Narendra Modi’s speech was as significant for what he left unsaid as it was for his focus on the UPA’s mishandling of the economy and India’s foreign policy. Modi’s reluctance to target regional parties appears to stem from a desire to keep options open for post-poll alliances. All through Modi’s hour-long speech, the only reference to regional parties in Tamil Nadu was when he spoke about the UPA’s failure to rein in coalition allies, which he said resulted in large scams. While Modi referred to the 2G issue, he did not mention any party by name.
In his speech delivered in Hindi, simultaneously translated into Tamil, Modi began by addressing local concerns such as those of TN’s fishermen. He said Tamil Nadu fishermen were paying the price for a weak-kneed government at the Centre, which was unable to assert itself with small neighbouring countries.
“TN’s fishermen are spending their lives in Lanka’s jails, Gujarat’s fishermen are spending their time in jails. This government is doing nothing about it,” he said. “Can you imagine that a big country like India is being harassed by smaller neighbours like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan?” India has become weak, said Modi. “We should have good relations with our neighbours. Even while being helpful to them we should make them listen to us. But, today, the Centre is so weak that the neighbours have started interfering with our political and internal affairs,” he said.
Later, Modi again focused on a local issue of serious concern: water shortage. He said when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, he had made serious efforts to build a river grid to ensure that regions such as TN which were waterdeprived would be able to bridge their resource gap. “In Tamil Nadu, people are deprived of water whereas in other places floods are destroying land. A report was prepared by Vajpayee and we were to link Ganga and Cauvery . But once UPA came to power , the plan was thrown to the dustbin,” Modi said. He also spoke on the issue of Centre-state relations, a subject that has generated much controversy in TN politics. He repeatedly blamed the UPA for not respecting the federal structure and accused it of brushing aside regional concerns.
He said both Centre versus state and state versus state disputes had become common during the UPA regime . A strong work culture could have ensured that the Centre worked through cooperation rather than confrontation . He said various institutions had come into conflict with the government under the UPA, including the judiciary, the armed forces and the Planning Commission.
The state unit of BJP has its work cut out. Modi is not known to the masses in Tamil Nadu. This was obvious among the villagers brought to the rally. While many came on their own to listen to Modi, there were some who were brought by partymen from rural areas who did not know who the Gujarat CM was and which party he belonged to. One of them said she came to the rally as she was told that it was being held to help children belonging to most backward caste families to get jobs. While the crowd at the rally comprised of BJP, Indhiya Jananayaka Katchi and Kongu Nadu Desiya Makkal Katchi supporters, participation by MDMK cadres was sparse. (Times of India)