Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on Tuesday lashed out at the opposition, with Modi berating the Congress for never having the will or intention to end corruption, and Shah dismissing the January 19 rally of opposition leaders in Kolkata as a "gathbandhan" (alliance) of power-seekers keen on serving their own interests.
Addressing a gathering in Varanasi on the occasion of the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, Modi said his government has in the last four-and-a-half years succeeded in ending pilferage of public welfare schemes which successive Congress governments since Independence never intended.
Without naming Rajiv Gandhi, Modi said a former Prime Minister had famously said that of the 100 rupees that the Central government doles out for public welfare, only 15 rupees reach the beneficiaries with the rest 85 per cent leaked through corruption.
"It was an admission of a fact, of a system that the party which ruled for so long had given to the country. But even during its later rule of 10-15 years, the party never tried to stop this pilferage. The middle class taxpayer sincerely kept paying taxes and the loot of 85 per cent continued," Modi said.
"Now I will tell you the present situation. Using technology, we have completely ended this 85 per cent pilferage. If we had not changed the system, the loot would have continued. This could have been done earlier, but there was no intent, no will," he said.
Modi averred that in the last 4.5 years, his government has disbursed 5.78 lakh crore rupees or 80 billion dollars under various schemes through direct benefit transfer to the beneficiaries' bank accounts.
He said if the old system had been allowed to continue, 4.91 lakh crore rupees would have leaked through corruption.
Modi said his government identified and cleaned 7 crore fake beneficiaries who existed only on paper.
Speaking at a party rally in northern West Bengal's Malda, Shah said the opposition leaders who gathered at the Brigade Parade Ground rally only wanted a "majboor" (helpless) government so that they could "indulge in corruption", which was not possible under the "majboot" (strong) government of Modi.
"All these leaders of the 'mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance) want a loose and helpless government in the country, so that they can indulge in corruption. In contrast, we want a strong government, which can teach a lesson to Pakistan," Shah said, launching the party's Lok Sabha poll campaign in the state.
Shah asked the crowd whether they wanted a "majboor" government or a "mazboot" government. As the crowd rooted for a strong government, Shah said: "Who can give a strong government? Only (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi can give a strong government, and none else."
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Rubbishing talks of "gathbandhan", Shah said: "It is only an alliance of power-seekers and those only interested in serving their own interests."
"What will they do for the country? The sole agenda of the alliance is to remove Modi.
"We say remove poverty, corruption, unemployment, illiteracy, they say remove Modi. To eradicate these ills, you (the people) have to ensure Modi returns to power, because this weak alliance of leaders won't be able to deliver," he said.
Targeting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had organised the mega rally of anti-BJP opposition parties at the Brigade Parade Ground on Saturday, Shah said: "Mamata Di, even if you gather 25 leaders, and they hold each others' hands on the stage, Narendra Modi can't be removed. Hundred crore Indians are standing rock solid behind Modi."
Shah also mocked at the prime ministerial ambitions of the various opposition leaders present at the Brigade Parade Ground rally.
"There were 23 leaders on the dais, nine of them are prime ministerial aspirants. Nine PM candidates on one stage! There is a big queue," he said, tongue in cheek.
He said in contrast the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has only one leader.
"We have only one leader. The entire NDA stands rock solid under the leadership of Narendra Modi," he said.