Hug hangs over Modi rally

PM complains to farmers about Rahul

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 22.07.18
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 Modi at the rally in Shahjahanpur. (PTI)

Lucknow: The day after, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to be still struggling to shake off the hug.

Addressing a rally of farmers in western Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, Modi devoted almost half his speech to the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha the previous day when he was ambushed by Rahul Gandhi.

"My dear brothers and sisters of Shahjahanpur, I want to ask you something," the Prime Minister said, lifting his right hand and raising his index finger.

"I did my job in the Lok Sabha yesterday - are you satisfied with whatever happened in the Lok Sabha?"

"Yes," shouted a section of the crowd at the rally in Shahjahanpur, 180km northwest of Lucknow, where farmers had been ferried from a dozen adjoining districts.

Modi dropped his right arm and lifted the other hand, making a circular motion with the index finger and asking: "Do you know what wrongs he (Rahul) did? Did you realise how he is running for the chair?"

He lifted both his arms and said: "He cannot see anything other than the chair of the Prime Minister. He cannot see the country or the poor, or the youths or the farmers."

Raising his voice, Modi said: "I want to ask you: I devoted four years to serving you - tell me whether I have done anything wrong. Am I on the wrong path? Have I done anything for myself? Am I not doing everything for the country? Am I not working for the poor, the farmers?"

Some in the audience lifted both arms and shouted: "No."

While Modi habitually tries to involve the audience at his rallies by asking questions and often secures a positive response, Saturday's crowd did not seem particularly interested.

Mostly party members, donning saffron caps, and supporters in smart clothes were seen replying to his questions. The farmers appeared disconnected, looking blankly at the dais. Probably not many had followed the developments in Parliament on Friday.

It's common knowledge that despite Modi's promises, the sugar mills haven't yet cleared their two-year arrears of Rs 1,000 crore to the sugarcane farmers of the region.

During Friday's no-confidence debate in the Lok Sabha, the Congress president had accused Modi's government of spreading hate, encouraging corruption and favouring select businessmen at the cost of the poor and the farmer.

He had surprised and rattled Modi by walking up to him and hugging him, apparently as proof that he could love his adversaries. Modi, who is used to springing hugs on global leaders, was not amused at being thus ambushed.

In his speech that closed the debate on the no-confidence motion on Friday night, Modi had mocked Rahul for asking him to rise for a hug, saying the Congress president was in such a hurry to occupy the Prime Minister's post that he wanted him to vacate it then and there.

"Brothers and sisters, my crime is that I'm fighting corruption; my crime is that I'm resisting dynasty politics with all my strength," the Prime Minister declared at Shahjahanpur.

"I kept asking him (Rahul) in Parliament yesterday to tell me the reason for the no-confidence motion," he said, wiping his face with a white handkerchief.

" Jab karan nahin bata paye toh gale pad gaye (When he couldn't cite the reason, he fell on me in a hug)," Modi said.

He painted Rahul's attack on him as an attack on those who had voted his party to power.

"He couldn't tell me or the country the reason behind (the no-confidence motion). I kept trying to convince him that the people's mandate is above everything; that going against the wishes of the people is not good and will cost you (Rahul)," Modi said.

"But he was bent on teaching Modi a lesson and removing him.... Modi is nothing: it's the power of 125 crore people; it's your power; it's the power of the Constitution of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Nobody can harm (Modi) till this power is there."

Modi devoted some 20 minutes of his 48-minute speech to Rahul and blamed the Congress for the corruption in the country.

"A Prime Minister of the Congress once said that out of every rupee sent out from Delhi, only 15 paise reaches the villages. The Congress Prime Minister had said this when his party's flag fluttered from the panchayats to Parliament. The BJP was nowhere," Modi said.

"Which hand used to rub a rupee and convert it into 15 paise? Which hand used to park 85 paise out of a rupee? I found a way out and started transferring the entire money into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries with the help of technology. Some Rs 90,000 crore used to slip away somewhere but now it is going to the right person."

The hand is the Congress election symbol.

Modi added: "The no-confidence motion didn't come without a reason. Many shops (corruption) may have closed when Rs 90,000 crore stopped being siphoned off here and there. Will they trust someone who stopped bad things and corruption? Will they trust such a Modi government? The people of the country crushed those who distrusted (Modi's government)."