TINSUKIA -- Wooing voters in norteastern Indian state Assam with a promise of "fast, all-round development", Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said his fight was not against Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi but against "poverty, corruption and destruction" of the state under Congress rule.
"I have three agendas. Development, fast development and all round development," he said at an election rally 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.
Trying to connect with the crowd, he touched on his early days as a tea-seller, saying he sold their tea to energise others and due to this he shares a special bond with the people of Assam, a large tea-producing state.
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