Narendra Modi bats in Chhattisgarh, aims at Red Fort
by Sandhya Jain on 16 Nov 2013 2 Comments

Escalating his confrontation with the Sonia Gandhi-led United Progressive Alliance coalition and Congress party a notch higher to encompass his bid for power at the Centre in 2014, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has accused the Manmohan Singh regime of failure to protect the nation internally and externally. Pointing out that the fight against Maoism and terrorism is the primary responsibility of the Centre, as is the task of protecting the nation’s borders and territorial integrity, he lambasted the UPA for abysmal failure on both fronts.


Addressing rapturous audiences at Mahasamund and Raigarh in poll-bound Chhattisgarh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate asserted that the UPA has given the Maoists an “open field” from Pashupati (Nepal) to Tirupati (Andhra), even as citizens and jawans are being killed with impunity on the border. Elections are the most opportune moment to assess what the Centre has done for Chhattisgarh, as also what the State Government has achieved on its own; but, he charged, the UPA has been found avoiding accountability while unleashing a reckless barrage of accusations without foundation.


The criticism has some merit. Between November 14 and 15, while Narendra Modi was campaigning in Chhattisgarh, the Raipur police arrested two terrorists from the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The security forces also recovered nearly 400 deadly booby-trapped wooden blocks planted to trap and injure patrol and election duty personnel in Bijapur district. The innovative traps were discovered during a routine sweep for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). So far, one security personnel has died and 17 incidents took place on the first phase of polling on November 11. All these developments indicate the enhanced security threats faced by the State as also the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, along with a sharply diminished appreciation of the challenge by New Delhi.


Although Narendra Modi made no mention of these developments in his speeches, they would doubtless have weighed on his mind, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating (though fortunately largely abortive) attack on the BJP’s Patna rally last month (October 27), which intelligence agencies asserted was the handiwork of the Indian Mujahideen. Now, the arrest of SIMI activists in Chhattisgarh during his election campaign tour could have sinister implications. Perhaps this is the reason why Narendra Modi’s itinerary has been departing from the announced schedules in the past two days; the need for utmost caution can hardly be overstated.


The BJP veteran derided the UPA for grovelling when China entered Indian territory in Ladakh; later, a Union Minister who visited that country had the temerity to state that he wished he could live in Beijing! What kind of governance model allows such a minister to remain in office, he wondered.


Unable to refrain from a dig at the open bias of the mainstream media, Narendra Modi observed that had the media judged the actions of the UPA and Congress by the same standards it used to scrutinize his actions, the Government could have been in serious difficulty. The Government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he reminded his audience, had brought in a special legislation to tackle Maoism and terrorism, but the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was destroyed by Sonia Gandhi and her Government. Yet they dare to come to Chhattisgarh and blame the Raman Singh regime for the rise of Maoist terror.


Moving seamlessly to his development mantra, the Gujarat strongman asserted that India’s agricultural growth has long been stagnating at 2 to 3 percent, and the UPA has been unable to meet the ambitious goals it set for itself 10 years ago. Chhattisgarh used to be a famine-prone region of Madhya Pradesh under Congress at a time when many ‘dijjag log’ (an allusion to former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh) ruled; it came under the BIMARU tag and needed to purchase food from outside. Dr Raman Singh has, however, brought about a sea change in the agricultural sector in just 10 years, and today the State is not only self-sufficient in rice and wheat, but exports surplus rice to three neighbouring States. And there is no BIMARU tag here either.


Taunting Sonia Gandhi to do her homework before coming to the State and making wild allegations against the regime, he promised to ensure that Dr Raman Singh’s office would make all facts available to her if she just faxed her questions there. Chhattisgarh, he pointed out, had even received an award from the Prime Minister for its achievements in agriculture.


Denouncing the Congress for its audacity to allege that the State had ‘paid money’ to get awards, the BJP challenger dared the party, “who took the money, tell us. If a Prime Minister’s award is given against money, just tell us who took the money. We will deal with the bribe-giver later”. As the crowd roared with laughter, he chided his rivals to at least ‘use your brains.” The Central Government, he continued, as the crowd went hysterical, has lost the plot and does not know what to do with itself. Exploiting to the hilt the Centre’s abortive gold hunt in Unnao, he said every move of his was being closely watched, the whole obsession is “ya Modi khojo, ya sona khojo” (find Modi or find gold; that is, pin him down any which way).


Congress, he said, lacked the grace to govern properly. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had created three news states – Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand – by taking the people into confidence, and to meet the special needs of these regions. All three exercises were executed smoothly, without a hitch. In contrast, the Congress has failed even to create Telangana as a separate State and curfews continue in Seemandhra with no one to even listen to the grievances of the people there.


The response to Modi at Mahasamund is significant as it has long been the bastion of the Congress and the Shukla family, beginning with first chief minister Ravi Shankar Shukla, and later his sons, Vidya Charan and Shyama Charan. In fact, at the time of Chhattisgarh’s creation, former Union Minister Vidya Charan Shukla was the frontrunner for the honour of first chief minister of the new State, and was the favoured candidate of all the elected MLAs.


Yet, as he confided in an interview to the media some years ago, Sonia Gandhi betrayed him and insisted that the job be given to Ajit Jogi; Shukla remained bitter for a long time. More recently, while campaigning in the Bastar region, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi surprised observers with his claim that the state unit chief Nand Kumar Patel was going to be the next chief minister, and was assassinated to prevent this. While this does not explain who benefitted from Patel’s removal, it could explain Ajit Jogi’s denunciation of the party operating as a ‘divided house’. All this suggests that the grassroots divide in Congress goes deep, a fact that could work to the advantage of the BJP.


Narendra Modi concluded his Chhattisgarh tour by flashing his prime ministerial cards, telling the people to vote for the BJP in the State now in order to benefit (from the BJP at the Centre) in 2014. Denouncing the Congress for its addiction to politics by political inheritance and aversion to the rise of challengers from the ranks of the poor and underprivileged – a charge the party is having difficulty in rebutting – he exuded confidence that the lotus is on a winning political trajectory.

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