Virtually kicking off the BJP’s election campaign in Assam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday came down heavily on the Congress and his predecessor Manmohan Singh for failing the state.
“A state that gave a PM for 10 years should have been problem-free. But Assam is drowned in problems,” Modi said while addressing a rally of the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), a regional party with which the BJP forged an electoral alliance on Sunday.
Modi was referring to Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam since 1991.
The election to Assam’s 126-member assembly is scheduled in April-May.
“The Congress has failed to provide any solution to problems despite ruling Assam for 15 years, 10 of them under a PM from the state. They did not work for 15 years but expect me to do all the work in 15 months. Isn’t that a bit too much?” Modi asked a sizeable crowd at Bodofa Nwjwr near Kokrajhar town, 236 km west of Guwahati.
The PM began his address by greeting the crowd in the Bodo language and apologising for the delay in his arrival from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. “Sorry to keep you waiting, but I haven’t been late enough for you to be deprived of development and your rights.”
He said his visit to Kokrajhar – headquarters of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) – was inspired by the renewal of the BJP’s friendship with the BPF.
The BPF was an ally of the NDA since the creation of the BTC in 2003, but it befriended the Congress to rule Assam together from 2006 to 2014.
“Hagrama Mohilary (BPF chief) and other leaders came to my house a few days ago and they poured their hearts out seeking a development package. We will show we have a big heart in providing what you deserve, just as you have a big heart in taking us along,” the PM said.
Modi also took a dig at chief minister Tarun Gogoi for lampooning him with a series of posters. “A person who should have been explaining his failures during 15 years of reign is asking questions.”
The Congress, he said, has only made false promises. “The only thing it has managed to do is betray you.”
Modi asserted that the Northeast had a special place in his heart, and it was the reason why central ministers and officials were sent to the region regularly to monitor how money meant for development of the region was spent.
“I have a three-point agenda – development, development and development. Our focus is on Act East, to integrate this region in the development journey. And to ensure development, we are building roads, railways and waterways,” he said.
But, he pointed out, funds need to reach the right places. In this context, he cited former PM Rajiv Gandhi.
“Rajivji said only 15 paise out of every rupee released by Delhi reaches a village. The Congress knows because it ruled for 60 years. And I am told the money budgeted for BTC goes somewhere else. Do you know where it goes?” he said.
The PM concluded his address by insisting his government was going in the right direction with issues such as granting ST status to six communities in Assam and providing a R1,000-crore development package for the BTC.
He also outlined a slew of projects for improving connectivity in the Northeast.
The BPF has been ruling the council since 2003. More importantly for the BJP, the tribal party has gone unchallenged in at least 12 assembly seats since the 2006 assembly polls.
The BPF won 11 seats in 2006, exactly the number the 53-seat Congress needed to rule for the second successive term.
The Congress’s landslide victory in 2011 made the BPF redundant. The latter broke the alliance in 2014, indicating it was gravitating back to the BJP.