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Poll pitch: Modi dangles development carrot in GH

BJP committed to safeguarding minority interests, says PM at Phulbari rally

PHULBARI: The turnout was expected and there were no prizes for guessing whether the Modi magic would work. The prime minister’s supporters were expectedly elated as their leader landed in the dusty town of Phulbari on Thursday afternoon to an eagerly waiting crowd of over 50,000 people who had braved the heat and dust to come to listen to him.
And, again expectedly, Narendra Modi with his characteristic rhetorical flourish dismantled all the prickly allegations levelled at the BJP of being anti-minority. He rubbished Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s oft-repeated charge of the BJP being a party driven by a majoritarian agenda, claiming that as the prime minister he is committed to safeguarding the interests of minority Christians in India.
His penchant for pointed jibes was unmistakably evident and all those acerbic comments were targeted at the Congress, a party the PM accused of failing to deliver on development promises for a breathtakingly long tenure of 50 years in power.
However, not everything went as expected, thanks to the prime minister’s other penchant — that of springing surprises. He astonished one and all by summing up his 45-minute speech underlining his government’s active role in protecting the interests of minorities.
Modi spoke for close to 10 minutes detailing how the BJP-led NDA government in New Delhi was “actively” working to help Christian missionaries taken hostage by terrorists in conflict-ridden zones in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
“This government has not remained a silent spectator to incidents of Christian missionaries and minority workers being terrorised in conflict zones,” he said.
Modi highlighted the efforts of his government to bring back 46 Christian nurses kidnapped by militants in Iraq.
“Fr. Alex Premkumar, a missionary working in Afghanistan, had been languishing in terrorist captivity for 18 long months. Our government worked tirelessly to ensure his safe return,” said the prime minister providing further details of how his government helped to get another Christian missionary, Father Tom, repatriate from Yemen.
Invoking Lord’s blessings
And as is his wont, he did not forget to wish the people of Garo Hills in the Garo tongue, asking the Lord to bless them.
In his address at the rally, the prime minister called upon the people to hold the ruling Congress government accountable for lack of development in Meghalaya.
“Landing in Phulbari I am amazed by the support. This is a call for parivartan in Meghalaya and the people are yearning for change,” he asserted while making a fervent appeal to the people to elect the BJP for five years in order to undo the damage of the last many years under Congress’s watch.
“Without good roads there cannot be development but in Garo Hills the roads have assumed the shape of fields under cultivation due to total disrepair. In five years I promise we will bring the change the people want,” he assured.
Dwelling on the slew of development funds being released annually for the state, Modi said: “80 per cent of the money spent in the state comes from the Centre. Successive governments  remained mute bystanders and no action was initiated as funds were misappropriated every year. But when our government came to power in Delhi we sought accountability.” He also pointed to the monthly visits by central ministers to the North-East to inspect the progress of central projects in the region.
UC not submitted
“We asked for details of utilisation of funds and then we insisted on spot inspection of the project sites. This is why the Congress government in Meghalaya is now reluctant to seek funds for projects from New Delhi,” he mocked.
As regards the PMGSY project, Modi informed that Rs 470 crore was accorded this time for laying out roads in villages and the NDA government at the Centre has enhanced funds for highways from Rs 1000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore for the state.
“The people of Garo Hills have the ability to usher in a new era provided infrastructure like roads, railways and airways are prioritised by the state government,” he said.
“Today even if you wear a hawai chappal you can board the hawai jahaz (airplane) thanks to the UDAAN scheme which has helped many people avail of air service in the North-East,” the prime minister maintained.
Details were dished out during his speech of central schemes to provide affordable LED lights and electricity to the poor — a process which has led to the distribution of 3,30,000 LED bulbs at affordable prices and the sanction of Rs 100 crore for affordable housing for the poor, claimed Modi.
Congress stalled housing project
“Despite the centre releasing the money to construct 21,000 houses for the poor, the Congress government in Meghalaya has stalled the construction of close to 16,000 of the sanctioned houses. The BJP, if voted to power, will be accountable for every rupee spent,” the prime minister said to a round of rip-roaring applause.
The epitome of his development drive, the PM pointed out, was the recent announcement in the Union budget of a medical insurance scheme of Rs 5 lakh for close to 50 crore poor people in the country, a scheme the media has coined a term for — ‘Modicare’.
The BJP is fielding 18 candidates in the Garo Hills, a region which sends 24 legislators to the state assembly. One of them is from Phulbari, a constituency in which the BJP has fielded a candidate for the first time.
And those who relish the PM’s inimitable panache for pun were not let down either with Modi declaring triumphantly: “I can sense that the phool will bloom in the bari this time.”

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