Sunday, Apr 23, 2017 | Last Update : 11:01 AM IST
Launching a counter-attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had appealed to secular forces to combine to face the onslaught of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief m
Launching a counter-attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had appealed to secular forces to combine to face the onslaught of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief minister on Wednesday said for him secular means “Nation first, India first”. He said for some “secularism is to mislead the people” at a time when the nation needs development. Admitting that he is called a “Hindutvawadi”, Mr Modi, who consciously had an image makeover — from a “Hindutva hardliner” to a “development-oriented leader — said he prefers providing basic amenities to the people by saying for him it’s “shauchalay (toilet) before devalaya (temple)”. “I am known to be a Hindutva leader. My image does not permit to say so, but I dare to say. My real thought is — pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya (temple first, toilet later),” he said. It could be recalled here that an almost similar comment by Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh in 2012 had created a major controversy and the BJP had blamed him for hurting the “fine fabric of faith and religion” in the country. Addressing a students’ convention in the capital, Mr Modi said that he does not favour votebank politics. The Gujarat chief minister, who said his conviction is that “terrorism divides, tourism unites”, said Gujaratis are best tourists. His comments, “Go anywhere and you will hear a Kem Chho” received huge applause from the participants. Students, mostly from colleges and universities, presented recommendations to political leaders on critical challenges that the country faces. “For some people, secularism is a small tool to throw dust into the eyes of the public. I am surprised at the dialogue of the Prime Minister said during his return from America. These are dialogues of the 1980s. This is the 21st century. Today, people need development... They need to build their futures,” said Mr Modi to an applause from students. He also urged students to vote to become a bhagya vidhata of India. He also told about his humble upbringing. He said for him secularism means “Sarvdharm Sambhaav”, justice for all and appeasement to none. He said a poor will remain poor “no matter if he goes to temple, mosque, church or gurdwara.” “There should be only one religion for the government of India to worship and there should be one holy book — Constitution of India. Some parties fool people on the name of secularism,” said Mr Modi. When asked about the possibility of an early general polls, Mr Modi took a dig at the UPA government saying, “This government, which never takes any decision, has to decide about early elections.” He also attacked the government over the ordinance on convicted legislators and its withdrawal. He said the government has no inkling of what the people of the nation think, otherwise they would not have committed the mistake of bringing an ordinance. Citing a Hindi proverb, “Jootey bhi khaye, pyaz bhi khaye (suffered beating by shoes and also forced to eat onions),” he said the government was destined to suffer double jeopardy. “In between, the Prime Minister also lost his turban,” he said, while making a reference to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s attack on the government over the ordinance when he was abroad. He said that the Prime Minister also “lost his voice in America” after the public denouncement of the government on the ordinance. “This nation needs cleansing of politics. This nation needs a clean government,” Mr Modi said, adding that though people of the country wish corruption is rooted out, the determination should begin at the top. As per the organisers, Mr Modi was the first choice of students who they wanted to interact with at this event. More than 8,000 students participated in the event. He also spoke on various issues, including women empowerment and development in the North-east.