Narendra Modi in Meerut sets tone for BJP's poll narrative, juxtaposes BJP's successes against Congress' 'failure'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who kickstarted his Lok Sabha election campaign from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, targeted Congress leadership by juxtaposing their 'failure' and his government's 'achievements'. Starting from Congress' minimum income scheme plan, Modi questioned Congress intent and ability to eradicate poverty during its decades-long rule.

The prime minister, who launched the BJP's campaign blitz from Meerut in 2014 too, said he will bring justice to all.

The contest this time will be between "dumdaar BJP and daagdaar opposition", he said, driving home his point that his party is strong but opposition parties are tainted. "In the days to come, I'll not only put forward NDA's report card, but also ask the Opposition why they had failed earlier. On the one hand, there is strong development. On the other, there is lack of vision," he said.

Modi told the gathering that he would give an account of the work done by his government and of what others had done, or didn't.

"When I sought your blessings five years ago, I had said I'll return it with interest and I will present a report card of my work. I also said I'll seek a report card of what work was done in the 60 years before that," Modi said.

Modi’s vision of New India: Key areas

The prime minister said three key areas would build the foundation of Naya Bharat: Safety and security; prosperity; and respect:

1) Safety and security: To ensure the safety of women, security of the citizens from terrorism, corruption, hooliganism, disease and from the enemies of the country.
2) Prosperity: To bring prosperity in the country through knowledge, science and technology, culture, and resources.
3) Respect: To respect workers and labourers, daughters of the nation, people in every category of the society and the nation’s honour and pride.

Without referring to his Wednesday address to the nation on testing of the anti-satellite missile, Modi said, “This decisive government knows how to keep its promises... whether it’s on land or sky or in space, this chowkidar’s (Modi) government mustered the courage to take strong decisions like surgical strikes.” He emphasised that his government aims at making agriculture a respectable and profitable proposition; position India among the developed nations in science and technology and rank the country among the top three economies in the world.

Even while campaigning during the Assembly elections and at various other platforms in 2018, the prime minister expressed his idea of a New India. He enumerated ‘vikas ki panchdhara’ (five tenets of development) for a New India while addressing a media event in December. Addressing his booth and party workers, and the public, Modi in reminded the audience, “The nation comprising 130 crore people has made up its mind in favour of this government.”

Seemingly slamming the Samajwadi Party (SP) and its leadership in Uttar Pradesh, the PM talked about safety of women and the reign of terror due to hooliganism in Uttar Pradesh. One may recall that the state during the SP regime witnessed the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 and the Kairana exodus between 2014 and 2016. The Supreme Court while hearing petitions in relation to the Muzaffarnagar riots held the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party, prima facie guilty of negligence in preventing the violence and ordered it to immediately arrest all those accused irrespective of their political affiliation.

Similarly, there had been mass migration of families from Kairana due to threats of anti-social elements between 2014 and 2016. Comparing his government to the Opposition, Modi asserted, “While the NDA government will present its works and achievements in the past five years, we would also take stock of the Opposition (hisaab loonga, hisaab doonga).”

Why Meerut?

Explaining why he began his election campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Meerut, Modi said, "India’s first freedom struggle (also known as India’s first war of Independence) in 1857 began from Meerut. This place also reflects aspiration of Indians for a strong India," he reminded. Even during his Uttar Pradesh Assembly election rally, Modi mentioned the historical importance of Meerut in India’s freedom struggle and had exhorted the public to bring BJP to power.

Modi's final take

"Our vision of New India will be built on the foundation of our glorious past and a strong future, with a new identity focussing on safety and security, prosperity, and respect... So to reach Modi, you ought to press the button (on electronic voting machines) meant for your BJP candidate and vote," added Modi.

BJP versus The Others

Pointing out how under the BJP-led government crores of bank accounts were opened under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) which was not acknowledged by the Congress, who rather criticised the scheme, Modi said, "Jab main bank khaate khulwata tha tab yeh buddhimaan log bhashan dete the ki desh main bank nahi hain gareeb kya karenge. Yeh log jo sattar saal tak gareebo ka bank main khaata nahi khulwa paay wo ab kehte hain ki tumhare khaate main paisa daalenge. Koi bharosa karega kya? Jo khaata nahi khulwa sakta who khaate main paisa daalenge kya?” (When I was getting the banks accounts opened these "intelligent" people said that there are no banks in the country, what will poor people do. These people who could not get poor people a bank account in 70 years are now saying that they will give money in these accounts. Will anyone believe them? Those who could not get the poor a bank account, how will they get them their money)."

On 25 March, Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised a minimum income guarantee scheme called Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) if voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Rahul said that if the Congress comes to power, the party will ensure that 20 percent of the poor families in India get Rs 72,000 annually. According to the Congress, the minimum income support scheme will be "rolled out in phases". Though Rahul claimed that this "is an extremely powerful, ground-breaking and well-thought idea", the BJP has dubbed it is being a 'populist' measure announced just before the elections to attract the voters.

 Narendra Modi in Meerut sets tone for BJPs poll narrative, juxtaposes BJPs successes against Congress failure

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Meerut. Twitter/@BJP4India

Comparing NYAY with PMJDY, Modi said that the Central scheme is to ensure universal access to banking facilities with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility. In addition, the beneficiaries would get RuPay Debit card having inbuilt accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh.

PMJDY was launched in August 2014 which was a target oriented and time bound financial inclusion scheme aimed at opening 7.5 crore bank accounts initially. However, as on 26 December, 2018, 33.66 crore accounts were opened under the scheme. Out of these accounts, 28.16 crore PMJDY accounts are operative accounts.

Rahul's claim that Congress' 'minimum income scheme' is 'a final assault' on power was also slammed by the prime minister. Taking a swipe at former prime minister Indira Gandhi's 'Garibi Hatao' slogan, Modi said that he has been hearing this slogan since he was a child and "have come to the conclusion that only way to actually remove poverty is by removing Congress itself."

"When I was 8-10 years old, I used to hear the talks of eradicating poverty. When I was 20-22-years-old, Indira Gandhi used to say that she will remove poverty. After that next four generations said the same thing. They kept moving ahead but the poor were stuck in the same misery and remained poor. Congress, which has betrayed the poor, will be removed completely by them only. Congress failed in removing poverty. Remove Congress from every corner of India to remove poverty," said Modi.

Not sparing the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance in Uttar Pradesh Modi coined an acronym to attack them. He said, "The 'SA' of Samajwadi Party, the 'RA' of RLD and the 'B' of Bahujan Samaj Party together form 'SARAB' (alcohol) which is very bad for health".

Cartoon by Manjul.

Cartoon by Manjul.

Also reiterating his 'chowkidar' narrative, prime minister tweaked his 'saabka saath, saabka vikas' slogan, making it 'saabka saath, saabka hisaab' to stress that anyone involved in corruption will be dealt with.

'Saboot' versus 'Sapoot': Modi uses word play to suggest Opposition in the wrong for asking proof for Balakot air strike

In response to the Opposition's demand for 'proof' in the aftermath of the Balakot air strike on 26 February this year in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province across the Line of Control, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said "Kya humein saboot chahiye ya sapoot chahiye? Mere desh ke sapoot hi mere desh ke sabse bada saboot hai. Jo saboot maangte hain woh sapoot ko lalkaarte hain".

Addressing his first campaign rally for the upcoming Lok Sabha election in Meerut, Modi offered a rhythmic rebuttal to the Congress party which has repeatedly been asking for proof of the damage caused to terror outfits across the border. The 'sapoots' or worthy sons of the Indian Armed Forces, according to the prime minister, are the ones who risked their lives to quell terror that threatens peace in the Kashmir Valley. By using the word 'sapoot', the prime minister drew an inference from the safe return of IAF pilot Abhinandan Vardhaman and the courageous men like him.

For Modi, those who are demanding proof of Balakot air strike are demanding proof of the valour and intent of the 'sapoots' of the armed forces. The Balakot air strike was India's response to the 14 February Pulwama terror attack by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed at least 40 CRPF jawans. Pakistan didn't stick to its 2004 peace agreement where it committed to neutralise terror on its soil. In his own way, Modi said that the air strike has sent shivers down the spines of those operating terror outfits across the border. He also said had anything gone wrong in executing the air strike, the Opposition would have demanded his resignation and burnt his effigies.

"When the country needed to speak in one voice, 21 Opposition parties gathered in Delhi to adopt a resolution condemning us. They are demanding proof from the armed forces for their act of bravery," Modi had earlier said at BJP's Sankalp rally at Patna's Gandhi Maidan on 3 March. But this time around, with the use of homophones in his attention-grabbing oratory, he conveyed the same message again.

The BJP-led Centre's stand on Balakot has been that it was a pre-emptive, non-military strike and that the government had credible information that more such suicide terror attacks could happen in the future for which it was necessary to take a strong stand and guard its own borders and civilians.

Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 07:59:24 IST