'We want a dream team, not a dirty team': Opposition leader Narenda Modi tells Delhi that corruption has eaten away India's dignity

Tens of thousands of people pour into a tented area at the capital's Japanese Gardens to hear election hopeful's energetic address

Delhi

The man seeking to usurp India’s ruling Congress party brought his campaign to the nation’s capital today – telling tens of thousands of supporters that corruption had eaten away the country’s dignity.

“The country wants a dream team, not a dirty team,” declared Narendra Modi, to enthusiastic roars. “Kick out the dirty team, bring in the dream team to put India on the road to progress. ”

Mr Modi is perhaps India’s most controversial and divisive politician. He has never fully thrown off the spectre of a massacre of hundreds of Muslims that took place in his state in 2002, an incident for which some of his ministers have been jailed.

But in recent years, Mr Modi’s stature has steadily grown, with increasing numbers within the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, excited by his charisma and his record of development during several terms as chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Earlier this month, the BJP announced the 63-year-old would be its official candidate for a general election scheduled to be held before next May.

His rally was the first in Delhi since being declared the party’s candidate. He had previously held events in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Tens of thousands of people poured into a tented area at the Japanese Gardens in the Rohini district of north-west Delhi. The precise size of the entire crowd, including those on the streets outside, will likely be a matter of contention.

A spokeswoman for the BJP, Meenakshi Lekhi, claimed that having spoken to police the party estimated that as many as 900,000 people attended the event. However, a spokesman for the Delhi police, Rajan Bhagat, told The Independent he was unable to provide any such estimate of the crowd size.

Among the people who hear Mr Modi’s energetic address, which lasted a little over an hour, was Murli Kumar, 32, a fruit salesman who lived nearby. “I get a lot of hope from Narendra Modi,” he said. “He has done development in Gujarat and I hope he will develop the rest of the country too.”

As is the case at most political rallies in India, there were far fewer women among the crowd than men. Ram Bati Devi, 30, whose husband is a daily labourer, said the family, originally from the state of Bihar, was struggling with constantly rising prices. The cost of flour, vegetables and electricity were all going up.

“This is the first time I have heard Narendra Modi. I have heard about him and read about him so I wanted to come,” she said.

The BJP has always struggled to secure votes from India’s Muslim community. Mr Modi in particular has been a focus of anger and ire. Ahead of the rally, the BJP worked hard to persuade Muslims to attend, urging them to wear traditional clothes.

Among those present was Wazeem Ahmed, a 35-year-old shopkeeper. Mr Ahmed said the killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 had created huge anguish among the Muslim community but he said he believed that the issue had now been dealt with. “He is definitely someone I will consider voting for because he is at least talking about the problems of the common man,” he said.

The rally in Delhi came as India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is due to meet with his Pakistani counterpart in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The two are due to discuss various issues, including the disputed region of Kashmir and recent border clashes between the two nations.

“I wonder if he will meet the Pakistani PM confidently today. I wonder if the PM will be able to ask him when Pakistan will stop aiding terrorism,” said Mr Modi, according to the Press Trust of India.

Mr Modi also attacked the deputy head of the ruling Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the man who will head the Congress’s election campaign. Last week, Mr Gandhi sparked huge embarrassment within his party by denouncing as “nonsense” a piece of legislation that had just been agreed by the cabinet.

“The pride of the prime minister has been brought down by his own party. The Congress’s vice president has committed the sin of disrespecting the prime minister,” claimed Mr Modi.

A spokesman for the Congress party failed to immediately respond to inquiries.

Later in New York, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan shook hands and talked for an hour. Briefing the media after the talks, India’s national security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon said the meeting had been useful and that an agreement had been made to increase communication between troops of the two countries stationed on the so-called Line of Control.

However, Mr Menon said India considered there was little room for genuine progress until Pakistan addressed concerns over militancy. The two leaders invited each other to visit.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own