On the day that the first phase of polling in 18 Naxal-affected constituencies of Chhattisgarh took place, Narendra Modi in his trademark style addressed a number of public gatherings, in that state as well as outside.
In the morning, he addressed a rally in Bilaspur seeking people's support for the BJP in the regions slated to go for polls in the second phase. He then flew to his home constituency, Varanasi, to inaugurate a series of developmental projects worth Rs 2,413 crore. These included inaugurating the four-lane Babatpur-Varanasi highway and electrification projects for the city, receiving the first ever inland waterway cargo ship on the Ganga which originated from Kolkata's newly-built port, and laying the foundation stones for more such projects. Modi projected a good mix of development and political rhetoric to connect with people.
Modi's political rivals and critics have been fuming at his strategy since 24 April, 2014, when he had filed his nomination papers from Varanasi. At that time, he held a massive roadshow, making it a major media event, at a time when the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections was taking place. Despite the criticism about his strategy that he has received since then, he has remained unfazed, and has made it his characteristic style.
On Monday, Modi directed jibes at Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, and also used the occasion to respond to criticism of demonetisation, which was made in the backdrop of the second anniversary of the move. Though he didn’t take any names, it was clear that he was responding to a range of critical voices — from Rahul to Raghuram Rajan.
He launched a blistering attack on the Nehru-Gandhi family, and pointed out that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are out on bail in the National Herald case. He said, "The mother-son duo which is on bail in a financial misappropriation case is seeking a certificate of honesty from Modi. They are seeking to hold us accountable for demonetisation."
Rahul has been calling Modi a "thief" at various public platforms and on social media. While Modi did not directly refer to these remarks, he lashed out at Congress' first family on corruption charges. He alleged that they were caught because shell companies were detected in the demonetisation process.
The prime minister also made a reference to Rajiv Gandhi's famous statement that out of one rupee sent by the Centre, only 15 paise reach the intended beneficiaries. He asked, "Woh kaunsa panja (Congress' electoral symbol) hai jo 85 paise maar leta hai?" (Which is the hand that usurps 85 paise?)" He also took a dig at Indira Gandhi's 'garibi hatao' slogan, albeit without directly mentioning it.
In an attempt to emotionally connect with people, Modi spoke about how poor mothers and fathers made sacrifices and aspired for a better future for their children.
Since the BJP and Congress are pitted head-to-head in Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Modi targetted the Nehru-Gandhi family. He said, "The Congress' manifesto for Chhattisgarh had 36 (the Hindi number chhattis) points for the state, but at the time of its release, the 'naamdaar' (a reference to Rahul Gandhi) was referred to as 'sir' 150 times."
By afternoon, Modi landed in Varanasi to inaugurate projects which were considered as ambitious by many people. He inaugurated the newly-constructed "multi-modal terminal" on river Ganga as part of the government’s Jal Marg Vikas project between Varanasi and Haldia for navigation of large vessels up to the weight of 1,500-2,000 tonnes. Modi received India’s first container vessel MV Rabindranath Tagore that sailed from Kolkata carrying cargo belonging to Pepsico. The vessel contained 16 containers equivalent to 16 truckloads. It will make its return journey to Kolkata with fertilisers from IFFCO.
The project has environmental, economic and other developmental benefits not just for Varanasi and Haldia, but also for areas along the way.
Another event related to the river Ganga was the inauguration of some sewerage projects in the city and laying the foundation stone for a project under the Namami Gange programme. When Modi had come to Varanasi in April 2014 to contest the election, he had pledged to clean the river Ganga. The famed ghats in Varanasi are now much cleaner.
The formal opening of two national highway projects –the Babatpur-Varanasi airport road and the Varanasi ring road — were other big-ticket events. These projects will ensure a smooth travel for visitors and residents of the temple town.
Modi and the BJP can now claim to have fulfilled a large part of the prime minister's pledge for the city and the river Ganga.
Updated Date: Nov 12, 2018 22:35 PM