It took Narendra Modi about two minutes today to shred the BJP's new-found resolve to tone down its shrill attack on the Congress-led UPA and play the role of a constructive opposition. The party saved its star performer for the last at its national executive meeting. He took the stage and tore into the UPA making scathing attacks on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over issues like "coal-gate" and Foreign Direct Investment in retail.
Keeping the PM in his cross hairs, Mr Modi harked back to his "Singham" comment of a few days ago to say, "The country wants to know why in eight years you have become Singham twice - once when there was the nuclear treaty with America, and the second time on the FDI issue..." The decision to allow foreign mega-stores to come into the retail sector in India was part of a number of key decisions the government made earlier this month; it has defended them as necessary to reinvigorate a flagging economy.
Hours before he spoke, party patriarch LK Advani had exhorted the same audience to play the role of a "credible alternative" rather than a mere opposition party. The senior leader has nudged the party into shifting gears with a "positive campaign" since two years of a rant over corruption and a few wasted Parliament sessions have led the party nowhere. (Read)
Taking that cue, party president Nitin Gadkari, had said yesterday, "Let's not be known as the party of opposition. Let us be known as a party of good governance." BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, he said, were doing well "despite the global slowdown and despite a central government which ignores opposition-ruled states. Let every worker spread the word about that."
Narendra Modi's speech today totally disregarded that line as he attacked the UPA government for pushing policies that, he alleged, "benefit other countries." He also used the BJP platform with an eye on the Assembly elections in his state in two months and at the same time to submit himself as a candidate worthy of leading the party in the next general elections.
"Even in the PM's house, the milk comes from Gujarat," he said pointing to the development in dairy farming in the state. He added pat after pat on his own back saying, "In Gujarat, even cattle are operated upon for cataract; such facilities are not there for human beings in some other states" and "Gujarat was zero in tourism - we worked on it for 10 years. In the states with the fastest growing tourism sector in India, today Gujarat is number 1."