With three days to go before the crucial first phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections on November 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday launched a scathing attack on the Congress saying they made statements to “protect urban Maoists” and used the word “krantikari” to refer to Maoists.
Modi addressed the rally in Jagdalpur in Bastar district, which is among 12 seats that will vote in the first phase. And with the Congress holding eight of the twelve seats currently, the region is crucial to the BJP’s fortunes in the state with BJP leaders admitting that they need to effect a turnaround here to offset any anti-incumbency that may have set in the plains.
“You must have seen the urban Maoists, they live in air-conditioned homes in cities. They look neat and clean, their children study abroad and roam around in nice cars, but they sit from afar and ruin the lives of adivasi children,” Modi said.
He said, “Aur ek aisi jamaat, is chunaav mein lad rahe Congress ke log jawaab de, ki aap un urban Maovadiyon ke raksha ke liye bayaanbaazi karte ho. Unke khilaaf agar sarkar kanooni karvahi kare toh aap unkon bachaane ke liye maidaan mein aate ho. Aur yaha aakar ke, naxalvaad ke khilaaf dhulmul baate karke vote paroste ho? Kya aise logon ko maaf karenge kya?”
(The leaders of the Congress should answer, that you make comments to protect these urban Maoists? If the government takes legal action against them, you come out to protect them? And then you come here, and say something wishy-washy against Naxalism to garner votes? Will you forgive such people?)
“Do we have to change Bastar or not? That is why I have come to request you that on Bastar’s earth, only the lotus should bloom. And if someone else comes, which is not going to happen in Chhattisgarh, but if they come in some corner of Bastar, they will stain Bastar,” he said.
The Congress countered saying Modi’s attack was a sign of frustration as his party is staring at defeat in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh – states affected by Maoist violence. “Staring at defeat in Chhattisgarh/MP, a frustrated PM seeks to hide his abject failure and weak-kneed approach to fighting Naxalism, which he claimed to finish post Demonetisation,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The Prime Minister also said that Maoists had a “demonic mindset” that puts guns in the hands of children instead of a pen, and said that they burn schools and refuse to let doctors work. He brought up the death of DD cameraperson Achyutnanda Sahu in a Maoist attack in Neelavaya in Dantewada, and said, “You must have seen, a friend from Doordarshan connected to the world of journalism, was capturing the celebration of our democracy on his camera, by meeting people inside the forests, to celebrate democracy sacrificed his life. Achyut Sahu was riddled by bullets by Maoists.”
“What was his fault? He had come to talk about your well being. Had come to show your dreams to the rest of the world was carrying a camera on his shoulder. He did not have a gun. He had a camera. And should he be killed? Two days ago, five jawans were killed. These Maoists kill innocents and these Congress leaders call them revolutionaries? Do you agree with this? Should such a Congress have a place in India? What language are they talking? Such a party which lies has no future. Those who have to lie like this, understand that there is no space on the ground for them.”
Over the past week, the BJP has attacked the Congress for a comment made by Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Raj Babbar where he referred to Maoists as “misguided revolutionaries” when making the case that the battle against Maoism would also have to be conducted through conversations and not just bullets.
With eleven of the 12 Bastar seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes, Modi attempted to label the Congress a party that makes fun of adivasis. “They make fun of their song, their dance, their attire. They make fun of this. I am shocked. I had once gone to the North East and their my adivasi brothers and sisters with great love and respect made me wear a pagdi…Congress leaders made such fun of the pagdi and in all of the North East and in the rest of our country, people were angry, adivasis were angry,” he said.
After the PM’s speech, the Congress called the BJP government “spineless” and Surjewala said that 11 soldiers had died in Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh in the “last 14 days…including 5 jawans yesterday” adding that since demonetisation, for which he said one of the stated objectives was to curb Maoist and terrorist violence, “1,030 Naxal incidents till Feb 2018 & 114 jawans martyred”.
On Twitter, he said: “Did Modiji find time to even remember them today as he indulged in his trademark petty politics?” Referring previous statements by the Prime Minister, Surjewala asked him if he still stood by: “1. Your own statement calling ‘Naxals’ our ‘own people’. 2. Dr. Raman Singh calling Naxals ‘sons of the soil’ who will be ‘welcomed like our own children’.”
He also said that Congress has “lost over 25 of its leaders to Naxal Terror under BJP’s watch.”