CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday went on an inauguration spree of big-ticket projects and carried out high-decibel political attacks against opposition parties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, in what could be seen as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) efforts to rally voters in the run-up to the general elections.

Tamil Nadu and Kerala are among the few states where the saffron party has negligible presence, despite being on a rollercoaster ride across the country—a trend, if not turned around, could become detrimental to the BJP’s chances in the 2019 general elections. In Tamil Nadu, the BJP has one MP, but has warmed up well to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and superstar Rajinikanth, even while remaining independent. In Kerala, the party does not have an MP, and an unstable alliance partner in Ezhava leader Vellappally Natesan. However, it is targeting at least five seats on the back of the recent Sabarimala agitations.

In Tamil Nadu’s Madurai, Modi laid the foundation stone for a new 1,264 crore All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which is being propagated as a big boost to the state’s public healthcare services. In Kerala’s Kochi, he inaugurated a 16,504 crore expansion project of the Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL), which is the single-largest investment made by the centre in Kerala, and has made BPCL-Kochi the biggest public sector refinery in India.

However, both events were punctured with protests, which took some sheen off the Prime Minister’s presence. Modi faced criticism under the hashtag “#GoBackModi", which started trending ahead of his Tamil Nadu visit, besides witnessing black flag protests by various political outfits on the ground. Earlier in the day, Kerala chief minister and BJP’s principal rival Pinarayi Vijayan of the CPM said that “some migratory birds have started arriving and that too very often", like a harbinger of bad times, apparently in reference to Modi since it was his second visit within a fortnight to Kerala.

Unfazed by the backlash, Modi supported the protests following the entry ban of women of menstruating age in the Sabarimala hill shrine. The BJP was behind the protests after the Supreme Court annulled the custom in September 2018, and blamed the ruling Communists for supporting the apex court order.

“I fail to understand why the Communists are undermining our culture and civilization, which has stood the test of time over centuries. The (Congress-led United Democratic Front) UDF, too, is just like the communists. Their doublespeak has been exposed," Modi said, claiming BJP as the sole defender of the faith for the devotees of the hill shrine.

“Neither the Congress nor the communists have any concern for women enforcement. If they did, they would not be opposing the NDA government’s efforts to end triple talaq. India has had so many women chief ministers. Has there been even one communist woman chief minister?"

Modi also gave political colour to his government conferring the Padma award on Friday to Nambi Narayanan, the celebrated Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist, who had to undergo trial after he was wrongfully accused of spying by the state police.

“It is an honour that our government had the opportunity of conferring the Padma Award on Nambi Narayanan. For them (Congress and Communists) science can be abused as spying, for us science is a matter of national pride," Modi said.

Neetu Chandra Sharma from New Delhi contributed to this story. 

Close