Providing a grand finale to the National Democratic Alliance’s election campaign in Maharashtra ahead of the fourth phase on April 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sought to dovetail development with the interests of the middle-class and a hard-line policy on terrorism. Addressing a massive rally of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena-Republican Party of India Mahayuti here at the BKC ground, Modi reminded Mumbai of the long phase of terror attacks before 2014 and the “Congress policy of merely changing the home minister and chief minister". “We have ended this culture of changing the home minister and chief minister after terror attack. We have started attacking the terrorists in their own territories," Modi said. He added that none of those standing in the “long queue for the post of prime ministers" had the capability to root out terrorism.
“Before 2014, each time there was a terror attack in Mumbai, the Mumbaikars lifted themselves and demonstrated their Mumbai spirit. But they were hurt and angry too. And they asked this question—how long are we going to tolerate this," Modi said. He added that his government had responded to that question by launching a counter-attack on terror.
On April 29, 17 seats in Maharashtra including 6 in Mumbai go to polls. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray also addressed the rally. Given the significant chunk of the urban middle-class voters in Mumbai, Modi made several strategic tweaks in his campaign speech. The better part of his speech was dedicated to development and the contribution of the “middle-class and honest tax-payers" to the national economy and the welfare schemes for the poor. But he also mentioned other central themes in the 2019 BJP campaign like national security and a hard-line policy on terrorism and linked those to the future of an aspirational India which he said Mumbai symbolised.
Seeking to establish a connect between Mumbai’s aspirations and a stable government, Modi said the 2019 election was not about “garibi hatao promises" but about commitment to provide “opportunities to the poor". “Next five years present immense possibilities for India. We must not miss this opportunity. This election is about determining in which direction the nation wants to go," he said. Once again referring to the first-time voters who he said were born in the 21st century and looked ahead, Modi said the Congress party had lost connect with this generation. “Congress does not understand that this new voter has aspiration and dreams. Modi is only the expression of this new voter’s aspirations and dreams," he said.
Saying that the first three phases had already made it clear that the NDA was o course to getting a majority, Modi said the discussion in the country was whether the Congress would be able to reach the 50-seat mark or drop below 40. “All surveys say that the NDA is forming the government and the discussion is whether the NDA will get 300 or 325 or 400. All surveys, think tanks, political pundits also say that the Congress will barely reach 50 or drop below 40. Now, in this situation, it is only sensible that you vote for a party which is forming the next government. Don’t waste your vote by voting for a party which is struggling to get 40 seats," Modi said. He also pointed out that while the Congress tally in 2014 was the lowest in the history of Independent India, the oldest party was contesting the lowest number of seats since Independence in the current election.
Modi sought to paint the Congress as “anti-middle class" and told them that it was their backing in 2014 that had given the country a stable, strong, and corruption-free government.
“When Piyush Goyal presented the last union budget, for the first time in the history of India, he thanked the tax-payers. It is the tax payer’s contribution that runs the Ayushman Bharat Yojana. It is the tax payer’s contribution that we could commit ourselves to providing house to every Indian by 2022. This is only a sample of what the middle class has been doing. The tax-payers and middle-class have been contributing for decades. But a responsible person from the country’s oldest political party that has ruled for the longest period has said on the record that the middle-class is greedy and selfish. This is an insult to the middle-class and it shows the mentality of Congress party," Modi said. He cautioned the middle-class that Congress rule only meant “high corruption, high taxes, and high inflation".
Modi sought to contrast his five years in office with the Congress rule. “They had an economist as the prime minister and a person who thinks of himself as the god of intelligence as the finance minister. What did the middle class get," he asked. But we are 180-degree different from the Congress in our policy and intent. There has been no corruption in the last five years, some of those who were involved in corruption are in jail and some are out on bail. I will put them in jail if you put me back in office in 2019," Modi said. He pointed out that the NDA government expanded the tax base without raising the rates of personal income tax. “It has happened for the first time in three decades that the country recorded one of the highest rates of economic growth and the lowest rates of inflation at the same time," Modi said.
On development, Modi said while the previous Congress-led government could build only 11 km of metro network in Mumbai in 15 years, the NDA government was at an advanced stage of commissioning 275 km of metro network in the next three years.