With eye on 2014, Modi says he is a visionary leader

New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) In a speech with barely disguised claims of his capabilities, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday portrayed himself as a visionary who wants to see India as a global power.

In an hour-long speech at the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) here, Modi underlined that the government's job was not to run businesses but to provide good governance -- and he was doing so in Gujarat.

As Modi spoke in Delhi University's second oldest college, hundreds of leftwing protesters screamed slogans against him for his role in the 2002 communal riots in the state.

Police used water cannons and batons to disperse them after they pulled down police barricades outside the college.

But the protest outside had no impact on Modi, who got a roaring welcome in SRCC. He pressed the need to re-brand India, saying India's young could do it.

Amid repeated applause, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran told the hundreds of students that Indian leaders should view the country's youths as "new age power", not "new age voters".

"If this thinking persists, the situation can't change," he said. "I think differently."

Modi made no criticism of any politician but left no one in doubt that he was pitching himself as a progressive and visionary leader.

Marshalling facts and figures to prove how Gujarat has developed since he became chief minister in 2001, he said: "The root of all our problems is a disease called lack of good governance."

In Gujarat, he said, "we have given emphasis on good governance".

A leader's job "is to visualise the situation ahead, look for new avenues, and bring about changes in the situation".

"We see that in the last six decades, we (India) have failed to do that. As a result there is widespread despondency," he said, addressing the more than 1,000 students at the college basketball ground in Hindi.

"But I think differently," Modi went on, and said in Gujarat he had used the "same constitution, same laws, same rules and regulations, same files, same offices (and) same people" to bring about radical changes.

The 62-year-old then picked up a glass of water, and said: "The optimist will say this is half full, the pessimist will say it is half empty. I have a third view. This glass is full - half with water, half with air."

This was the way, he pointed out amid applause, he governed -- with optimism and hope.

Modi recalled that when he was young, the "Made in Japan" brand stood for quality. "Why can't we brand Made in India globally?"

The world, he said, was eyeing India for its market. "The time has come to make the world a market for us and dump our products there."

Modi said the 21st century will belong to India.

"Our youths have the ability to achieve that... There was a time when we were seen as a nation of snake charmers and black magic. India's image has today changed, thanks to our youngsters.

"We are a nation of mouse charmers," he said to laughter, referring to the Indian strength in software.

Modi presented himself as different from the rest of the political class, one who had a long-term vision and one who had faith in the Indian youth.

He made no reference to Hindutva issues or the growing clamour in the BJP that he be named the prime ministerial candidate.

Speaking approvingly of the Delhi Metro coaches made in Gujarat, Modi said one of his achievements was setting up the world's first forensic science university in the state. He listed several other successes.

"Development is the answer to all our issues. Vote bank politics has destroyed India... I see a future (for India)... I am an optimist," said Modi, who earlier met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

This was Modi's first major speech outside Gujarat since he took oath as chief minister in December for the fourth time after leading the BJP to a thumping electoral win.


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