Calling himself a “UP wala,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi showcased two years of his government at the Centre at a massive rally here today which, in effect, became a launchpad for the BJP’s campaign for the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections next year.
Modi didn’t refer to the UP elections but kept his focus on the schemes his government has launched and how it had marked a break from the past. He began his speech with this assertion: “Main Uttar Pradesh wala hun. Uttar Pradesh ka sansad hun, aur Uttar Pradesh ke sansad hone ke naate mera swabhavik man karta hai aap sabke aashirwad prapt karne ka.” ( I am a UP wala, an MP from UP and, therefore, it’s natural that I seek your blessings.)
Called Vikas Parv, the rally was attended by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and UP BJP chief Keshav Prasad Prasad Maurya among others.
The message was clear — after the Assam victory, the party has now shifted its focus to UP. So almost every BJP leader in this town in the sugarcane belt urged people to remove the Samajwadi Party government.
So while Singh was emphatic in saying “the 14-year vanwas of BJP has been over in UP,” posters outside read “BJP 265 plus in 2017.” One had a photograph of Modi next to a roaring lion with the slogan: Sun rahe ho tum, aa raha hun main. (Are you listening? I am on my way).
He announced that the retirement age for government doctors would soon be raised to 65. He urged private doctors to treat pregnant poor women free once a month.
“Can my doctor friends do one thing? On the 9th of every month, if any poor pregnant women comes to them then they give her free treatment. Our poor mothers sometimes die during childbirth. If our doctors give 12 days in 12 months to the cause, 9th of every month, no doctor will suffer a major loss. If people can give up gas subsidy, doctors can also give 12 days for poor mothers,” he told the crowd amid cheers.
Noting that retirement age for doctors varies across states, he announced that “the age would be increased to 65, whether it is state or Centre” via a Cabinet decision. He said the government is also trying to address the problem by ensuring the setting up of new medical colleges.
The electoral significance of holding Vikas Parv in western Uttar Pradesh lies in the fact that it is in the belt facing a sugarcane farmer crisis in Uttar Pradesh. Saharanpur is also the neighbouring district of Muzaffarnagar, the seat of the 2013 riots. As witnessed in the Bilari bypoll in Moradabad last week, the BJP, that always performed poorly in this area, reached close to the victory mark.
Later this weekend, the RSS will hold a major camp in SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s fort Etawah in central UP to be addressed by RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, and next month the BJP has its national executive in Allahabad, in eastern UP. In effect, within a fortnight, three corners of the state will witness three major political events associated with the Sangh.
“The 14-year Vanwaas of BJP has been over in UP. It’s now time to end this vanwaas of BJP in UP and bring back the BJP government with clear majority,” said Singh.
Attacking the UP government, Maurya said: “I want to tell the Akhilesh Yadav government that people will remove you.”
Addressing local farmers, Modi said that when he became the PM, sugarcane farmers were to be paid “Rs 14,000 crore”. “We tried to ensure the payment by several schemes. Still, Rs 700 crore-Rs 800 crore is pending. I request the state government and warn sugar mills that whatever you have done with the farmers for so many years, you will not be allowed to do,” said the Prime Minister.
Said Rajnath Singh: “Our government gave Rs 6000 crore for sugar mills through banks to ensure payment for farmers…we have learnt that farmers are yet to receive the payment. This responsibility is that of the state government…if our government is formed here then we will not let a single paisa be kept away from farmers.”
“Please remember newspapers and TV of two years ago,” said Modi. “There was news of corruption almost every day. There were discussions that powerful people are involved in corruption,” he said, adding that “I took a pledge to check this loot.”
“Have you ever heard a single news item in the two years that Modi Sarkar ne ek rupiya khaya ho? Hamare virodhiyon ne bhi koi arop lagaya hai?” he asked.
Noting that he is under constant watch, Modi said: “There are many who are keeping a watch on me and my work. Modi jo keh raha hai ho raha hai ya nahi ho raha hai. There is a minute scrutiny of my work. I welcome it. The government is for the people. It has to give the account for every moment, every paisa.”
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The PM also referred to what he called the “imbalance in the society” due to the declining sex ratio. “You can imagine society’s position if 1000 girls are not born per 1000 male children,” he said. “When I talk about Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, I talk about the entire 125 crore countrymen, daughter of every caste, community and religion. Unless daughters of all communities are empowered, my Bharat Mata will not be empowered,” he said.
He underlined his scheme of distributing gas cylinders to poor families that has given relief to “the poor mother” who has to “inhale smoke equivalent to that from 400 cigarettes” as she used wood for cooking. The government has already given gas connections to 3 crore poor families and, in the next three years, plans to reach 5 crore. “There has been never been such a decision to empower mothers since independence”.
Modi reiterated the government’s resolve to double farmer’s income by 2022, the year country’s independence complete 75 years. He also talked about initiatives the government has launched for farmers including those for a soil card, crop insurance and irrigation.