New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday unfolded his development-oriented vision of the nation predicated on "good governance" and "out-of-the-box thinking", took gentle digs at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but deftly sidestepped pointed questions about his prime ministerial candidature, saying he never aspired for "becoming something, but in doing something".
But if some responsibility came his way - like the chief ministership of Gujarat "which no astrologer had ever predicted" - he never shirked from the responsibility, he told a packed audience at a conclave.
"I have never dreamt of becoming someone in life. I have always tried to do something. Mostly people dream of becoming someone and die. I have never followed this.”
"Till I had become Chief Minister, I had never dreamt of becoming so. I have never even met an astrologer to tell me that I will become a Chief Minister," Modi said in answer to a question on whether he wanted to become Prime Minister and instead said one should not dream to "be" but to "do".
"I feel if Gujarat model is good, it can be implemented in the country. I don`t need to come there," he said at a conclave.
Speaking largely in Hindi, but punctuated by English sentences to illustrate his arguments, Modi`s pitch to an elite audience, that consisted of corporate bigwigs, the movers and shakers of the capital and even former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, was that Gujarat has shown the way to the country and its alternate vision of development can be replicated for the nation.
He identified three thrust areas - changing mindsets, harnessing women and youth power and harvesting the "democratic dividend" by empowering people and not just making it a vehicle for elections.
"There can be change (in the country), if there are ideas," said Modi, illustrating his lecture with statistics and examples of how he had brought changes in several areas in his state, ranging from agriculture, to water management, to girl`s education, to environmental-friendly development with "out of the box thinking", empowerment of bureaucrats, efficient administrative management and right leadership.
When asked who in the BJP was stopping him from coming to Delhi, Modi gave a humorous touch to his reply. "I am sitting in Delhi. If someone had stopped me, how could I be sitting here."
The three-time Gujarat Chief Minister, who is projected as BJP`s Prime Ministerial face ahead of the next General Elections, said people should be happy to note that the party runs in a democratic way where decisions are taken democratically by its Parliamentary Board and "not on the basis of one family", a veiled reference to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Modi, in his speech, hit out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his alleged inaction and for remaining silent and launched a veiled attack on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for rolling up his sleeves to remind the people that his party was bringing in legislations to empower them.
"The nation does not need Acts, it needs action," he said.
His over hour-long speech and audience interaction was punctuated by repeated applause. Other than Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad and former minister Arun Shourie, who is no longer active in the party, no other senior BJP leader was seen in the audience.
Modi repeatedly stressed that if attention is paid to the smallest things "then on that basis one can bring about huge change... and ideas should be given shape".
Taking a dig at "leader-centric personality" governments, without referring to the United Progressive Alliance, he said under such dispensations, "things can run for a time, but people and the country won`t benefit."
He also said what the country needed were "not Acts, but action”, alluding to the various entitlement-oriented legislations being brought forward by the government.
He said it was time to change the mindset of people. "Under the British, the people needed to please the colonial rulers. It was okay then. We are an independent country, then whom should we work to please…not the government but the people," Modi said, adding that he tells his officials "not to please the government but the people".
"I feel democracy is not just about votes, democracy means the people and the government have to together run the country. Gujarat has tries it and we have got results."
When a question was asked about why poverty was not going down in Gujarat despite development, Modi glibly said the reason was the state was "importing a lot of poverty" by attracting poor people from neighbouring states for work.
Modi refused to answer any questions related to the 2002 post-Godhra riots, saying the Supreme Court has given its view on the issue and so have the people.
On being pressed further whether he would express regret as the riots took place when he was in power, Modi insisted that he had spoken enough on the issue and that he need not speak on the subject any more.
"I have said what I had to say. You can go into the records. If I do not speak on the matter, it would do. I am not afraid. Otherwise, I would not have come here. I have seen enough of your tactics but still I come here," he said.
Asked to comment on a perception that he was seen as a divisive figure, Modi said he has had no such experience as he went about his daily business.
"My work is my USP. I have to take it forward. I don’t think there is anything wrong in me that I need to change," Modi said.
However, he said he was open to suggestions if people felt he needed to change.
"If there are any shortcomings in my style of functioning, if I feel there are or if somebody points them out to me, I will change, because I have to work for the people. I have to take them along. But, I don’t think there is anything wrong in my USP which needs to be changed," he said.
Asked if allies will stay away where Muslim votes are involved, Modi said "These are topics on which 24-hour news channels are run. The country does not run on these issues, your channels do. There are different ways and means to run a country. These calculations do not matter."