India's leading opposition figure, Narendra Modi, took aim at the Gandhi family political dynasty as he sharpened attacks on the ruling party before a crowd that topped 100,000 people ahead of state and national elections.
Voters must choose between the Gandhis or a leader who once served tea on the railways and rose to prominence through hard work, Modi told supporters in New Delhi on Sunday. He was making his first speech in the nation's capital since the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party picked him as its candidate for prime minister in a national election that must be held by May.
"Today the issue is whether the country is run on the whims of the prince or on the basis of the constitution," Modi said in the speech. The family of Rahul Gandhi, deputy leader of India's ruling Congress party, has led the country for a total of about four decades since independence in 1947.
Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, is projecting his record of governance and stronger-than-average economic growth in the state he has ruled since 2001 in an attempt to propel his party to national power. Corruption scandals have dented the popularity of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government in its second term in office, stalling legislation and harming efforts to revive Asia's third-largest economy.
Rahul Gandhi criticised Singh's order last week to allow convicted lawmakers to hold office, describing it as "nonsense". Singh, considered beholden to Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul's mother, said he would reconsider the issue.