During political rallies, the general protocol is that all other leaders reach the stage before the arrival of the party president. At the BJP public rally at Kamgar Maidan in Elphinstone yesterday, party president Nitin Gadkari approached the stage, took a look at the leaders present, and then turned back. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had not yet arrived. Gadkari returned only when Modi had entered the venue, and then along with him he climbed the dais.
It was a rosy picture of bonhomie for the common party worker, but it also brought into sharp focus the current dependence of Gadkari on Modi. Modi’s influence in the party had already come to the fore on the first day of the BJP national executive meeting on Thursday with the resignation of Sanjay Joshi, known to be an archrival of the Gujarat strongman. Other happenings at the rally only reinforced the picture of Modi’s dominance in the BJP, as after his speech the public did not mind giving the BJP president’s speech a miss. The concluding day of the two-day national executive meeting threw up another surprise: the sudden appearance of former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa.
The arrival of the hitherto sulking Yeddyurappa — he has been unhappy over the below-expectations support he has got from the party since the illegal mining controversy — was also attributed to the actions of Modi. According to a party leader, Yeddyurappa was against Gadkari’s leadership, but the show of support by Modi for Gadkari left the former CM of Karnataka isolated. “Already in midst of controversies, Yeddyurappa couldn’t afford to be cornered,” said the leader, requesting anonymity. “And so, after suggestions from his supporters in Karnataka, he came here.”
Hindustan ka sher
As Modi arrived at the public rally and was welcomed by one and all, the BJP leader on the mike asked the public to announce Modi as ‘Gujarat ka sher’. The public did abide by the instruction once, but in a repeat of the previous day’s events, people changed the slogan to ‘Hindustan ka sher’ at the very next opportunity they got to declare their adulation for Modi. Modi remained the centre of attraction even as other leaders spoke. Even the leaders in their speeches made a special mention of Modi. His seat at the centre of the stage also sent across a special message, as if making the point that Modi was at the centre of the party. Even a highly influential party man like Arun Jaitley dedicated half his speech to praising Modi and his work.
Modi lauds Gujarat
Modi, who is not new to the state because of his connections with the RSS that is headquartered in Nagpur, started his speech in Marathi. Soon he switched to Hindi and launched a speech on the achievements of Gujarat. He compared his state, which used to see seven years of drought every decade in the past but was now drought-free, with “a prosperous state like Mahahrashtra” that was currently witnessing major problems, including drought.
Filled with self-praise, Modi’s speech did not leave any opportunity to criticise the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre. He even compared the UPA government with Nirmal Baba. “All the people in the government are Nirmal Baba’s and they are only taking away things from us and not giving back anything,” Modi said.He also asked why the government could not control malnutrition and Naxalism. He said the government had never thought about any development programmes for women and children. He also attacked the government left, right and centre over the falling rupee. “I am in the government and I know how it functions. When the currency of Bangladesh, Pakistan and even Nepal isn’t falling, then why only Indian currency is going down? There is a major thing behind it, this is not just a collapse in the currency rate,” Modi said.
Modi also said it was high time the government in Delhi was thrown out. “If even a single day is given to the UPA, it will sell the country. We need to throw it away and have only NDA at the Centre,” he said. Modi’s speech garnered a lot of applause; there was more clapping for him than for all the other leaders. He even spoke for double the time the party president’s speech took. Praise from Gadkari In his speech, Gadkari, who spoke in Hindi throughout, focused for the most part on the politics of the state. The rest of his speech was either praise for Modi or a repetition of what Modi had said.