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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Need to fight drugs from Pakistan the same way we fight terror: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Pakistan of encouraging drug smuggling into India.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 20, 2019 02:00 IST
Rohit David and Faisal Malik
Rohit David and Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times, Rewari/Mumbai
PM Narendra Modi at an election rally with BJP leaders in Ellenabad in Sirsa district.
PM Narendra Modi at an election rally with BJP leaders in Ellenabad in Sirsa district. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT)
         

Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the effective revocation of Article 370 as ammunition to attack opposition parties on Saturday as the campaign ended for the October 21 assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra -- the Bharatiya Janata Party’s first electoral test since it recaptured national power in May. Modi also accused Pakistan of encouraging drug smuggling into India.

“With your blessing we took a decision to remove Article 370 and we did it,” Modi said at a ‘Vijay Sankalp Rally’ in Rewari on Saturday afternoon, referring to the constitutional provision that conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, which the BJP government nullified on August 5 when it decided to also bifurcate the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh

The PM asked the estimated 25,000 people who attended the rally whether removal of Article 370 in Kashmir was right or wrong. People shouted back, ‘Yes, it was right’. Modi, then went on to ask, ‘Do I have your blessing in this decision?’. “Yes,” went the crowd’s chant.

Modi launched a series of attacks on the Congress party. “Congress was only concerned about their vote bank. Their leaders were asking each other, what does Modi think of himself, he has removed Article 370,” he said. The PM questioned the crowd how those who opposed Article 370’s revocation had come to seek votes in Haryana. “You should punish such people. Ensure Congress’ loss is written in history,” he said.

Since moving to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status in an avowed attempt to integrate it more closely with the national mainstream, the BJP has put the issue at the top of its poll campaign as it seeks another term in both Haryana and Maharashtra.

In Rewari, Modi cited his government’s attempts to modernise the armed forces, contrasting the effort with a time when, he claimed, the defence forces even lacked bullet-proof jackets.

“When we came to power, we launched modernisation of the armed forces. Today, we have the most advanced submarines, fighter jets. The earlier government was going to put Tejas aircraft {project} in cold storage. Today, that same jet is ready for the armed forces,” he said.

Modi spoke on how the defence strategy had changed over the years. “Today, we kill terrorists in their home. Those who threatened us till yesterday have fear in their eyes,” he said. He even spoke of having made a national war memorial and national police memorial and museum in New Delhi. “Since independence, 33,000 police personnel have laid down their lives for the country. No one made a memorial for them, but I did that,” he added.

At a rally in Ellenabad, Modi targeted Pakistan. After failing to push terrorists and arms into India, Pakistan is encouraging drug smuggling to India, he said.

“The youth of Haryana must fight the drug menace. It destroys not only individuals but also their families and the larger society. Our neighbours first tried to push terrorists and weapons into India. Now they have resorted to pushing in drugs to destroy our youth. We must fight drug menace as we fight terrorism,” he said.

From Rewari, BJP has fielded Sunil Yadav Musepur, who is up against Congress candidate Chiranjeev Rao, son of former minister Ajay Yadav. At the rally, Modi recalled his address to the people of Rewari on September 15, 2013 after BJP had declared him as its PM candidate. “It was from Rewari that my new journey in politics began. In the last few years, if I have been able to do anything for the country, it’s because of the blessings people of Rewari have given me,” he said.

The Congress rubbished the claims made by Modi. Ved Prakash Vidrohi, state Congess spokesperson, said: “Whatever Modi has said for the Congress is wrong. He only knows how to give speeches. I want to ask BJP, why did they select Rewari for PM’s rally. Are they afraid of losing?”

The BJP has voiced confidence that it would perform better than it did in the Haryana polls of 2014, when it won 47 seats in the 90-member assembly and captured power in the state for the first time.

Both the ruling party and the opposition pulled out all stops on the last day of the campaign in Haryana and Maharashtra, where the BJP is in an alliance with the Shiv Sena and faces a direct contest against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine. Results of both the assembly elections will be known on October 24.

Like Modi in Rewari, home minister Amit Shah invoked the revocation of Article 370 at a public meeting in North Maharashtra’s Nandurbagh.

“Article 370 helped Pakistan in creating terrorism in Pakistan. Congress chose to oppose it (due to) vote bank politics. But Modi government dared to eliminate it,” Shah said in Navapur assembly constituency, a Congress bastion.

A star campaigner on Saturday was NCP leader Sharad Pawar, who addressed a rally while it rained. Seeking votes for NCP candidates contesting the Lok Sabha by-election as well as the assembly poll in Satara, Pawar admitted that he had erred while selecting Udayanraje Bhonsale as the NCP candidate for the Lok Sabha election held earlier this year.

“I am here to admit that I made a mistake during the recently held Lok Sabha elections and I am sure each and every person of Satara is waiting to rectify that mistake on October 21,” he said.

Udayanraje Bhonsle resigned from the Lok Sabha and NCP within four months of the general elections and joined the BJP. Bhonsle is a three-time member of Parliament from the Satara seat.

The campaign for the Maharashtra assembly elections was dominated by BJP’s narrative, which pivoted on the revocation of Article 370. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed six rallies in the state, highlighting issues like the economic slowdown and growing unemployment

The BJP is contesting 164 of the 288 Maharashtra assembly seats, which include candidates of smaller allies contesting on its lotus symbol while the Sena has fielded candidates for 124 seats. The Congress has fielded 147 candidates and the NCP 121.

Voting in by-polls will be held across 66 assembly and two Lok Sabha constituencies on October 21 alongside the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections.