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Send Taslima to Gujarat, says Modi in first election speech
Sheela Bhatt in Botad | November 27, 2007 20:07 IST
Kickstarting the 2007 Gujarat election campaign, Chief Minister Narendra Modi once again evoked Hindu sentiments while criticising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images] and Rahul Gandhi [Images].
Drawing repeated applause from a friendly audience, largely consisting of his party supporters, the political tone of his speech in Botad in Bhavnagar district on Tuesday was quite similar to his speeches made during the 2002 election campaign.
While speaking about Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen [Images], Modi said, "If the Centre lacks the courage to give security to her, then I have the courage. Send Taslima to Gujarat. The youngsters of Gujarat are keen to provide security to her."
The issue of security for the writer was turned into an election issue in the small town of Saurashtra when Modi told the audience, "Bangladeshis are staying in lanes and bylanes of this country but no one is ready to evacuate them. Taslima, who is a writer exercising freedom of expression, is being harassed by fundamentalists."
He said, "The allies of Sonia Gandhi overnight shifted her out of West Bengal and even took her out of Rajasthan. Now they are plotting to send her out of the country. You can't get a worse example than this of pseudo-secularism. The Centre should have some courage. She is a woman who is fighting for the truth. By giving her protection, the government should have set an example of the glorious tradition of India."
Modi then challenged Sonia Gandhi to give protection to Taslima, and added, "The Congress won't do that because then fundamentalists will be displeased and it will affect the vote-bank politics of the Congress."
If compared to the election campaign of 2002, Modi remains the same. In his speech, he noted the development by his government in the last five years, but development issues are sandwiched between his talk of "Miyan Musharraf" and "Italy [Images]" (a reference to Sonia Gandhi's antecedents).
As usual, his speech was theatrical, populist and confrontationist (like when he equated Indian Muslims with Pakistanis). Modi has not innovated his political message since 2002. Today's speech was proof that he is not ready to dilute his Hindutva image in spite of his government's huge developmental work.
As usual, he remains connected to his party's ordinary supporters but not to his state's minorities.
He spoke against Sonia Gandhi's lack of interest in providing more gas to Gujarat as promised by her husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. He also took a dig at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion that minorities should have more access to the country's resources.
Modi said, "The prime minister of this country says Muslims have the first right on the assets of this country. Then, what will happen to you, brother? Nothing for you? Tell me what will Miyan Musharraf say? Will he ever say that India has the right over Pakistan's assets? Will he ever say that? Manmohan Singhji, explain to me how can you say such things that can mislead the country? Do you want to play vote-bank politics even in this?"
Modi also spoke in detail about Ram Sethu and his own clean image. He said, "Hu khato nathis, khava deto nathi (I don't take bribe, I don't allow others to take bribes)."
Tomorrow: Read the transcript of Modi's first election speech