Modi, Digvijay, Farooq hope vote bank politics will end

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New Delhi, Mar 15 (UNI) Three senior politicians have regretted that Indian political parties routinely resorted to "vote bank politics" and hoped that the new generation of leaders and voters would help end this malaise by adopting a development-oriented agenda.

Speaking on "Leadership to End Vote Bank Politics" at the India Today Conclave here last night, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former chief ministers Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh and Farooq Abdullah of Jammu Kashmir, however, conceded that this would not be an easy goal to achieve, given the state of Indian politics.

Mr Modi, who retained power with a brute majority in the recent assembly elections in Gujarat, claimed his victory was entirely because he pursued an agenda of development and did not seek to divide the electorate on the basis of religion or caste, despite the tag of "merchant of death" put on him by the Congress for his alleged role in the 2002 post-Godhra communal violence in the state.

The Gujarat chief minister asserted that only those politicians who could not show concrete results in the area of development and who failed to meet the aspirations of the common man resorted to vote bank politics.

"It is a short cut they adopt for temporary gains," he said, adding that, in the process, national interests and national security were often compromised, citing the example of how the problem of illegal migrants from Bangladesh into Assam was handled by the Congress government.

Reeling out statistics to show how Gujarat had progressed on various fronts---agriculture, industry, power generation and employment---under his stewardship, Mr Modi claimed he did not need to stoop to such tactics.

To repeated applause from the audience, Mr Modi claimed that his government's developmental programmes were aimed at all 5.5 crore Gujaratis and not at any particular religious, caste or economic group.

"Politicians must perform and seek votes on that basis," he said.

Asked if the "merchant of death" tag, used by Congress President Sonia Gandhi against him had helped him win the elections, Mr Modi sought to make light of the whole thing by saying that such phrases did crop up during election campaigns.

"I did not really benefit from it. If anything, it helped the Congress, because after they lost the elections badly, they suddenly had an alibi, saying that they would have won but for that phrase." MORE/UNI/SH/AT RN1618

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