New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sounded the electoral bugle on Friday from Delhi's Ramlila Maidan with the demand for a grand Ram temple on the contested plot in Ayodhya "at the earliest". Of course, the emphasis of party president Amit Shah's speech was on vikas (development). He explained the differences in the scenario of the country under UPA and NDA governments with a long 'then versus now' list.

Call for Ram Mandir

Shah didn't mince words to say it was the Congress that delayed the Ayodhya case, referring to Kapil Sibal who had asked for the case to be deferred till the general election in 2019 was over. Just some days ago, Prime Minister Modi, in an interview, had said that exploring the ordinance route for the coveted Ram temple could follow if the Supreme Court verdict necessitated it, but that could happen only after the verdict, not before it.

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Addressing core constituencies: businessmen, nationalists

The inaugural speech of Shah started with a mention of the relief given to medium and small scale businessmen after amending the GST slab. Shah reminded how registration is no longer necessary for small businessmen whose annual turnover is not more than Rs 40 lakh. Shah heaped praise on the Modi sarkar for the benefits extended to MSME units. They are primarily owned by the upper-middle-class strata that have traditionally been supporters of the BJP but are believed to be disenchanted of late.

The BJP president did not forget to mention the surgical strike by the Indian Army on territories held by Pakistan in retaliation to the terrorist attack sponsored by the western neighbour on Uri. "Earlier, our soldiers were killed regularly by Pakistan. Modi government gave a befitting reply by conducting a successful surgical strike. Terror strikes came down after we came to power", said Shah.

Implicit message of Hindutva

It was an amalgamation of nationalism, recounting of history and attacking the 'Congress and Co'. In fact, Shah invoked the third battle of Panipat, suggesting it was a decisive battle. Drawing a parallel between that battle and 2019, Shah said, Marathas lost after 131 victories that gave India 200 years of 'slavery'. 

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'Sonia-Rahul out on bail'

Raising the anti-corruption issue, Shah took a jibe at Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. Answering the 'chowkidar chor hai' barb of the Congress president, Shah said, "Those who are calling the prime minister thief are themselves out on bail." He was referring to the National Herald case in which the Gandhis are accused and currently on bail. 

Answering each and every allegation on the Modi government, Shah raked up the issue of Christian Michel's extradition from the United Arab Emirates to India. Shah also said the government was committed to bringing back economic offenders to the country.

It was undoubtedly the BJP sounding the poll bugle for 2019 general election. The party's national council meeting is held behind closed doors except when there is an election. The convention in 2014 was held in full public view on 19 January that year ― again keeping that year's election in mind.

Subtly playing with imageries, Shah donned a saffron Kurta, while the event was kick-started with the Vandemataram song. Huge billboards saying, "Abki bar, phir Modi sarkar" (this time, Modi government once again) were installed at vantage points. In 2014, the official slogan of the party was 'Abki bar, Modi Sarkar'(This time, Modi government).