Sounding the bugle for the 2014 Parliamentary election, Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party poll campaign committee chairman, on Sunday called for the ousting of the UPA government in the “national interest” and spoke of the need to “heal the wounds of the Kashmiri people”. Mr. Modi was addressing a Sankalp rally organised at Madhopur near Pathankot town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. The rally was organised to mark the 60th anniversary of the death Syama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Jan Sangh. This was Mr. Modi’s first public event since having been installed in the BJP’s national hierarchy.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the patron of one of the BJP’s most committed allies, the Akali Dal, voiced his support for Mr. Modi and called upon him to mobilise the Punjabi people and generate a turning point against the Congress, as Jayaprakash Narayan had done in Ludhiana in the 1970s.
Mr. Modi sought to appeal to various sections and stressed that the BJP believed in uniting hearts and not creating vote banks. Had the BJP been voted back to power in 2004, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have resolved the Kashmir issue through compassion and dialogue, asserted Mr. Modi. The Kashmiri people understood the need for reviving the development process through the national mainstream, said Mr. Modi.
Mr. Modi said the UPA’s Kashmir policy was flawed and it had failed on all fronts including national security and economy. People had no clarity on who actually took decisions at the Centre, which had “two pradhans”, he said, referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Describing the Congress as a rudderless organisation, Mr. Modi said the Prime Minister must answer for the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani army personnel, the killing of death row convict Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore prison and the non-conviction of those responsible for dropping arms in Purulia.
Mr. Modi compared the Congress’ tenure with the falling value of the India rupee and sought to stress that the people’s future was not safe in the hands of the ruling party.
Taking a dig at the Bharat Nirman advertisement campaign, whose slogan is “Bharat ke nirmaan pe haq hai mera [I have a right over India’s growth]”, Mr. Modi said “Bharat ke nirman pe shaq hai mera [I have my doubts over India’s growth]”.
Recalling his experience as former in-charge of party affairs in the Punjab region, Mr. Modi said he understood the people of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
He paid rich tributes to Dr. Mukherjee, an 18-foot-tall statue of whom was unveiled at “Ekta Sthal” near the rally site in March 2010. In 1953, Dr. Mukherjee had addressed his last public function at the venue before he died in custody after he was arrested for having entered Jammu and Kashmir without a mandatory permit.