Narendra Modi today gave a clarion call for Ram Rajya from the civilisational heartland of India, telling denizens of Varanasi that this was the vision of their ancestors, which they had the qualities to make real. Enchanting a mammoth gathering in this historic city at the Vijay Shanknaad Rally, he spared neither person nor party as he launched the Bharatiya Janata Party’s countdown for the general election of 2014 with a pronounced emphasis on the rise of social underdogs as the yardstick to measure the progress of the nation.
Carefully calibrating his combativeness towards the Congress and the UPA, and the family that has presided over the destiny of the nation for 45 years, Narendra Modi said it is insulting that some people think Uttar Pradesh is important to form the Government (at the Centre). Should a State be used only to harvest MPs and form Governments, he asked, and replied, “My own thinking is much larger. I say that India needs UP for stability, because we cannot progress as a country if UP does not progress”.
Uttar Pradesh, he indirectly chastised the Congress, is not a playground for politics; the people here have the energy to galvanise the nation. Your ancestors, he told his rapturous audience, dreamt of Ram Rajya, it is your heritage (virasat); the difficulty is only because the State has not elected the right leaders or the right Government. The day this changes, he promised, the energy and drive of the people will take the nation to new high.
Striking a personal and emotional rapport with the people, Narendra Modi said he had come from the land of Somnath (Shiva) to take the blessings of Baba Vishwanath (Mahadev). Noting the excitement of the gathering, he said he was probably witnessing such atmospherics before elections for the first time; people are so keen, so aggressive, to throw out the regime in Delhi. In 2014, it is the people and not political parties that will fight the election.
Narendra Modi addressing Vijay Shankhnaad Rally in Varanasi, UP
Standing in the eternal city, he said one cannot talk of India without mentioning the Ganga, as India is incomplete without the Ganga. It may be just a river for some, but for us she is a Mother. The eternal significance of Varanasi, as the devout know, is that it is here that the Ganga bends back north towards its Himalayan source. Naturally, Narendra Modi lambasted the Congress for its inability to clean the river despite umpteen schemes, endless committees and wasted budgets, which have not even been able to stem the steady decline of the river. He challenged the Prime Minister to submit details of the thousands of crores spent on the pretext of the Ganga from the public exchequer from the reign of Rajiv Gandhi. Citizens were cheated in the name of the Ganga, so the nation should know who got the money; he asked if such people should be tasked with governing the nation.
Uttar Pradesh, he said to the delight of his listeners, is not responsible for the pollution of the Ganga. Until Delhi and Lucknow are purged (of the respective Governments) there can be no purity in the Ganga. Pro-Congress persons, he mused, sometimes ask him what he will do if he comes to power in Delhi. The answer, he said, is to come to Gujarat and see the Sabarmati; it was once a dirty stream, but today the pure waters of the Narmada flow in it, and if the Sabarmati can be cleaned and made pure again, so can the Ganga; this will purify not just the river but the whole of Hindustan. The BJP, he thundered, does not make empty promises, “we have come with intent, irada not vada. The country is fed up of promises, it now wants its wishes fulfilled”.
Continuing the policy of emphasizing the importance of agriculture and farmers in national life, the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate said that under the leadership of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the farmer was inspired and filled the granaries of the nation. The UP farmer alone had the ability to feed all of Europe, but today governance is so poor that the nation is limping and the farmer is starving. It breaks the heart of our hardworking farmer when he sees his rice rotting on railway platforms. The farmer does not just feed the people, he feeds the animal population as well. But the Government callously lets the grain rot and then sells it to alcohol producers at a pittance of 0.80/quintal. This, he charged, is the reason why the Government refused the advice of the Supreme Court to distribute the excess grain among the poor; is this why our farmer toils, he lamented.
The Congress and similar parties remember the poor only at election time, just as students remember god at the time of examination. They think that once they get votes they are through for another five years; they have no love or respect for the poor, and cannot understand the grim struggle of their lives. One family, he charged, which has been in power for 45 years, is responsible for the plight of the nation. ‘One family has ruined the nation’.
The very mentality is flawed. Striking a powerful rapport with the audience, he said, “we don’t have to go and look for poverty the way they do; our childhood was in poverty” (alluding to Rahul Gandhi’s televised visits to the huts of the poor). One leader, he pointed out, said, “chai bechne wala” (wants to be PM). Expressing astonishment at the attitude, he countered that if the nation wants, a farm labourer or a shoe shine boy can lead the nation. Taking a dig at the corruption bedeviling the nation, he said to thunderous applause, “my upbringing, my sanskars say that I can sell tea but not the nation”. Only those who mock the poor can say that poverty is a state of mind, he continued. Those whose children are crying of hunger know what poverty is. Young children, he said, alluding to his own childhood, work to feed their parents; the nation should throw out leaders who do not understand this. Addressing the older generation, he asked if parents who have struggled in life want their children and grandchildren to suffer and struggle in the same way.
Just before he came to Varanasi, he said, a Muslim wrote to him saying that he was a resident of Kashi and since he (Modi) was coming to the city, could he make a mention in his speech of the difficulty of sleeping in the weaver’s bastis because power looms ran the whole night? The Banarsi sari, Modi responded, drape our ladies and can make our economy, yet such a huge industry has been ruined due to lack of vision. In Surat, he said, the power looms were silenced by upgrading the whole sector to soundless machines. This could also be done in Varanasi so that the huge employment potential of the sector engages the youth and puts an end to outward migration for jobs. The Government of India, however, imports yarn from China and ignores Varanasi.
BJP president Rajnath Singh gave a combative speech to huge cheers from the audience, and lauded the history and civilisational luminosity of Varanasi as a land associated with the Buddha (nearby Sarnath); Tulsidas, Kabir, Raidas, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Bismillah Khan and Madan Mohan Malaviya. Varanasi MP Murli Manohar Joshi made a pointed attack on the state of our national security, particularly the danger from China, Pakistan, and more recently, the shameful insult to a woman diplomat abroad. The UPA, he charged, failed to protect women at home and now it has failed to protect our women overseas.