BJP's prime ministerial candidate focuses on lack of economic growth in the State while addressing a rally in Ranchi

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, on Sunday deplored the lack of economic growth in Jharkhand though the State was formed 13 years ago. “Jharkhand lost the opportunity to grow as Chhattisgarh did under BJP governments,” he said.

Addressing the Vijay Sankalp rally here, he said: “If Jharkhand’s natural resources were described to the world’s economics pundits, they would say it compares with the world’s most developed States. Then why is there such poverty in a rich State’s lap?” he asked. He invoked Birsa Munda as Bhagwan (God) along with other tribal leaders while beginning his speech.

Stating that the parties in power in Delhi had neglected the demands of people of Jharkhand for a separate state till the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee created conditions for the formation of the new State, he said the hope with which Vajpayee had done so was unfulfilled.

Mr. Modi said that 13 years after it was created, Jharkhand was at a crucial juncture like an adolescent. “A 13-year-old experiences several changes in appearance, in diet, in habits. Jharkhand too is entering a crucial period of 13 to 18 years, a kaalkhand in which Jharkhand needs a leader who will understand its needs. Jharkhand will need Delhi.”

“But can you trust those in Delhi who neglected the Jharkhand demand for 50 years?” he said. Of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, the BJP has 7. In the assembly, BJP has been a part of government for over seven of 13 years as part of different coalition governments.

In a veiled reference to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, he said those in Delhi had got into habits of making Akashvani-like statements even as they took no accountability for corruption or inflation. Claiming better management of the Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation (GSFC), he said unlike the Gujarat PSUs, in Jharkhand PSUs such as Heavy Engineering Corporation had “floundered.” He said though being rain-deficient, farmers in Gujarat had access to water from taps. “I was sent clippings on how Prabhat Khabar Ranchi had reported on my government's work on tap water,” he said referring to reports in the Hindi daily published in Jharkhand. “This is possible here too.”

“Despite having coal mines, Jharkhand is in darkness. This would not be the condition if 50 years back, power plants had been set up here,” he said describing his “vision for Jharkhand.”

This was the first rally the Gujarat Chief Minister was addressing after an Ahmedabad court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea against Special Investigation Team’s clean chit to Modi in a case relating to 2002-riots. Even as he steered clear of direct mention of the court’s verdict or the 2002-riots, Mr Modi said people did not want the “poison of communalism.”

“People want opportunities, not political opportunism. The youth wants skills, not communalism; people want security, not the poison of communalism,” he stated.

While over a lakh people had gathered at the venue, Mr. Modi's arrival at the rally site in a helicopter after landing at Birsa Munda airport drew more attention and cheers from the crowd than his 30-minute address. “We were here since 4 a.m. at the station. Pandeyji from our village got us here but did not give us any food,” said Arti Devi, an agricultural worker from Hazaribagh, 90 km away. “Ashok brought us here saying we can go see Ranchi. He said the mukhya mantri will speak, but I cannot say which mukhya mantri,” said Chameli Devi who arrived on a special train arranged by the BJP's State unit from Giridih, 150 km away.