Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday equated the Congress with corruption and said that burning his effigies on November 8 would not scare him and he would continue to fight against corruption. His message at all three rallies — at Una, Palampur and Kullu in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh — was the same, that of tackling corruption.
At Palampur, Modi hit out at the state’s Congress government, saying: “When you vote for the BJP, you get schools, water and power. When you think of the Congress, you can only think of corruption.”
About the Congress, he said: “Their leaders want to collect whatever they can for themselves in the five years that they get. We work for the people. The government will do justice and will punish the corrupt. The Congress is in mourning. They are setting alight Modi’s effigies. I understand their pain. They are wondering how a chaiwala could become the Prime Minister. They don’t understand the power of the people. They are now wondering what I will do on November 8 this year,” he said, bringing up the demonetisation anniversary when the Opposition has decided to hold protests.
“Were you pained by the decision?” he asked the crowd about demonetisation. “No, you did not have sacks full of ill-gotten money. Are you angry with Modi? Are you burning his effigies? No. But they are worried. All the corrupt people must listen, this fight against corruption will not stop,” he said.
In Kullu, Modi also alleged that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi refused to carry out a note ban after a panel headed by Yashwantrao Chavan recommended it, alleging that she kept her party’s interests ahead of the nation’s.
“Had she done the note ban when needed, I would not have had to carry out this big task. For the Congress, it is never dal se bada desh (country bigger than party). For them only their party’s interest comes first,” he was quoted by PTI as saying.
“The Congress and corruption are inseparable, they are like a tree and its roots. All their leaders are out on bail after facing serious charges of corruption and they are speaking about putting a check on corruption,” he said. “Corruption is the only identity of the Congress party.”
At the rally in Una, Modi called the Congress’s November 8 protest a “drama”.
“Now, they are left with nothing but burning the effigies of Modi on November 8. Do whatever you want, but I will not stop the yajna of honesty in the country against the corrupt Congress,” he said.
“Our only priority is to get the poor their rights, and the only jadi-booti that can make this happen is all-round development…. Everything is the same… same money, officials, only the head (PM) has changed. Resiliently, the pace of the development has increased at double speed,” Modi said.
About GST, he said he would review and was open to making changes if difficulties persisted.
Palampur is a seat that has chosen a Congress candidate seven times out of 11 since 1967. Since 1990, when former Chief Minister and now Rajya Sabha MP Shanta Kumar was voted, the BJP has won the seat twice, while Congress has won four times.
Going by the posters, the election in Palampur does not seem like a cakewalk for the BJP. The former BJP MLA, Praveen Kumar was not given a ticket this time, despite being BJP leader Shanta Kumar’s pick. He is contesting as an Independent. The BJP’s choice, Indu Goswami, will be fighting her first Assembly election and will be up against current MLA
B B L Butail’s son, Ashish. Butail is the Assembly Speaker and has won from Palampur five times. This is Ashish’s first election too.
Posters in Kumar’s support were up in several places. “We welcome you honourably, Modiji but we support Praveen Kumar,” the posters read.
At Palampur, a boy of 14 carried away a cut-out of Modi from the ground where the rally was held. His grandmother, Satya Devi, said her family has always voted the BJP, but this time selection of the candidate “is problematic. Praveen did a lot of work for us…. We don’t know the new candidate.”