Solapur (Maharashtra): Prime Minister Narendra Modi fired a fresh salvo on Wednesday at Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar for raising questions about his family.
"He can say whatever he wants about my family He's my elder and can speak as per his culture. But for me, all the poor in this country are my family," Modi said, addressing an election rally in Akluj, which is a part of the Madha parliamentary constituency in Western Maharashtra.
"I have been inspired by the family traditions of the greats like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Rajguru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Veer Savarkar and others," Modi thundered.
Advising Pawar "to learn" from the family of the late Deputy Prime Minister Y. B. Chavan, who also hailed from Western Maharashtra, Modi said all these illustrious families have "inspired and guided him", for they sacrificed everything for the country.
The Congress, however, has been engaged in serving only one family for so many decades instead of following the ideals of these great families, the Prime Minister said.
His Akluj rally was to gather support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Madha and royal family descendent Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar, who is locking horns with NCP's Sanjay Shinde.
The Madha Lok Sabha constituency, partly in Solapur district, is adjacent to Pune district's Baramati, which has been the stronghold of the Pawar clan for over five decades.
Earlier, appealing to the people to vote for a strong government, Modi said only he could provide a tough administration for the country.
"Last time (2014), you gave me a full majority and I could work with full strength to take firm decisions and work for public welfare. You have witnessed how I ran the country past five years", Modi said.
He said that for making India a superpower, the country needs a strong government, not a "majboor" (helpless) one, which could be provided only by him and not by the Congress-NCP combine.
"Even in your villages, you want a tough cop, not a 'dheela-dhaala' (weak and loose) policeman. The same is required for running such a vast country, we need a strong leader," Modi said.
He again taunted Pawar for doing a "nau-do-gyaarah" (fleeing) from the election battle field as the latter had gauged "which way the winds are blowing".
"There are saffron clouds all around.. Sharadrao is a shrewd politician who has sensed the changed circumstances. He will never indulge in anything that would damage him or his familya That's why he left the electoral fray," Modi said.
He accused all the opposition parties of pursuing a single-point agenda. "Modi hatao, Modi hatao", is their sole aim, and to fight just one individual, he said
"They are not bothered about the country, its global image. First 'namdaar' (Rahul Gandhi) abused all 'Chowkidars' calling them 'chor', now he has abused and tarnished the entire Modi community," said Modi.
"We (Modi) are a backward community, we have been subjected to such humiliation by the Congress many times in the past. They have never stopped showing me my caste and hurling abuses, now, he's calling the whole Modi community as 'chors'," Modi pointed out.
He said he was prepared to tolerate any insults, but would not condone if the poor and backward communities are run down.
"The country will never forgive you for that. They still think the country is their fiefdom and are not concerned about anybody. But I ask you...will you punish them or not?" Modi asked the gathering.
Earlier, Modi was welcomed here by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and, surprisingly, NCP's senior leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil.
Modi acknowledged Mohite-Patil and said he was honoured to felicitate such a senior and experienced leader who has spent over 50 years in politics.
Mohite-Patil's son, Ranjitsinh, joined the BJP last month after he was denied a ticket by the NCP. At the last minute, however, the BJP did not nominate him, but assured that he would be accommodated later in the state legislature.