HYDERABAD/BENGALURU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sounded the poll bugle for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has ceded significant ground in recent years.
With polls likely to be conducted before May, Modi plunged into campaigning for his party. Successfully deflecting some of the opposition attacks after his government presented the budget, filled with sops for the middle class and farmers, Modi tore into his political opponents in all three states.
Calling Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu a “back-stabber" for seizing power from Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founder N.T. Rama Rao (NTR), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that Naidu has forgotten about the development of the state and is now only interested in “abusing" him. Modi launched a diatribe against the TDP supremo, stating that the latter has failed to live up to NTR’s legacy.
“He (Naidu) keeps reminding me that he is my senior. But he is a senior in back-stabbing his father-in-law (NTR) and he is a senior in losing elections, but I am not. You are also a senior in sitting in the lap of those whom you used to abuse earlier. The ‘Naamdaars’ (referring to Congress) always disrespected other regional leaders, which is why NTR founded TDP," Modi said while addressing a public gathering near Guntur on Sunday afternoon.
Though the two national parties are present in most parts of the country, both the Congress and BJP have little or no presence in most south Indian states, barring Karnataka where the former is in power through an alliance.
With the political vacuum in Tamil Nadu after J. Jayalalithaa’s death and the Sabarimala controversy in Kerala, the BJP has been trying hard to enter these two states to boost its tally in the upcoming polls. But the pushback has been just as hard.
Protesting Modi’s visit to Andhra, the TDP had put up huge hoardings saying ‘Modi No Entry’ and ‘Modi Never Again’ along the way to Vijayawada from the Gannavaram airport. Naidu will also conduct a one-day ‘Deeksha’ (strike) in New Delhi on Monday to demand special category status for Andhra Pradesh.
For the ‘Deeksha’ protests, the state government has booked two special trains to ferry about 2,000 TDP workers for a little over ₹1 crore. People’s organization members and caste associations will also take the trains to the national capital to participate in the event.
Later addressing a rally in neighbouring Karnataka, Modi took on chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, calling him a “punching bag" whose authority was constantly under threat and challenged everyday by the Congress, its alliance partner, rendering him helpless.
“He is threatened every day and he has publicly cried about his helplessness," Modi said, referring to current dispensation in the state as the “majboor" model.
“They want to impose this ‘majboor’ model across the nation," he added.
Modi’s comments comes days after former Karnataka CM and state BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa was accused of trying to lure a Janata Dal (Secular) legislator to switch sides for monetary returns and plum ministerial postings. The BJP has been accused of trying to poach coalition legislators and bring down the eight-month old government ahead of the parliamentary polls.
The Congress is trying to consolidate the opposition parties and lead the fight to defeat Modi in the upcoming polls. Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony in May last year became the biggest platform for opposition politics, including bringing on stage traditional rivals to take on the National Democratic Alliance government. But several parties have since pulled out of the rapidly disintegrating ‘mahagathbandhan’ or grand alliance.
In Andhra Pradesh, the prime minister laid the foundation stone for the Krishnapatnam Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) coastal terminal project in Guntur.
Modi also attacked the Congress saying while the party could provide only 120 million gas connections in the last 60 years, his government has provided 130 million connections in just four-and-a-half years. “Only 55% people had gas connections till 2014, now 90% have it," Modi said, adding that his government was looking to build an economy with clean fuel
Modi accused Naidu of “using the state’s money" for organising the event in the national capital only to “click pictures".
“Naidu has taken a U-turn on his promises. Instead of building a ‘sunrise’ AP as promised, he is only busy rising his son up. The (AP) chief minister also promised to start new schemes for the state, but instead he is only renaming schemes started by Modi. Today, Naidu is with the same people whom NTR used to call evil."
Modi said that Naidu was afraid of losing the (upcoming) elections, and that the TDP supremo was afraid of the Centre. “He is afraid because we ask him to give us an account of the funds given to Andhra Pradesh."
Reacting to Modi’s scathing attack on him, Naidu said the BJP leaders should understand the ire of the people towards the central government, which failed to fulfil the state’s bifurcation assurances. The chief minister said, as per his appeal, the Telugu people staged silent protests during the Prime Minister’s visit to the state.