Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters who gathered on both sides of the road as he walked to the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday to celebrate the Assembly election victories. Picture by Prem Singh
J.P. YADAV, TT, New Delhi, March 12: Narendra Modi, described as the "most popular Prime Minister of independent India" by Amit Shah, walked some 300 metres to the BJP headquarters today. Amid a shower of flowers, he was greeted by a posse of senior party leaders who had been waiting a long time to receive their " nayak".
A ceremony to welcome and felicitate Modi for the party's spectacular electoral victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and its sterling performances in Manipur and Goa had been organised at the BJP headquarters.
Modi got off his car near the Le Meridien hotel roundabout and walked, waving at party workers gathered on both sides of Ashoka Road.
On a huge stage, in front of hundreds of workers chanting "Modi, Modi..." at the party headquarters, Modi was first greeted by Amit Shah. Then members of the party parliamentary board encircled him with a giant garland.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar and J.P. Nadda and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan - all members of the parliamentary board -greeted Modi, who was called " nayak" of the electoral victories by Shah.
Chouhan, once speculated to have been a potential challenger to Modi, was seen greeting Modi separately with a shawl and a memento, bowing to acknowledge the " nayak".
Shah addressed the gathered workers first. He said that during the campaigning he had seen " shradha" (reverence) in the eyes of the poor for Modi. He said Modi was the first leader of independent India who had instilled faith in the hearts of the poor.
Under Modi's leadership, he said, the BJP's " vijay yatra"(victory march) would travel to Himachal, Gujarat, Karnataka, the far south and the east, and a much bigger mandate than 2014 would be achieved in 2019.
After Shah, Modi was called to speak. No other senior leader present on the stage got an opportunity to speak.
Amid deafening chants of "Modi, Modi...", the Prime Minister said the people's verdict in the five states had forced political pundits to introspect. He said the people's overwhelming participation in an election bereft of any emotional issue, and the BJP's unprecedented victory, should lead to such introspection.
Modi said that through the poll results, he could see the glimpse of a " naya Hindustan (new India)". He said the elections had been contested on the issue of development, which he described as "naye Hindustan ki nai neev (the foundation for a new India)".
"A new India of the dreams of 65 per cent of the country's population, who are below the age of 35. A new India which empowers and inspires the poor to work and achieve, instead of getting something (from the government)," he said. " Kuchh pane ke vajay kuchh karne ke liye prereet kare."
Modi seemed to be saying that the poor do not want to be handed out doles but want opportunities that empower them to achieve their aspirations on their own. One of the criticisms the UPA government had faced was its thrust on welfare programmes that were seen by the critics as handouts without significant productive results.
"The poor are saying they want opportunities. They are saying they are ready to work hard and achieve. They don't want anything from government. They want to achieve on their own," Modi said. "This is the foundation for a new India."
Ironically, the BJP's Uttar Pradesh manifesto promises to waive the crop loans of marginal farmers and offers free laptops to students entering college. The outgoing Akhilesh Yadav government too had spent heavily on providing free laptops to students.
Shah had yesterday promised that the decision to waive marginal farmers' loans would be taken at the new BJP government's first cabinet meeting in the state.
Modi said the middle class was bearing the most responsibilities in terms of paying tax and other things. He said the day the poor get strengthened and are able to achieve on their own, the middle class would be relieved. Modi harped on the word "poor" many times and said the poor were the strength of the country.
Modi advised the BJP to be humble in victory. "It is our responsibility to bow and be polite to all."
He said the new government would serve all the people, those who had voted for it and those who hadn't. "The government has no right to discriminate," he said, possibly seeking to put behind him the " smashaan-kabristaan" remark during the campaign that was seen as divisive.
Modi reserved a special mention of thanks for Shah. He credited him and his team with the stunning poll victories. Modi said that through a membership drive, the BJP had been able to become the largest political party in the world and lauded Shah for it.
Modi said the current period would go down as a "golden era" for the BJP and recalled the contributions of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and others.
But it was Modi and Shah all the way at today's show. Other leaders just sat, watched and clapped.
Modi said: "We can make mistakes but our intentions are never wrong."
He promised to work harder. "I'm happy that people say they have a PM who works hard. 'Why do you work so hard?' I'm asked. Nothing can be more satisfying for me."
Modi wound up his 45-minute speech by repeatedly chanting " Bharat Mata ki jai" and "Vande Mataram".