At his first public rally as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi had words of advice not only for the incumbent government but also for the governments across the borders. While he advised Pakistan to stop focusing on “anti-India” policies and clamp down on terror, Bangladesh and China were told to “fight poverty, illiteracy and superstitions” and not India.
Addressing the gathering included ex-servicemen, Mr. Modi said Pakistan ought to change its stance vis-à-vis India and instead focus on itself.
With a poster of himself standing in a reflective pose in front of Parliament in the backdrop, he touched upon Pakistan’s failure to forge friendly ties with India. When a democratically elected government recently took over there, there was hope of friendly relations. But the beheading of Indian soldiers at the LoC proved otherwise, he said adding that if Pakistan withdrew its anti-India policies and stopped letting terrorists use its territory, it would progress more in one decade than it had done since its formation.
Training his guns on the UPA government for its “weak stand” on border intrusions, he said national security was not a priority for the government and skirmishes between the armed forces were a manifestation of a “weak government at the Centre.”
Mr. Modi attacked Defence Minister A.K. Antony for his statement in Parliament about the LoC killings and JD(U) leader Bhim Singh for saying that soldiers should be prepared to die. He said: “If you cannot respect them and recognise their sacrifice, do not insult soldiers and the families of the martyrs.”
While he extolled the armed forces for their role in keeping the borders safe and for their role during natural disasters such as the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and the recent Uttarakhand floods, he castigated the Centre for the rise in tension along borders.
“We are totally surrounded by problems. Pakistan is not behaving, China is threatening us, water of the Brahmaputra is being stopped and there is a threat to the territory of Arunachal Pradesh …. Is this because of a weak Army? The problem is not on the borders, the problem is in Delhi,” he said, adding that no matter how strong and competent the armed forces were, until a patriotic and able government took power at the Centre, there would be “no guarantee of safety.”
Since Independence, the country had lost as many soldiers during wars as it had to terrorism and Maoist insurgency, he said.
The Gujarat Chief Minister criticised the government for allowing the Sachar Committee to suggest a census of the armed forces based on religion, saying it was an example of the vote bank politics played by the Congress. Even the British did not divide the people of India as much as our own people have. The armed forces are an illustration of true secularism.”
India’s dependence on other nations for its defence procurement was another issue flagged by Mr. Modi. With its capabilities in research, engineering and technology, India must be self-reliant and should aspire to not only meet its demand for equipment and arsenal, but also become an exporter. “Those sitting in Delhi have no such concern. They are only bothered about when the next tender for a deal is going to happen because it a trade worth billions.”
Mr. Modi also demanded a White Paper on the long pending proposal of “one rank, one pension.” He said had the BJP formed the government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee 2004, the issue would have long been settled.
Among those present at the rally were Haryana Janhit Congress president Kuldip Bishnoi; the former Army Chief, General V.K. Singh; Olympian Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Jagdish Mukhi.