Narendra Modi turned a challenge thrown by Mulayam Singh Yadav on its head, ripping into the Samajwadi Party chief, whose party rules Uttar Pradesh.
Mr. Modi, addressing a massive BJP rally in UP’s Gorakhpur said, “In Benaras (Varanasi), Netaji has said Modi does not have what it takes to make another Gujarat out of UP. Do you know what making another Gujarat is? Gujarat means electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
“Netaji,” Mr. Modi said, repeatedly using the name Mr Yadav’s party men use to address him, “you can’t make a Gujarat. That needs a chhappan inch ki chhati (56-inch chest).”
“If UP became Gujarat, then the people of Gujarat would come to UP looking for work, not the other way round. But you can’t do it Netaji,” the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said.
In Benaras, Mr Yadav had said at his own election rally, “They say, they’ll create a Gujarat (here). But please think again. If you make this Gujarat, you will commit atrocities and massacres as you did there.”
Mr Yadav is prominent among Mr Modi’s many critics who accuse him of not doing enough to prevent the communal riots that lacerated Gujarat in 2002, killing hundreds of people, mostly Muslims. Mr. Modi has been cleared of allegations of complicity by a Supreme Court-monitored investigation which was also recently upheld by a court.
Mr Modi says parties like the SP and Congress target him to polarise minority votes. He stressed that caste and community -based politics does not matter anymore. Only development does, he said.
The Gujarat chief minister invoked the other Netaji – Subhash Chandra Bose whose birth anniversary it is today to say, “Bose had said ‘you give me blood, I’ll give you freedom.’ I will say, ‘you’ve given the others 60 years, give me just 60 months. I’ll give you peace and prosperity.”
UP sends 80 legislators to the 545-seat Lok Sabha. The BJP will have to significantly improve its tally in the state to have a shot at forming government at the Centre after general elections this year. It had won only 10 seats in 2009, placing fourth behind the SP, BSP and Congress.