Launching his Lok Sabha election campaign in eastern India with a rally in Jeypore, in Odisha’s Koraput district, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday referred to the successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test under ‘Mission Shakti’ and said his government has equipped India to be a “chowkidaar even in space”.
He said, “Do din pehle hi Odisha ek aisi aytihaasik uplabdhi ka gawa bana hai jisne poori duniya ko Bharat ke saamarth se parichit karaya hai. Bharat ab antarikshy mein bhi chowkidaari karne main saksham hai (Two days ago, Odisha was witness to a historic achievement that introduced the world to India’s capabilities. Now Bharat can also be a watchman in space).”
He also slammed the Opposition parties for ostensibly “belittling” Mission Shakti and “questioning” the airstrikes on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot following the terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir. Click here for more election news
Modi said, “People who have betrayed the poor for seven decades are so nervous that they are constantly insulting the armed forces and our scientists. Shouldn’t these people be punished?”
Asking the crowd whether it trusts the forces, Modi said, “Ek mahina ho gaya Pakistan lashein ginney main laga hua hai or yeh saboot maang rahein hain (For the past one month, Pakistan is counting corpses and they [Opposition] are asking for proof)”.
In Odisha, simultaneous elections will be held for 21 Lok Sabha seats and the Assembly.
“You have to decide the punishment for the Congress and the BJD, who have been given decades to serve you. This election can fit a double engine (for Odisha), with BJP governments at the Centre and in the state.”
Taking potshots at the ruling BJD in the state, Modi asked the crowd, “Can people involved in chit fund scams and those who looted the poor strengthen and develop Odisha? Can those who enable mining mafia that loot adivasis’ wealth develop Odisha? Can those who fail to punish people who torture women develop Odisha?”
While Modi was harsher on the BJD compared with his earlier speeches in Odisha this year, he did not directly refer to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
The PM said a vote for BJP is a vote for development directly under his watch. “This sevak has been able to build 8 lakh concrete houses for the poor, has distributed 40 lakh gas cylinders under the Ujjwala scheme, and electrified 3,000 villages (in the state),” he said.
Mindful of the tribal population in Koraput and neighbouring districts, Modi said that budgetary allocation for development of Adivasis was raised by around 30 per cent. “In five years, minimum support price (MSP) for forest products was hiked three times. Now, MSP has been benchmarked for 50 forest products, compared with 10 products five years ago,” he said.
“When I was (chief minister) in Gujarat, I used to wish my state had a fraction of Odisha’s natural resources. This land has old temples, waterfalls, jungles, a world-famous lake, a huge coastline and so many opportunities for tourism,” he said. “The state is rich in natural resources but the people are poor. This is the failure of the Congress and the BJD.”
‘Chowkidar vs dynasts’
Addressing his first election public meeting in Kurnool, later in the day, Modi said he is a “chowkidar’’ fighting against dynasty politics of ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and main opposition YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh. Referring to N Chandrababu Naidu, he said, “You have a U-turn chief minister who turned his back on the BJP and exited NDA as soon as I asked for an account of all the money the Centre has given to AP.”
He maintained that the Centre has started giving Rs 75,000 crore a year to 12 crore small farmers under PM Kisan scheme and at least 82 lakh farmers of AP have received the amount, but Naidu has “put his name on it”.
Stating that he could have done more for AP, Modi said the TDP government did not cooperate with the Centre. “Even then,” he asked, “who has expanded the airports at Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and Vijayawada? Who is responsible for developing airports at Rajahmundry? It is your chowkidar.”
Speaking at Mahbubnagar, in Telangana earlier, Modi said that on April 11 the people will not just vote to select an MP or vote for the PM but will vote for a new India. Targeting Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao’s “dynastic politics” and his belief in astrology, Modi said, “In this election, on one side you have your chowkidar and on the other the political dynasties…. Rao held early (Assembly) elections on advice of astrologers, who told him he may not win if elections were held now. Mahbubnagar people supported KCR but he has not given the district anything…”