Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday turned emotional as he recalled the struggle and contribution of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in building the party in Gujarat where the saffron party notched up its sixth consecutive assembly win.
Addressing the BJP parliamentary party, Modi was seen holding back his tears, according to those present at the meeting, at least three times as he named Jana Sangh and BJP leaders, some of them now dead, who built the organisation in Gujarat, which has become a party citadel for over two decades.
It was a big achievement for the BJP to win power in the state for a sixth term with more vote share, he said, asking party leaders not to be affected by the opposition's "disinformation campaign."
The Congress has projected Gujarat results, where it won its biggest tally since 1985 polls by winning 77 seats while the BJP with 99 seats got its lowest since 1990, as a "moral victory" for itself, a claim termed as a "laughable exercise" by BJP chief Amit Shah at the meeting.
In his address, Modi also said that Congress under Indira Gandhi got to rule 18 states but the BJP and its allies were in power in 19 states as of now. The saffron party had achieved such a political feat in its three-and-a-half-year rule at the Centre.
Modi fondly recalled how former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee congratulated him in person when the party fared well in a Lok Sabha election from Gujarat, noting that he, then a relatively new entrant to the BJP from the RSS and a general secretary in charge of the state, was not widely known in the party, sources said. Modi also noted that it was Vajpayee's magnanimity to reach out to him.
Modi broke into tears as he recalled the work of Makrand Desai, Arvind Maniyar and Vasantrao Gajendragadkar among others in building the party, known as Jana Sangh in its earlier avatar, in Gujarat, the sources said.
He said they and countless other leaders and workers had made huge sacrifices as he asked party leaders to work with dedication and humility to win people's support.
Seeking the promotion of young leaders at every level in the organisation, Modi referred to his association with Shah and spoke about how he groomed the BJP president, 14 years younger to the prime minister, the sources said.
The PM also called for strengthening the BJP at its roots for a win in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"Modi called for strengthening the party at its roots across the country. He said the work at the booth level is most important, beside people's blessings to the party, for creating a wave in its favour," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting.
Modi wanted younger generations to be connected with party work, social work and for building the nation. He noted that the "millennial generation" would be eligible to vote from 2018.
In his address, Shah attacked the Congress over its claim of a moral victory in the Gujarat polls, saying it was a "laughable exercise" for the opposition party to see victory in defeat.
By getting more than 49 per cent of the votes, the BJP had received its highest share in the last many elections, including in 2012, when it won 116 seats against the 99 this time.
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at the Parliamentary Party Meeting, in New Delhi. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo