India’s opposition hardliner Modi pledges clean govt

India’s opposition hardliner Modi pledges clean govt
Chief Minister of Gujarat state and national election campaign chief of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI - India’s opposition prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi vowed Sunday a corruption-free government and a tough stand against rival Pakistan if his party wins elections next year.

During his first rally in the capital, the Hindu hardliner called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh weak and said his government was riddled with graft, as tens of thousands of supporters screamed Modi’s name.

“The coalition (government) is now addicted to corruption and instead of finding solutions to end the culture of graft, it stops functioning,” Modi told the crowd, many waving party flags and wearing Modi face masks.

“India needs a dream team and not a dirty team in 2014 and people must decide that during the elections,” he said in a speech at Japanese Park lasting just over an hour.

Modi was elected the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate early this month before national elections due by next May.

The rally helped launched the BJP’s campaign for the Delhi state elections, to be held later this year and seen as a dry run for the national polls.

The BJP is seeking to overthrow the Congress-led coalition government, which has been embroiled in a string of graft scandals and is desperate to boost sluggish economic growth, after almost a decade in power.

But Modi, the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, is a polarising figure – tainted by deadly anti-Muslim riots on his watch in 2002, but also credited with turning Gujarat into an economic powerhouse.

Modi was also chief minister at the time of the riots, during which as many as 2,000 people were killed, mainly Muslims. He is accused of turning a blind eye to the violence but denies any wrongdoing.

On Sunday Modi branded premier Singh as too weak to raise the issue of attacks on Indian soil, which India blames on Pakistani-based militants, during his first talks with his Pakistani counterpart later on Sunday.

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