SANGLI/KOLHAPUR: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the Congress-NCP Sunday as he stormed their bastions in prosperous western Maharashtra while campaigning for the Oct 15 assembly elections, but said he would not criticize former ally Shiv Sena to respect the memory of its late founder Bal Thackeray.
Addressing election rallies in the two cities here Sunday afternoon, Modi said he was accused of not criticizing the Shiv Sena in the ongoing campaign.
"These are first (state) elections to take place in the absence of the late Balasaheb Thackerayji. He was the man who always stood for the rights of the people, I will not disrespect his memory.
"I have decided not to say a single word against Shiv Sena. It is my way of respecting Balasaheb Thackeray's memory. Our bond with Shiv Sena goes beyond politics," Modi said, attempting to mollify the Sena with which the state BJP snapped its 25-year-old alliance last month.
Training guns on the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, who also parted ways, he accused them of misusing the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji. "I ask them, who named the Mumbai Airport after Chhatrapati Shivaji? It was the Atal Behari Vajpayee government at the Centre," he said.
He charged Congress-NCP of rampant corruption during their 15-year-long reign in Maharashtra and alleged that they did not even spare homes meant for Kargil widows, in a reference to the Adarsh Society scam in Mumbai.
Targetting NCP president Sharad Pawar, who has criticized him for abandoning the PM's work to campaign in the state, Modi said it was surprising that during (Pawar's) tenure as agriculture minister, there were 3,700 farmers suicides in the state.
"If he had taken the right steps then, the farmers would not have suffered so much," Modi declared, urging the people to give a full mandate to his Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi said when he had campaigned in Sangli during the Lok Sabha elections, the voters had trusted him by giving him more than what he sought, especially since BJP had never won the Sangli Lok Sabha seat.
"I thank you for your support then. This election is to give Maharashtra stability and progress. BJP promises you full accountability. Give us a majority," he urged.
Travelling to neighbouring Kolhapur, Modi said he was overawed by the public response at the rally.
"I have come to Kolhapur before, but had never such a huge response. The Congress-NCP are criticizing my Maharashtra tour. They are not worried about Modi, but the crowds present here," he said.
He urged for such a majority for the BJP that after the assembly elections, a magnifying glass would be needed to search for the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra.
The PM accused Congress-NCP of pushing back the state by 15 years.
"Is there anything left? They have looted everything. Do you want them to loot Maharashtra again? The Congress has even forgotten Mahatma Gandhi, they only want the (currency) notes with Gandhi on them," he quipped.
This was Modi's second day of whistle-stop election tours in Maharashtra and he is expected to address 20 rallies in nine days around the state.