ago”.
“I know the people of Assam are peace loving. Then why there is so much bloodshed in the state today? Why are youths misguided? Who is responsible?” he asked the gathering in Guwahati.