New Delhi: Campaigning in Gujarat’s key Saurashtra region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to comment on the Congress party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ on Sunday, November 20, adding a reference to Medha Patkar and her activism with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, without naming either party.
As part of campaigns before the Gujarat election, Modi visited Somnath Temple and addressed four rallies in the key Saurashtra region, at Veraval, Dhoraji, Amreli, and Botad. The region is significant as it is a Congress stronghold and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party – in power at Gujarat and in the Union government – fared worse than the Congress there in the last assembly election of 2017.
At a poll rally in Dhoraji town in Rajkot district, Modi claimed the Sardar Sarovar Dam over the Narmada river was delayed because many people had tried to stall it.
“The Narmada project was the only solution to quench the thirst of the arid region of Kutch and Kathiyawad (Saurashtra region). You must have seen yesterday how a Congress leader was doing padyatra with a woman, who was an anti-Narmada activist. She and others had stalled the project for three decades by creating legal hurdles,” he said, without naming either Rahul Gandhi – the Congress leader – or Patkar.
In the 2017 assembly polls, the Congress bagged 28 out of the 48 seats in the Saurashtra region which helped it restrict the BJP’s tally to 99 in the 182-member House. BJP, which won 30 out of the 48 seats in 2012, were reduced to 19. However, out of the 28 Congress MLAs, more than 10 have switched their loyalty to the ruling party, the Hindu has reported.
The region has a sizeable Patidar and Other Backward Class (OBC) population and has the potential to tilt the power game in favour of or against the ruling BJP in the next month’s elections.
This appeared to explain Modi’s pointed invocation of Gandhi and Patkar.
“When Congress leaders approach you to seek votes, I want you to ask them to explain on what moral ground the opposition party is seeking votes when their leader was in a foot march with a woman who was against the Narmada project. I urge you to ask this question to Congress,” Modi said on Sunday.
Shortly after Modi spoke on Sunday, BJP leaders and supporters tweeted the photograph below and mounted an online campaign against Congress aligning itself with a noted activist.
This is not the first time Modi has taken up the Narmada Dam.
Canvassing for four BJP candidates from Gir Somnath district on Sunday, Modi claimed that Gujarat had made progress and added that this progress came even though many people “used to look down upon the state in the past for various reasons, such as frequent droughts.”
In the 2017 assembly polls, Congress won all four assembly segments in Gir Somnath district.
Addressing another rally in Amreli, the prime minister appealed to the people to not “waste their votes on Congress” as it doesn’t have the roadmap for development. In the previous assembly elections, Congress had won all five assembly segments in Amreli district whereas the BJP drew a blank.
“The BJP government did several things to strengthen Gujarat. Now, it is time to take a giant leap. Congress does not have the capacity to do that. The opposition party can never do anything good for you,” the prime minister said.
“You cannot expect a Congress leader to take you on the path of development, ask any Congress leader what is the roadmap for development and they do not have any plan,” he said.
Speaking in Botad, the prime minister said the BJP has compelled all other parties in the country to talk about development as the main issue during elections.
“Earlier, allegations about scams used to be the main issue during elections. But, after BJP’s rise in Gujarat, the main issue has become development instead of scams. We compelled all other political parties in the country to talk about development during polls,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)