26/03/2016 6:00 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Modi Invokes Tea-Seller Past To Connect With Assamese Voters

BIJU BORO via Getty Images
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses an election rally at Majuli Island on March 26, 2016, ahead of state assembly elections in Assam. Thousands of Indian voters will elect legislators for the 126 seats contested in 25,000 polling stations in the north-eastern state of Assam in two phases on April 4 and 11. / AFP / Biju BORO (Photo credit should read BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)

TINSUKIA – Trying to connect with the people of Assam ahead of the polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday at an election rally recalled his early days as a tea-seller, saying he sold Assam tea to energise others and therefore he shared a special bond with the people of the tea-producing state.

Wooing the voters with a promise of "fast, all-round development", Modi said his fight was not against Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi but against "poverty, corruption and destruction" of the state under the Congress rule.

"I have three agendas. Development, fast development and all round development," he said at an election rally here as he hit the campaign trail and claimed his government had allocated many times more funds for state's infrastructure than the previous governments.

The PM also took a swipe at 79-year-old Gogoi who had called the Assembly election as a direct fight between him and Modi, saying he can only pay his respects to the elderly leader. He heaped praise on BJP's chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, describing him as one of his best ministers.

"The leader of Congress who will turn 90 in a few years says his fight is with Modi. Respected Chief Minister, you are an elder and I am young. I pay my respects to you. In our culture, the young do not fight their elders and the elders give their blessings to them.

"My fight is not against Gogoi but against poverty, corruption and destruction of Assam. I am not fighting against any individual," he said.

The PM said if Sonowal becomes the Chief Minister, it will be his government's and his personal loss because Sonowal is one of his best ministers and "a bright, capable and simple person".

"There is only one 'anand' (joy) in Assam, it is Sarbananda," he said.

Modi, however, made no mention of the contentious issue of infiltration, a major poll plank of the BJP-led NDA, and chose to stick to his development theme and lack of progress in Assam.

He said the state was among the five most prosperous states after Independence but is among the five least developed states now and blamed successive Congress governments for this.

"You give me five years, you give Sarbananda five years and BJP and its allies will pull Assam out of its difficulty," he said.

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