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Narendra Modi makes his case for a national role

Highlights achievements of ‘Gujarat model’ in realizing growth, governance objectives at SRCC speech
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First Published: Wed, Feb 06 2013. 06 27 PM IST
A file photo of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Mint
A file photo of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Mint
Updated: Thu, Feb 07 2013. 12 46 AM IST
New Delhi: Launching himself on the national stage, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday made out a strong case for himself and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a political alternative.
Throughout his speech, Modi highlighted the achievements of the so-called “Gujarat model” in realizing growth and governance objectives, even as he emphasized the alleged failings of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
The cornerstone of his claim, which would appeal to the lobby leaning towards a more liberal economic regime, was “government had no business to be in business”.
“To me it is minimum government, maximum governance,” he added for effect.
Significantly, he spoke to students of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in the national capital, signalling his intent to target the youth. Not only is it an acknowledgement of the new demography of India, wherein 65% of India’s population is less than 35 years of age, he is also seeking to blunt any advantage Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may derive.
Modi’s speech signalled the emerging political narrative in the country that will pitch the ruling Congress against the BJP under the leadership of Gandhi and Modi, respectively.
Political observers say Modi is “impatient” and is trying to create a propaganda mechanism for his candidacy as the prime minister.
“It is clear that Modi is impatient. He is trying to capture the national political space and is competing for the space of the youth who has a voice in the political space. He is clearly trying to contest with the potential ministerial candidate of the Congress. He is trying to hard-sell himself,” said B. Venkatesh Kumar, a professor of political science at the University of Mumbai.
On the same day, BJP president Rajnath Singh turned up at the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Allahabad to meet party ideologues. He attended a meeting with leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has threatened another agitation to demand legislation to facilitate the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Singh’s participation in the central advisory committee meeting with the leaders of the VHP, a section of which was involved in the demolition of a 16th century mosque on 6 December 1992 in Ayodhya claiming that Hindu god Ram was born there, is perceived as an appeal to Hindu voters.
However, when pointedly asked whether the BJP would back the VHP’s stance, Singh was evasive. “BJP is a party which believes in Hindu values. The party is committed to the construction of Ram temple at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya. It is a cherished desire of millions of Hindus, and the BJP would certainly like to do its bit in fulfilling the same,” he said.
The BJP, which is readying for battle against the Congress in 10 assembly elections including in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, and the Lok Sabha election scheduled for next year, has been trying to project itself as an alternative to the UPA, which has been in power at the Centre since 2004.
Although the party is yet to make any formal announcement, Modi, who won the Gujarat state polls for the third consecutive time in December, has emerged as the frontrunner to lead the party in the next general election.
Modi, who campaigned heavily on the development plank of good governance in Gujarat, seems to be winning over the party’s ideologues, too. Pitching intensely for Modi’s candidature for the top post, senior VHP leader Ashok Singhal said, “It is for the
first time since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru when a leader has come to enjoy such a massive popularity across the country.”
In the national capital, Modi projected himself as a leader who can bring in good governance, development and opportunities for the youth while indirectly blaming the Congress for the cynicism among the general public.
“There is a sense of despondency in the country. People feel nothing would change here; everyone is a thief and everything they do is waste. People consider it a curse to be born in India... It has been 65 years since we got independence, but we have not had good governance,” Modi said.
The popularity of the UPA, which returned to power with an impressive majority in the 2009 election, has suffered following a series of corruption charges and controversies involving its leaders. Unabated inflation and an adversarial investment atmosphere have added to its woes. Recent sample surveys have confirmed that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has gained over the UPA.
Modi sought to capitalize on this sentiment. “I am chief minister for a fourth term, and based on my experience, with the same law, same constitution, same rules and regulations, same officers, same people, same files, we can move forward. We can do a lot. I am confident that we can change things,” he said.
Similarly, eyeing young voters, he said, “Our youth have changed the country’s image globally... To consider them simply as new-age voters is a big mistake. India’s youth are new-age power. It has to be utilized properly.”
Modi’s speech was delivered amid protests from different student groups outside SRCC.
Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst, said Modi’s SRCC speech was a “well-planned and calculated move to score an edge over other prime ministerial candidates in the party... He has created a parallel propaganda mechanism and is not dependent on the party per se”.
Kumar concurred. “Modi thinks he has grown bigger than Gujarat and now he wants to grow bigger than the party at the national level,” he said.
PTI contributed to this story.
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First Published: Wed, Feb 06 2013. 06 27 PM IST
More Topics: Narendra Modi | BJP | elections | Congress | SRCC |