Pune: Controversy over his "puppy" remark notwithstanding, an aggressive Narendra Modi on Sunday threw a challenge at the Congress.
"Congress forgets about its promises after coming into power. It has taken people for granted. I challenge the government at the Centre: Compare NDA's six years and UPA's 10 years... ho jaye mukabla," the Gujarat Chief Minister said at a rally in Pune.
In his first rally after taking over as the election campaign committee chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mr Modi tore into Congress, ripping apart policies of the government it heads at the Centre.
"Congress decided to bring in an ordinance (on food security) because it does not trust its allies anymore. It's all a fight for credit and deprive their partners of the credit," he told a crowd of over 20,000 people. (Highlights of Modi's speech)
Mr Modi also accused the Congress of cheating the people of the country by failing to keep its promise of poverty alleviation.
"They let the poor remain poor," he said. Taking a veiled dig at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Mr Modi added, "Their prince goes and spends the night in poverty-stricken homes. And he shows off the work of his ancestors."
"Whenever the Congress government is faced by trouble, they hide behind a burqa (veil) of secularism so that no one questions them on real issues and problems," Mr Modi said. (Congress hits back)
He also criticised the central government for the current economic scenario in the country and falling rupee. "India's PM is an economist, yet the country's economy is in such a bad condition. Very soon, dollar rate will touch the age of the Finance Minister," Mr Modi said.
Speaker after speaker named Mr Modi as the future Prime Minister, but the Gujarat Chief Minister continues to face opposition from other parties, especially for his analogy of a puppy while talking about the death of many people in the 2002 Gujarat riots during a controversial interview two days ago.
"My party strongly condemns the examples given by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He should study the Constitution properly because it is based on secularism and not on Hindutva," Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said today."
But none of this dented Mr Modi's popularity among students at a Pune college where he talked about the need to ramp up education in the country towards nation-building.
Education, Mr Modi said, needed to build men and not money-machines. "The roadmap of China-education needs to be analysed. China prioritised education in their budget. In India, we dream of seven percent of our budget for education, but are stuck at four percent," he said, adding the country needed "modernisation, not westernisation." (Read)