Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the upcoming Gujarat elections would be a contest between the politics of development pursued by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the dynastic politics of the Congress.
Modi’s speech at a rally attended by hundreds of thousands of BJP workers on the outskirts of Ahmedabad set the tone for the party’s election campaign in Gujarat. BJP president Amit Shah was also present at the rally.
“The elections for us are about politics of development while for the rivals it is about promoting dynastic politics. And let me tell you that the politics of development will win," Modi said in his hour-long speech.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani, who was also present at the rally, in his address announced interest-free loans for Gujarat farmers up to Rs3 lakh.
The rally, “Gujarat Gaurav Sammelan", which loosely translates as Gujarat Pride Conference, marked the culmination of the Gaurav Yatra (pride journey) organized by the BJP, covering about 4,500km and 149 assembly seats in two phases.
Modi had launched a similar yatra in 2002 when he was chief minister of Gujarat after his government faced criticism over its handling of the Godhra riots in the state. Modi had positioned that yatra as a bid to restore the state’s lost pride. In the elections that followed the same year, the BJP won with a thumping majority of 127 seats in the 182-member assembly.
The prime minister on Monday accused the Congress of having ill-treated leaders from the state, including India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and former Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
“The party also sacrificed its own leaders for dynasty politics. Former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki who helped the party get a record number of seats in Gujarat, was made to resign to save one family," Modi said. Continuing his speech, the PM said: “I was only a chief minister of Gujarat but they used all kinds of conspiracies to try and put me behind bars…they had resolved to put Amit Shah behind bars in an attempt to trap me. But see the result today, where you are and where we are."
Monday’s event featured the theme ‘Hun Chhu Vikaas, Hun Chhu Gujarat’ (I am development, I am Gujarat), which has become the party’s election slogan.
Modi hit out at Congress leaders for halting the development of the Narmada dam for ages and still finding the courage to question the BJP, which he said had worked towards completion of the ambitious project.
“Sometimes they called us communal, sometimes we were called anti-Dalits and sometimes anti-tribals but they have failed miserably in their attempts... now when nothing works they have started criticizing us for development. Who says a village does not need roads or schools or that the urban poor do not require basic healthcare facilities? How is it possible to achieve this without development," Modi said.
The BJP’s campaign comes after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Navsarjan Yatra (resurgent journey) in the Saurashtra region last month and hit out at the Gujarat model of development.
A recent “Vikas Gaando Thayo Chhe" (development has gone berserk) campaign, a satire on the BJP’s claims of developing Gujarat, which went viral recently, has helped the Congress get an edge over the BJP on social media.
Modi said that some opposition parties were looking to observe 8 November as Black Day to protest against the invalidation of high-value banknotes on the same day last year. “This is because they are upset by the fact that their black money is gone," he said.
The 15-day Gaurav Yatra that started on 1 October has been the biggest mass outreach programme of the BJP, preceding elections due in December. The BJP, which won 115 seats in 2012, is targeting winning 150 seats or more to beat the Congress’s record of 149 assembly seats set in 1985.
“From 1995 to 2017, BJP has written a new definition for development. Today if someone wants to know what development is, they just have to look at Modi’s development model of Gujarat," Shah said at Monday’s event.