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New Delhi: More than two months after the Election Commission announced the dates for the Lok Sabha polls, campaigning came to an end on Friday as the last phase of polling is scheduled to be held on Sunday.
With about an hour to go before campaigning officially came to a close, Narendra Modi appeared at a press conference that was being addressed by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah. The prime minister talked about his ‘successful’ campaign. “The election campaign was a success. In the last two elections, even the IPL couldn’t be held. When the government is strong, IPL, Ramzaan, school exams and others tend to take place peacefully,” he said.
Modi also predicted that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by him will be coming back to power with a majority. “It will happen after a long time in the country, our government will come to power with an absolute majority for the second consecutive time.”
But Modi did not respond to questions that reporters directed at him. “I am a disciplined soldier, the party president is everything for me,” he said. Amit Shah told reporters that the prime minister did not ‘need’ to answer their questions. “I will answer your questions. It is not necessary for the prime minister to answer every question of yours,” Shah said.
As Shah responded to the questions posed by reporters, Modi sat next to him, listening intently.
In the last five years, Modi has faced criticism because he has not addressed a single press conference during his tenure.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi mocked Modi’s ‘press conference’ on Twitter.
Congratulations Modi Ji. Excellent Press Conference! Showing up is half the battle. Next time Mr Shah may even allow you to answer a couple of questions. Well done! ?
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 17, 2019
Earlier, Gandhi had addressed a press conference and termed Modi’s press conference ‘unprecedented’. “PM Modi is “accompanying” Amit Shah in a press conference, which is an unprecedented event for him,” he said.
Gandhi also posed a challenge to Modi, “Let me ask him a question right now – Mr PM, why did you not accept my challenge to debate on corruption in Rafale?”
At the press conference where Modi did not respond to questions, Amit Shah, while responding to a question on the party’s stance on Pragya Thakur’s remark that Nathuram Godse is a ‘patriot’, said that the party has issued show cause notices to Thakur and two other leaders who had made similar remarks.
“The BJP does not associate with the comments of the three leaders. We not only consider such remarks as personal but also we have issued notices to those responsible and disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against them,” Shah said.
On Thursday, BJP’s Bhopal candidate Thakur had stirred a controversy when she said that Nathuram Godse, the man who shot and killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, was a deshbhakt (patriot).
“Godse was a deshbhakt, is a deshbhakt and will remain a deshbhakt. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within, such people will be given a fitting reply in the election,” Thakur had said.
Subsequently two other BJP leaders – Ananthkumar Hegde and Nalin Kateel – also added fuel with their own controversial comments about Godse. Hegde said that he was ‘glad’ that the ‘environment’ today has changed and is giving a chance for the ‘condemned to be heard’ and that Godse would have been happy with the debate.
Kateel said, “Godse killed one, Kasab killed 72, Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000. You judge who is more cruel in this?
In an interview to News24 Modi condemned the statement and said that he will not be able to forgive Thakur. “The statements that have been made about Gandhiji or Godse are very bad and very wrong for the society. It is different that she sought apology, but I would never be able to forgive her completely,” he said. However, he did not condemn the other two leaders – or other BJP members who have made such statements in the past.
Meanwhile Rahul attacked the BJP for comments made by its leaders regarding Godse. “I finally got it. The BJP and the RSS… Are not God-Ke Lovers. They are God-Se Lovers,” he said.