Modi goes all guns blazing at UPA, woos Bengal business

Kolkata, April 9 (IANS) A day after advocating women's empowerment in Delhi, Narendra Modi - widely seen as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate - Tuesday wooed Bengal business here while attacking the UPA government on issues including discrimination against opposition-ruled states.

The Gujarat chief minister took part in an interface with the industry at a five-star hotel before addressing a party programme at Mahajati Sadan. At both venues, the suave leader's main target was the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - the BJP's arch rival ahead of next year's general elections.

The UPA got the rap from the 62-year-old leader for its handling of foreign policy matters, stalling development work and paralysis of the central machinery.

Perhaps keeping in mind the general elections, and the BJP's need of partners to consolidate its National Democratic Alliance, Modi appeared to be going soft on Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but blasted her main opponent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front.

Addressing a meeting of business chambers, Modi dwelt on how the UPA government discriminated against states run by parties opposed to the Congress, an issue on which Banerjee had been vocal since walking out of the UPA in September last year.

"Defying the constitution, the UPA government has been constantly discriminating between states ruled by the parties in the UPA coalition and those run by non-UPA parties," Modi said.

He said the bias of the central government overlooking the country's federal structure was threatening national integrity, and "shattering the dreams of many states like West Bengal".

"The UPA government in Delhi has been sitting on all development projects and no work is on for the last two years. The central machinery is at a standstill," Modi said.

"The UPA government doesn't even bother to open pending files and is not even worried about anything. The government is like an ailing man with an eye on the clock, not the calendar," he said.

Later, at the party programme, he called for uprooting the Congress.

"Should the Congress exist? Should this party be ever allowed to rule the country? For the sake of the country, it is essential that India becomes Congress-free," said Modi.

On foreign policy, Modi said at the business meet that the diplomatic row with Italy over two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off Kerala coast last year was an "insult" to India.

Modi pointed at a faux pas committed by former foreign minister S.M. Krishna, during a meeting at an international forum in 2011, who read out a part of the Portuguese minister's speech before being corrected by an Indian envoy.

"(This is why) people laugh at us. All non-serious people are sitting on seats of power. There is nowhere a sign of governance," said Modi.

Attacking the CPI-M, Modi said: "They left the state (West Bengal) with so many potholes! They left the state in ruins."

"I am confident about the efforts being made now to fill up the potholes. The dreams of the people of Bengal will be fulfilled," he said in implicit praise of Banerjee.

With Modi, during an hour-logn speech laced with wit and humour, showcasing Gujarat by narrating its "success story" in moving on the fast growth track in industry and agriculture, the large number of Bengal businessmen in attendance were bowled over, with some of them pitching for the sauve BJP leader as a potential prime minister.

"I think development matters. Political ideology does not matter to us. We want him (Modi) to be a national leader. We want him to govern India," city-based Keventor Group chairman M.K. Jalan told reporters here.

There was a mad rush among the entrepreneurs for a closed-door meeting with Modi, while Viresh Oberoi, managing director of mjunction Services Ltd., said the leader's speech was "very inspiring".

In Delhi, rhe Prime Minister's Office (PMO) countered Modi's charge of discrimination against non-Congress-ruled states.

"The centre has allocated funds to states according to mutually agreed formula for 'economic justice'," the PMO said on Twitter.

Janata Dal-United leader Shivanand Tiwari slammed Modi.

"Modi is desperate to become prime minister. He has already accepted that he is a prime ministerial candidate of the BJP though the party has said the decision will be taken by its parliamentary board," Tiwari told reporters in Delhi.

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