In his first public rally after being announced as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi on Sunday attacked the the Centre for “mishandling” the recent border troubles with Pakistan and China, saying solutions can be found under a “strong leadership“.

Mr. Modi also came out in strong defence of the Army and called it a “symbol of secularism” lessons of which, he said, should be learnt by politicians.

“The problems are not at the borders, but it lies in Delhi (Centre),” Mr. Modi said addressing a huge gathering of ex-servicemen at Ahirwal region of Haryana.

A solution to these issues can only be found if there is a “strong leadership” at the Centre with a person leading from the front, said Modi, who has attacked the “weak” policies of the UPA government towards its neighbours.

Mr. Modi,in his 65-minute-long address, also lashed out at Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s statement in Parliament on the killing of five Indian soldiers when he had said that heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform were responsibile for the killings.

Following an opposition uproar, Mr. Antony had later clarified that specialist troops of Pakistan Army were involved in the August six attack on the Indian side of the Line of Control.

“It is unfortunate that the country’s defence minister makes a statement in Parliament that someone came in Pakistani soldiers’ uniform and killed our soldiers...it must have pained our soldiers,” he said.

Hitting out at the policies of the Centre, he said, “Every day we are facing problems...Pakistan is not giving up its design...China is showing us its might by intrusions... is keen to stop Brahmaputra rivers water and wants to take control over Arunachal Pardesh.”

“The government that is sitting in Delhi is not at all concerned about them. They feel that such incidents keep taking place,” he said.

Noting that today’s rally is the “call for change” and that the “land of Haryana has challenged the Delhi Sultanate”, he said “when you are standing amid the Army in battlefield, then your ability to lead is seen.

The one who leads should have capacity, a war strategy and the yearning to be in the front, he said.

Mr. Modi also slammed the UPA for Sachar Committee’s bid to seek a community-wise census in the Indian armed forces saying it was a “sin” by those in Delhi who were “power hungry” and “believed in vote bank politics”. He also hailed the armed forces for opposing the move.

“The politics of vote banks has become disgusting in our country. Politicians who want to divide the society through vote bank politics, should learn true secularism from our armed forces,” Modi told the rally attended by former Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh.

Interestingly, Mr. Modi made several references to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, considered the moderate face of the BJP but only once to sulking BJP patriarch L.K. Advani.

“It feels good to recall the government of Atalji and Advaniji,” Mr. Modi said while underlining the need for capable leadership to resolve pressing issues.

He said it was Mr. Vajpayee who had brought to world’s centre stage the Kashmir issue and terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.

India’s neighbouring countries, he said, was posing problems to it because of a “weak” government at the Centre.

“The problem is in Delhi. And hence the solution to this problem has to be found in Delhi itself. The problem will be solved only when a competent, patriotic and people-oriented government is formed at the Centre,” he said.

Mr. Modi also chose the occasion to attack JD(U), which parted ways with NDA three months ago ending a 17-year-old alliance over his elevation.

“It is the acme of shamelessness when a public representative says that people join Army to die. No leader, no political party would have humiliated (the forces) more than this....

“If you cannot recognise the sacrifice of people in armed forces, don’t insult the soldiers who are fighting for the security of the country“,” he said.

Mr. Modi was referring to remarks by a minister in Nitish Kumar government in Bihar for which the JD(U) had pulled him up. The rivalry between Kumar and Modi is well-known.

Mr. Modi also referred to Mahabharata and Lord Krishna.

In June, Mr. Modi was named BJP’s campaign committee chief despite opposition from Mr. Advani, who had stayed away from the party executive meet and had also made a reference to a wounded Bhishma Pitamah lying on a bed of arrows in a scene in Mahabharata.

Mr. Advani had also chosen to stay away when Mr. Modi was declared on Friday the party’s prime ministerial nominee for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, voicing anguish over the party chief Rajnath Singh’s style of functioning.

Raising the issue of one-rank one-pension, the BJP leader said that had the Vajpayee-led NDA returned to power in 2004, this would not have remained a problem till date and demanded that the government release a white paper on the issue.

Mr. Modi also recalled that he was keen to study in a Sainik School at Jaamnagar but could not do so due to poverty.

The BJP leader also used the occasion to underline the need to make the country not only self-reliant in production of arms and ammunition required by the armed forces but also to take measures to ensure that India can even export arms and defence equipment to the world.

He said that there was a need for out of box thinking on issues “but somebody should be there, who thinks.

“But there is nobody to think here.... Those sitting in Delhi have no such concern. They are only bothered about when the next tender (defence deal) is going to happen because it is there that lakhs and crores are involved,” Modi said.

He said that ex-servicemen could be employed in many services like in fire brigade and in arresting power theft as was done in Gujarat.

He also appealed to the ex-service men to connect with the voters in the country and urge them to cast votes. “We will become powerful that way,” he said.

Mr. Modi also flagged the need to attract youths towards joining the armed forces, modernise Indian Army and improve medical, travel and other facilities for ex army-men.

He also congratulated Indian scientists on successful launch of Agni-5.

Former army chief Singh said Indian armed forces were in no way lacking in ability. “If we were weakened, we were weakened by our leadership”, he said.

Urging the political parties to agree to one-rank, one-pension, Mr. Singh had said a few days back that there are 10 crore votes of ex-servicemen, serving personnel and their families settled in Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and political parties could cash in on this by accepting the demand.

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