Amid uproar over his remarks on 2002 riots, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday charged Congress with wearing the "burqa (veil) of secularism" and "hiding in a bunker" each time it is confronted with a crisis.
Addressing a public meeting here, Modi also attacked Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on the issue of his party's "failure" to eradicate poverty and alleged that it was raising the bogey of "threat to secularism" to throttle people's aspirations.
"Look minutely, whenever Congress is faced with a challenge- whether is corruption, price rise, directives from the Supreme Court, or a minister being jailed, or the rape of girls or an atmosphere of insecurity- they do not answer the people. The moment there is a crisis, they wear the 'burqa' (veil) of secularism and hide in a bunker," Modi said.
BJP has often charged the Congress with engaging in minority appeasement for votebank politics.
Modi said Congress follows this act by insisting that one should not talk about poverty or corruption or price rise at this juncture as "secularism is in danger". He charged that Congress has done this for decades.
The BJP leader said Congress will not be able to throttle the aspirations and hopes of the people in the name of secularism any longer.
"Congress will no longer be able to keep the poor hungry, or the young unemployed or distance itself when a girl is raped. Now this medicine will not work," Modi said.
Though Modi attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to check the fall of the rupee despite being an expert on economics, he was more scathing on Rahul Gandhi.
Without naming Gandhi, Modi said the "heir" spends nights in the homes of the poor and shows this to the media and foreigners as "remnants of the past" when 35 years back Congress had given the slogan of removing poverty.
Modi said there is no limit to the corruption in the UPA government. "They have not left anything- air (spectrum), land, water," he said.
He charged that the Congress has made it impossible for the poor to have two meals a day but feels "serving a legal paper"- alluding to the Food Security Ordinance- will fill their stomachs.
The BJP leader criticised the government for taking the Ordinance route on this issue.
"The Parliament session is due in a few days. Government should have taken Parliament into confidence, have a healthy debate, remove its shortcomings and then passed a good Food Security Act. Why bring an Ordinance? Because they (Congress) have no trust in their UPA allies," Modi said.
He maintained that Congress did not wish to take the support of its allies on the Food Bill as they would also get credit for it.
"This is an insult of Parliament, of UPA allies and of the whole democratic process," he alleged.
Alleging that the Congress-led "government in Delhi" has "taken for granted" the people of this country, Modi said the root cause of problems being faced by the people is the dynastic politics of the ruling party in the last 60 years.
"Congress party feels that doing anything to win polls- be it appeasing this group or the other by giving them doles and doing votebank politics- is enough then they live a life of luxury for the next five years," he said.
Attacking the Congress-led government on the state of the economy and the devaluation of the Rupee, Modi said at the time of independence both the Rupee and the dollar had the same value.
He wondered why the Rupee is getting devalued when the currency of countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives has not fallen.
The Rupee is losing its power as the people in Delhi are busy in making and looting money that they are not concerned," Modi said.
Modi alleged that the present regime was suffering from a "policy paralysis" which was reflecting in its failures on all fronts.
"Power plants in the country are shut down because there is no supply of coal. PM is sitting on files and there is no decision-making. The country is in the dark", he added.
Modi said the government's inaction in bringing back the black money stashed abroad gave rise to the suspicion that it was trying to "protect" some people and their money. "When the country became independent, the rupee was almost equivalent to the dollar. Now, the rupee is falling and it looks as if it will reach the PM's age (in terms of value in relation to US dollar)," he quipped while alluding to 80-year-old Singh.
The rupee has in recent days crossed an all time low of over Rs 61 to a dollar.
The country, he said, would not be free of problems "unless we create a Congress-free India".
Modi, recently elevated as BJP's election campaign committee chief, said currencies of neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh had not lost value despite the global downturn.
"This is because those sitting in Delhi are so busy eating and looting that they are not bothered about the rupee," he said.
Attacking the government over issuing in a hurry the food security ordinance, touted as a "game-changer" by Congress ahead of next year's Lok Sabha polls, Modi said, "people are not getting two square meals a day. So, they have brought a law, irrespective of whether it is possible or not to give food to poor...to give the people a piece of paper containing a law that they will get food as a matter of right."
Modi said the Congress-led UPA brought the ordinance instead of waiting for a Parliament session as it did not trust its allies.
"Why was the ordinance brought in a hurry, instead of the bill? It is because they don't trust the UPA partners," he said in an apparent reference to UPA allies who were not in favour of the measure to be brought in the form of an ordinance.
Some of the UPA allies, including NCP chief Sharad Pawar had openly expressed their reservations about the government adopting the ordinance route and favoured the measure, the brainchild of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to be implemented only after a thorough discussion in Parliament.
Raising questions about Congress' commitment to eradicating poverty, Modi said, "The shameless Congress party reneged on its promise of garibi hatao made over 35 years back. They gave this slogan and the poor voted for Congress with the hope that their plight will improve.
"Now, Congressmen concede in private it is not possible for them to eradicate poverty," he said, adding that "Congress cannot suppress expectations of people in the name of secularism."
Modi dared Congress to a debate on achievements during the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government's rule and UPA dispensation on issues like the falling rupee, inflation and infrastructure development.
"This government is too arrogant to bow its head and admit that it cannot check inflation," Modi said and demanded to know, "Why is not the elected government accountable to people."
Modi also accused the Centre of "misusing" CBI to fix political rivals.
"It was from Pune that Lokmanya Tilak challenged the British empire. He gave the mantra of 'swaraj is my birthright'. Now, 60 years after Independence, the slogan of 'Suraj' (good governance) is my birthright should be given from Pune," he said.
Earlier in the day, Modi slammed the UPA government over scam-tainted CWG games, saying it "destroyed national honour in the eyes of the world".
"Two countries hosted two games...South Korea hosted Olympics and India the Commonwealth Games. While Korea brought honour to itself through the Olympics, our nation of 120 crore people lost its honour in the eyes of the world," Modi said addressing students and faculty at the Fergusson College here.
"One country uses sport to bring laurel to itself among the global community and another brings itself dishonour," he said.
Significantly, Modi chose to attack Congress on the home turf of disgraced CWG Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, a suspended Congress Lok Sabha member from Pune.
Modi, however, chose not to respond to criticism by his opponents for defending his government over the way it tackled 2002 post-Godhra communal riots and his "puppy" and "I am a Hindu Nationalist" remarks which have invited sharp criticism from his opponents including Congress.
Assailing Congress over the food security ordinance, Modi said "They have brought before the nation a food security bill and are claiming as if a meal has already landed on the plates."
Referring to growing cyber crimes, Modi said his government has set up world's first Forensic Science
University in Gujarat.
"Now Congress will say what is new. Mind you, I am not talking about courses in forensic science being taught in colleges and universities. I am talking about a Forensic Science University, which is the first of its kind in the world," he said.
Without naming Rajiv Gandhi, Modi referred to the late Congress Prime Minister's remarks about ushering in a new India into the 21st century, saying, "Our ears have got tired of hearing about the 21st century. Did anybody have the vision about how to take India into the 21st century.
"If anybody had a vision about how to take India into a new millennium, we would not be standing where we stand now," he said.
Modi lamented the atmosphere of "neerasha" (despondency) in the country but said "I have not lost hope." "I don't endorse this view. It is essential that we get out of this despondency".
The Gujarat Chief Minister also targeted Indian diplomacy under Congress-led UPA government.
"I am amazed that we have no friends left in the neighbourhood," he said.
Amid talks of raising Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector, Modi said, "The country spends more on importing defence equipment and arms than we do on petroleum products. Do we not have engineers who could manufacture weapons for us, or do we not have the steel to produce such
equipment. I tell you, our engineering colleges don't have defence engineering as a subject."
"There is a sense of despondency in the country on Sunday," Modi said, and called for the need to modernise India, without westernising it.
Modi, who apart from being dubbed as the Hindutva poster boy, has also been called a darling of India Inc, insisted, "We want modernisation, and not westernisation".
Modi alleged that the Congress chose to issue an ordinance to bring food security act and avoided a parliamentary session as it wanted to take "full credit" for it and not share it with its own UPA allies on whose support the passage of the bill depended.
"Congress has betrayed even its own allies by hastily issuing the ordinance", he added.
He accused the ruling party of subverting constitutional bodies and misusing CBI for political ends.
Referring to allegations against former Rail minister Pavan Kumar Bansal, Modi said he had been made witness in the case by CBI in order to protect him.
He said after Indian soldiers were beheaded by Pakistanis, their Prime Minister received a royal welcome with "chicken -biryani" under the garb of protocol.
Modi starting his speech with a few lines in Marathi amid applause before launching his tirade against Congress.
The Congress should be made accountable and answer as to why it failed to keep its promise of stabilizing prices within "100 days", he said.
Citing the death of Sarabjit Singh and killing of the Kerala fishermen by Italian marines, Modi said all this pointed towards a "weak" government at the Centre.
The government, he alleged, did not distribute surplus food grain to the poor as per Supreme Court directive and sold it a cheap price to alcohol manufacturers.
He said the coalgate inquiry had been "derailed" and the people had the right to know whether the PMO was involved in it.
Referring to terror attacks in Pune, he blamed the state and central governments for law and order "collapse".
Criticising Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra, the Gujarat Chief Minister claimed that the Centre and Maharashtra government were not taking steps to convene a meeting to complete work on the Sardar Sarovar project which could provide free electricity worth Rs 400 crore to Maharashtra.
BJP leader Gopinath Munde in his speech alleged that NCP president Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit were indulging in land grabbing in the state and appealed to the people dislodge the coalition government in the state in the next elections.
Those present at the meeting included BJP leader Prakash Jawadekar and local party MLAs.A group of city Shiv Sena leaders felicitated Modi on the occasion Leaders who spoke before Modi described him as the "future Prime Minister".