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Narendra Modi highlights Opposition name-calling in bid for votes; development, national security take backseat at recent rallies

Virus, Bhasmasur, Dawood Ibrahim-equivalent, Hitler, death merchant, rabid monkey, rat and insect: these are the terms that, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress leaders have associated with him in the past. He made the claim at one of the two rallies in Haryana on Wednesday, with ten Lok Sabha seats of the state set to go to polls on 12 May. "They even abused my mother and even asked who my father is and remember all this was said after I became the prime minister," Modi said.

Among the other charges levelled by Modi at the Fatehabad and Kurukshetra rallies were: the Congress recommended Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan's name for the Nobel peace prize, its leaders referred to the Indian Army chief as "galli ka gunda" (goon) and the air force head as a "jhoota" (liar), and the 'mahamilawati' grand alliance were insulting Ramayana and Mahabharata "day and night". He also alleged that the Congress gave tickets to people who talk about "chopping him into pieces."

In Kurukshetra, while presenting the list of abuses hurled at him by the Congress, he said, "I know speaking such kind of words from a public platform is not right. Children, too, are listening to my speech, but they should neither learn nor speak such kind of language (used by Congress leaders against him)."

In Fatehabad, he lashed out at "shameless" Congress for rewarding those who were involved in the "sins" of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Referring to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, he said, "The person being questioned for his involvement in the riots has been made the Madhya Pradesh chief minister. By doing so, the Congress has made it clear that it does not care about your emotions."

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had called Modi 'Bhasmasur' in 2013, while party's digital head Divya Spandana recently tweeted a photoshopped picture of Hitler to compare him with Modi. But, not all the allegations listed by him are true. For instance, Kamal Nath's links with the 1984 riots have never been established. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister also clarified in December 2018 that there was no FIR or charge sheet filed against him in the matter.

 Narendra Modi highlights Opposition name-calling in bid for votes; development, national security take backseat at recent rallies

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Haryana on Wednesday. Twitter/@narendramodi

At the Wednesday rallies, Modi did mention his government's efforts to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist at the United Nations, and the "free hand" given to armed forces which is letting them strike deep inside Pakistan to kill terrorists among other relevant topics. But they were just that: mentions.

The firing of rounds of allegations, emphasis on name-calling and his questioning of Congress' "dictionary of love" show how much the quality of Modi's attacks has changed, in terms of both tonality and content.

When the election season had kicked off, Modi mainly targetted the Opposition over issues such as corruption, national security, and terrorism. As days passed, the key issues faded into the background and the prime minister more and more emphasised the Balakot air strike and the 'Bofors-accused' prime minister, a dig at Rajiv Gandhi.

With just two weeks left for the counting of votes in the Lok Sabha election, the prime minister has now essentially put the focus on himself. "They insulted me, my family, and my state of poverty. The people are watching and listening everything; they will give Congress a befitting reply," he said.

From "abki baar, Modi sarkar" to "fir ek bar, Modi sarkar", one might want to argue that it has always been a one-man show. But, unlike before, Modi is now ensuring that the fight is seen as 'him versus the rest', and not between different parties or ideologies.

At the Kurukshetra rally, Modi also said he was unsure about how his words would be interpreted by the press, "because Congress has held sway over most media", and thus, appealed to the gathering to spread the word on social media on the insults he was being subjected to.

By expressing this lack of faith in the press, Modi not only contributed to Congress' claim about him being "scared" of press conferences, but also levelled another charge against the media without any data to support it.

It is possible that Modi is making the remarks under pressure as he seeks a second term. But being the prime minister of the world's largest democracy, Modi cannot afford to tag all journalists as sell-outs. To repeat Modi's words, people are watching, and if the prime minister doesn't trust the media, then who would? Unfortunately, the war of words is only expected to continue as the nation counts down to 23 May. Until then, all the public can do is vote.

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Updated Date: May 08, 2019 22:02:22 IST