New Delhi: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, aspiring to be India’s next prime minister, sought to project himself as a role model for development while downplaying his communal image in an address to the Indian diaspora early Sunday.
“People talk big about secularism in India. For me being an Indian, I have a simple definition for secularism. And you would also agree with my definition of secularism, which is India First,” he said in the address via video conferencing.
Modi’s speech came barely 10 days after the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School cancelled a video address following protests against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed hundreds of people. The US in 2005 denied a visa to Modi for the same reason.
“We should work for the betterment of India and whatever we do, we should keep India’s interest first. If we can do this, then secularism will automatically run in our blood. We will never let any harm come to India— to its dreams, reputation and future of Indian youth,” he said in the address.
Modi also compared his latest budget for Gujarat with the Union budget for 2013-14 announced by the Congress-led Union government last month to emphasise his thrust on development and jobs.
“Indian government allocated Rs.1,000 crore for skill development for the entire country, whereas Gujarat being a small state has allocated Rs.800 crore. This will help you to gauge our commitment towards youth and skill development,” he said.
In December, Modi won a third consecutive term to the Gujarat assembly mainly by advertising his efforts toward development in Gujarat, and is now gaining support to be the main opposition BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election.
Modi has been successfully holding annual meets to draw global and local companies to invest in Gujarat and projecting himself as a leader focused on development.
Gujarat, Modi said in his address, is progressing rapidly. “People in the world have started looking towards Gujarat... Because of good governance, efficiency and cheap labour, manufacturing sector realized that India was the destination and Gujarat has extended an invitation,” he said.