Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the move by his government to provide 10 per cent reservation in education and jobs for the general category poor would enhance the confidence of ‘new India’. He clarified that the existing quota policy for the scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs) and other backward classes (OBCs) would remain as strong as it was, and accused opposition parties of trying to light a fire of discontent by spreading confusion over the issue.
President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday gave his assent to the Constitution amendment Act providing 10 per cent quota in government jobs and education, including privately run institutes of higher education, to economically backward sections in the general category. Both Houses of Parliament had cleared the legislation last week.
On the concluding day of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) two-day national convention here, the party pitched its Lok Sabha election campaign on the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi versus a “comical alliance known as mahagatbandhan (grand alliance)”, and made only tangential references to the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, which is unlikely to get resolved before the polls.
Addressing over 12,000 party leaders and workers at the event, Modi said the country would need to decide in 2019 if it wished to have a honest and hardworking pradhan sevak or those who remained on vacation and were corrupt.
Modi said the choice was between rajshahi (dynastic politics) and those who believed in lokshahi (democracy).
He said the 10 years of the Congress-led UPA rule pushed India into darkness at a key period in India’s history, and likened it to the “historical opportunity the country lost” when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel did not become the first prime minister of the country after Independence.
In his 80-minute speech, the PM said political rivals were uniting against one person. He said this was because of the fear of chowkidar (watchman) -- a term along with pradhan sevak that Modi uses to describe himself. He said the chowkidar would not spare anyone, and would ensure the corrupt were caught, whether they had escaped abroad or living here.
Modi, as well as a political resolution the meeting passed, stated the choice with the people was “between stability and instability, effective governance or desperate malgovernance, between an honest and courageous leader”, who would lead a mazboot government versus “a leaderless opportunistic alliance” that wanted a majboor government. The resolution said the grand alliance had no policies or programmes, and their only glue was hatred for Modi.
The PM, however, also cautioned party workers against excessively relying on his charisma. “Modi will start campaigning, and the game will turn – sounds good to hear this. However, the hallmarks of our party are its organisational strength and collective leadership…Before the rains arrive, a farmer needs to plough the field and plant seeds; similarly workers should strengthen the party in their respective polling booths,” the PM said.
The PM listed the policies and programmes of his government, including for farmers, youth and women. Modi said he had provided a corruption-free government, while the Congress had resorted to falsehoods. But he also seemed to be aware that some of his government’s programmes were being criticised on the ground, and enthused party workers to defend ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’, ‘Make in India’ and the promise to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.
Attacking the Congress, Modi said during the UPA era, a culture of “phone banking” or “Congress process” had started, where banks were forced to lend to industrialists under political pressure. The PM said banks disbursed loans worth Rs 18 trillion from 1947 to 2008, which increased to Rs 54 trillion between six years of 2008 to 2014. Modi said his government put a stop to this, passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and recovered Rs 3 trillion in the last two years.
The PM made a brief mention of the Ram temple issue, blaming the Congress for delaying its resolution and projected his rivals as "corrupt" against his government's "spotless" record in office. He wondered what the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal had to hide since they had barred the Central Bureau of Investigation from investigating cases there, and said he always allowed the CBI in Gujarat during his tenure as chief minister despite a “witch-hunt” by the UPA.
The PM targeted the Congress over corruption and referred to the National Herald case in which Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are on bail. He accused them of grabbing land and people's money. The Opposition party believes in protecting its "sultanate" at any cost and its "first family" has no respect for the country's institutions, he said, claiming that the BJP believes in the Constitution. On the Rafale issue and in a reference to Rahul Gandhi, Modi said the Congress leader was indulging in falsehoods.
Modi said he would not claim that his government achieved everything but it had made honest efforts to work for all sections of society.