New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi tore into Naxalites at an election rally in the so-called red corridor on Friday, a day after they gunned down four civilians and a member of the Central Industrial Security Force in Dantewada.

At the rally, held in the divisional headquarters at Bastar three days before it goes to polls in the first phase of assembly elections in Chhattisgarh on 12 November, Modi also claimed that “urban Naxals" and the Congress were tacitly supporting Naxalites. Modi said “urban Naxals" were “remote controlling" Naxalites in Chhattisgarh—a state with large tribal populations living in mineral-rich and forested regions.

“The tribal children should be studying, but instead the Naxals hand them weapons and destroy their lives. Urban Naxals stay in cities and have luxurious lives, their children are well-educated, but they remote control the lives of adivasi (tribal) children and destroy their lives. The Congress should respond why they stand up for the ‘urban Naxals’. If the government prosecutes them, the Congress stands up for them and here they denounce Naxalism," Modi said.

“The Naxals had killed adivasi leaders who were working for the development of Bastar. Even today the Congress leaders don’t have a response to that. Doordarshan journalist Achyutanand Sahu was working to capture the state’s development on camera. But the Naxals killed him in cold blood," Modi said, urging the people to vote on 12 November.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds six of the 18 assembly constituencies going to polls in the first phase. The Congress holds the remaining 12. The BJP aims to make inroads in districts affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), with Bastar’s Sukma, Dantewada, Bijapur, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon going to polls on Monday.

Modi took a dig at the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments and said that though finances were available to them, the funds were controlled by “a select few rich people".

The Prime Minister stressed the need for an all-inclusive development policy for Bastar and said Naxalism needs to be side-stepped and development ushered into the region. “We need to make Bastar so strong that unemployment, poverty and hunger can be eradicated and we are trying (to do this) constantly and that is why I have come here continuously for that purpose. This is our responsibility because you have reposed that faith and responsibility in us," Modi said.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh also spelt out the party’s development initiatives in the state.

“Education is progressing and infrastructure development is progressing. The Congress could never establish this. Today we are making sure that no tribal or poor person in Bastar goes hungry. We are distributing rice for the poor at 1 per kilo. Farmers cultivating tendu leaves are being given MSP (minimum support price) of 2,500 per quintal, up from 400 per quintal. About 3,000 kilometres of road and bridge construction is also underway in Bastar," Singh said.

The chief minister said the state government has set up business process outsourcing units in Bijapur and Dantewada and completed work at the Nagarnar steel plant in the state. Increased road and rail connectivity and the eventual launch of various central schemes, such as the Ujjwala Yojana and Ayushman Bharat, would change the face of Bastar, he said.

“In the coming years, development will be quadrupled in Bastar. Villages will have telephones and internet facilities. Prime Minister Modi had promised that there will be no village or district in Bastar where there won’t be any electricity and he has fulfilled it. The poorest and the sickest will be able to avail medical treatment through Ayushman Bharat as all these plans are now being rolled out," Singh said.

At a rally held simultaneously in Dongargarh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on his part, tore into the BJP on the twin decisions of demonetization and the goods and services tax. Gandhi said Modi had done irreparable damage to the economy and the people.

He urged people to vote for the Congress and said: “Congress government in the state will construct a food processing unit in every district in Chhattisgarh where farmers can sell their products directly."

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