NEW DELHI: Emphasizing the continued ascendancy of the BJP, an emotional Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the party was now in power in 19 states, one more than the Congress at its peak under Indira Gandhi.
The PM also recalled the sacrifices of leaders who built the party over the years and exuded confidence that the BJP would win more state polls in the days to come.
Congress under Indira Gandhi ruled in 18 states but the BJP and its allies have gained power in 19 states in the past three-and-a-half years. Soon, we shall win other state polls too,” Modi said while addressing party MPs at the BJP parliamentary party meeting.
A senior leader, who was present in the meeting, said Modi’s reference to Congress under Indira was noteworthy as the BJP was not only pitted against Congress but a host of regional parties which were strong forces in states.
Modi turned emotional as he recounted his long association with party president Amit Shah, 14 years his junior. He said he groomed a young Shah into a national leader as he laid stress on giving opportunities to younger leaders in the party organisation.
Shah, who addressed party MPs before Modi, mentioned the hard work put in by the PM for the Gujarat and Himachal assembly polls. “Modiji used to call at 2 am followed by calls at 6 am too. I could not understand when he managed to sleep,” Shah said. “Even after winning 77 seats in Gujarat, it is laughable that the Congress considers it their moral victory,” he added.
Narrating the painstaking journey of ousting the Congress from its erstwhile bastion Gujarat, Modi broke down thrice as he recalled the contribution of several Jan Sangh and BJP leaders who worked tirelessly but passed away prematurely.
“Several leaders of BJP and Jan Sangh worked hard and were resilient in fighting the Congress in Gujarat. Today, I miss many of them who passed away early,” the PM said in a choked voice.
While recalling departed party colleagues from Gujarat — Makrand Desai, Arvind Maniyar and Vasantrao Gajendragadkar — Modi broke into tears as he said he wished these leaders could have seen the BJP ruling in 19 states.
“Countless other leaders and workers made huge sacrifices,” Modi said, exhorting party MPs to work with dedication and humility to win people’s support.
“Booth level work, which is the root of a poll campaign, is the mother of an election victory,” parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar quoted Modi as saying.
The PM called for strengthening the BJP “at its roots” for a win in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and also pitched for promoting young faces inside and outside the party. Modi’s emphasis on young leaders is seen as a reference to the perception that there has been a leadership vacuum in Gujarat since his departure from the state.
Sharing his anguish at the opposition’s “personalised” campaign against him, the PM asked party MPs not be affected by the “disinformation” campaign and stay focused on serving the people.
This was the first parliamentary party meeting after the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh results and Modi shared his experience of how the BJP won Gujarat for a sixth time in a row after being a fringe party in the state for decades.
Modi said it was not easy for the BJP in Gujarat as several prominent leaders had left but the party’s expansion continued. “Senior leaders like Keshubhai Patel and Shankersinh Vaghela left the party but we managed to hold on,” he said.
Modi recalled how former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had patted his back after the 1991 Lok Sabha polls when BJP won 20 out of 26 seats in the state. “No one has been able to do what you have done,” Modi quoted Vajpayee as telling him. Modi was national general secretary and in-charge of Gujarat at the time.