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Modi launches battle for Delhi

Not once did Prime Minister Narendra Modi mention either the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or its leader Arvind Kejriwal by name during his nearly 50-minute long speech at an election rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Ground today. But it was evident by the end of his speech that the PM considered AAP the main rival of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the forthcoming Delhi assembly elections as he asked people not to vote for “anarchists” who should live with the forest dwelling naxalites, not in the “civilised” environs of the national capital.

Kejriwal had called himself an anarchist at a dharna outside the Rail Bhavan in New Delhi in January 2014. Today, Modi asked the well attended rally to “punish” those who wasted a year of Delhi. He said some people had mastered the art of protests and sitting on dharnas on footpaths. 

“They have mastery over such work. Give them that work while we have mastered the art of providing good governance. Elect us to give Delhi a good government,” Modi said, promising pucca houses to all slum dwellers by 2022, free of cost LED bulbs to the poor, 24-hour power supply and soon the option to choose their power supplier.

Delhi is currently under Lieutenant Governor’s rule after the 49-day AAP government quit in mid-February 2014. The assembly elections are scheduled next month. 

At the rally, it was apparent that BJP under Modi and party President Amit Shah was giving Delhi elections their utmost attention. However, the large number of empty seats at the far corner of the rally ground was a matter of concern for the local party leaders. There were, however, enough young men who continued to chant Modi’s name throughout the duration of the public rally but what was missing was the PM’s interactive interludes with the audience that have become typical of his communication style.

The rally, BJP’s first in Delhi for the forthcoming elections, featured mineral water bottles with Modi’s photo distributed to all. The bottles, by the end of the rally, were strewn across the Ramlila Gound. Unlike his public rallies during Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections, there was no appeal from Modi to ask people to use dustbins to dispose the waste. The rally ground also had unsigned posters, ostensibly from AAP, which reminded BJP of its promise of 2003 to give Delhi full statehood. None of the speakers broached the subject.

Apart from Modi, all recently appointed BJP Chief Ministers like Maharashtra’s Devendra Fadnavis, Haryana’s Manohal Lal Khattar and Raghubar Das of Jharkhand were present on the stage, as also was Shah, whom Modi described as the “most successful BJP President” ever while M Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, both former party presidents and now ministers in the Modi cabinet, looked on.

Modi attempted to reach out to both the poor and middle classes during his speech. He dismissed rumours that a BJP government in Delhi had plans to lower the retirement age of government employees to 58 years. He said the BJP has introduced new politics based on ‘vikasvaad’ or development and not ‘jativaad’ (casteism), ‘sampradayavaad’ (communalism) and ‘prantvaad’ (regionalism). He said the PM Jan Dhan Yajana has been a huge success with 11 crore bank accounts opened by January 10 and Rs 8,500 crore deposited in the bank accounts by the poor.

The PM, in another reference to Kejriwal and his party’s criticism of crony capitalism, said there was a time when politics was all about abusing three or four rich people to get the votes of the poor. “But now the poor want to know what has been done for them,” he said, questioning those who asked for the votes of the poor of Delhi but did precious little for them.

Modi also took on AAP’s campaign against corruption. He said there wasn’t even a single allegation of corruption against either him or his government in the last eight months. “I have started this corruption free campaign right from the place where I sit. I will soon bring it to your localities, put a stop to those who extract money from auto-rickshaws…”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Naidu spoke about how the opposition was stalling important legislations in the Rajya Sabha and the government’s efforts to provide relief to unauthorised colonies while Power Minister Piyush Goyal promised better power supply to Delhi. 

Party president Shah said black money stashed abroad will soon be brought back after legal complications are sorted out. He said that under the NDA government Pakistan has been given a fitting response to cross border firing.

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