Highlights from Prime Minister Modi's speech:
• Requests to vote for Kummanam and other NDA candidates
• We all know how Congress treated scientists like Nambi Narayanan
• We will protect India from the sea to the sky
• Congress and Communists are opportunists
• Why is Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad and not Thiruvananthapuram
• Congress and Communists do not value human life
• We will not let our country's traditions be harmed for political gains
• A government so incapable has no right to remain in power
Thiruvananthapuram: Staunch RSS men like Kummanam Rajasekharan, inclined to erase themselves from the picture, may have felt a bit uncomfortable hearing prime minister Narendra Modi here on Thursday. Modi's speech, at a massive BJP rally organised in the capital, was all about himself.
“Modi ki Sarkar”, he said, again and again. Not 'Bhaajapaa Ki Sarkaar', as A B Vajpayee used to say or even Modi used to during the 2014 campaign. Modi's machismo was the default theme. It even looked a bit odd that Modi, who evidently considered himself bigger than the party, was canvassing votes for Kummanam, a man who has so religiously remained subordinate to the party.
It was not just enough to have a “strong government”. Modi said a strong government should have an “efficient chowkidar”, pointing his fingers at himself. “Our country need not worry about space threats anymore,” he said, referring to the ASAT (anti satellite) tests in March. “Your chowkidar has empowered our scientists to create a security shield,” he said.
There were more to come. “Every vote for a BJP candidate is a vote for Modi,” he said. A foreign citizen listening to the prime minister could have mistaken this to be a presidential form of election.
Even while crowding his speech with references to himself, he was not as brazen as some of his state leaders. Modi seemed to respect Kerala's laws and sensibilities. He spoke of defending faith “right from the courts to the Parliament” but did not utter the word Sabarimala the way he did in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The chief electoral officer, Teeka Ram Meena, has strictly warned parties against the use of temples and gods to catch votes. BJP's Thrissur candidate Suresh Gopi had used the name 'Ayya' in his campaign speech and was pulled up.
Modi, for all his aggression, was highly circumspect. He did not even attempt to say the name Ayyappa, like he did in other states. Instead, he used the generic God. “If we said the name of the God, they will foist cases upon us and lathicharge us,” he said. There was no attempt to poke fun at the Muslim community or the Muslim League, the way his lieutenant Amit Shah or UP chief minister Yogi Adithyanath had. Modi spoke simply of Rahul Gandhi's “message of appeasement”.
The prime minister, like he had said in many North Indian rallies, might have wanted to freely state that Rahul Gandhi was afraid of Hindus. But here in the Kerala capital, he couched his intention in words that sounded the least communal. “They say he came to Kerala to give a message to South India. Why, can't he give the same message from Thiruvananthapuram? Or why not from Pathanamthitta. He is giving a message of appeasement,” he said. Modi was subtly asking if Rahul wanted to contest from Kerala why not from constituencies that have a dominant Hindu presence.
However, outside faith, the prime minister was his usual unbridled self. In an unprecedented charge, he accused the LDF government of holding back the money meant for the flood-affected. “A government that is so careless does not have the right to remain in office for a single moment,” he said. Modi also called the LDF government a model of corruption. He said the chief minister was accused in the Lavalin case and, without providing any specifics, said that his ministers were involved in more serious corruption charges.