A day after Narendra Modi claimed that the country’s attention on Independence Day would be on his speech here, along with the Prime Minister’s address from Lal Qila, the Gujarat Chief Minister challenged Manmohan Singh to a debate on development and governance.
“Let there be a competition between the development works of Gujarat and the government in Delhi,” the Chief Minister said, speaking in Hindi, after unfurling the national flag on the Lalan College ground, which was filled to its capacity of 30,000 persons.
Mr. Modi exhorted countrymen to commit themselves “to getting freedom from rulers with the mentality of slavery, as the 1.25-billion population of India has lost faith in the leadership that has brought the nation to a standstill.”
Assailing Dr. Singh on the issue of national security, Mr. Modi said the Prime Minister, in his speech, failed to inspire security forces as he did not give any strong message to Pakistan.
The government had failed to curb Chinese intrusion and even Italian soldiers had killed Indian fishermen, he said.
On the contrary, Mr. Modi asserted, the President, in his address to the nation on Independence Day eve, had sent a strong message to Pakistan, asking it not to “test the limits of India’s patience.” But, “the PM did not utter a single word about this.”
Questioning the achievements of the Congress-led governments, Mr. Modi said, “The Prime Minister in his speech referred to the same issues and problems that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru admitted to as the first Prime Minister from the same venue. So, what have the Congress-led governments been doing for almost 60 years?” Dr. Singh, he said, “skipped leaders like Sardar Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri as if he is loyal to a single family.”
Let’s uphold sanctity of August 15: Congress
Smita Gupta reports from New Delhi:
Incensed at Mr. Modi’s frontal attack on Dr. Singh in his Independence Day speech, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken has appealed to all political parties to “unitedly uphold the sanctity of the day” so that future generations continue to see August 15 as “the template of freedom and unity rather than an opportunity for self seeking.”
“It is a national festival that stands high in the collective conscience of the nation,” Mr. Maken said in a statement, stressing, “The Prime Minister’s speech is a non-partisan national statement of intent and purpose. It is not an occasion when partisan debates and power hungry squabbles should take place.”
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, too, expressed his dismay at Mr. Modi’s no-holds-barred attack and said the Gujarat Chief Minister should have exercised some restraint. Mr. Modi, he said, had become “so restless to become something big in the country” that he forgot that this was a day when political differences were forgotten.