‘Congress was soft on terror’: PM in Gujarat poll salvo

Updated on Nov 30, 2022 05:19 PM IST

Terrorism was at its peak under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the PM said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a roadshow in Surat on Sunday. (ANI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a roadshow in Surat on Sunday. (ANI)
By, Ahmedabad

The Congress views terrorism from “the prism of vote bank”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a scathing attack on the opposition party on Sunday, accusing it of crying in support of the terrorists at the time of the Batla House encounter in 2008.

Terrorism was at its peak under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the PM said at a public meeting in Mehmedabad town of Gujarat’s Kheda district.

“The Congress views terrorism from the prism of vote bank. Not only Congress, but many like-minded parties have come up now who view terrorism as a shortcut to achieving success and this small party’s hunger for power is even bigger,” he said, without naming the party. The PM accused the Congress of going soft on terror in a bid to protect its vote bank.

The Gujarat elections are expected to be a three-cornered contest, with the BJP launching a campaign blitzkrieg to retain power, the Congress seeking to gain lost ground and the Aam Aadmi Party looking to make inroads in the state.

Also Read | Modi is leader of lies, is trying to gain public sympathy: Kharge in Gujarat rally

Modi said the mouths of these parties remain “locked when big terrorist attacks take place so that their vote bank is not offended. They even go to courts from the back door to save terrorists”.

“When Batla House encounter took place, a Congress leader cried for terrorists,” he said, adding “Gujarat and the country should remain alert from such parties”.

The 2008 encounter, which was launched following specific input about the presence of terrorists affiliated with the Indian Mujahideen, resulted in the deaths of two terrorists hiding in a flat in the Batla House area in Okhla. A police officer was also killed in the operation on September 19, 2008.

The Gujarat police have said that the encounter was a result of investigations into the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, in which 56 people were killed and 246 others injured.

He said the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks presented a grave picture about the terrorist attacks in the country. “I pray for the departed souls,” the PM said, a day after tributes were paid to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the 26/11 strikes unleashed by 10 Pakistani terrorists in which 166 people were killed and several injured.

Gujarat has long been the target of terrorists but the situation changed once the BJP formed government at the Centre, Modi said.

Also Read | PM Modi meets two tribal orphan boys in Gujarat before addressing rally

“Gujarat had long been a target of terrorism. The people of Gujarat were killed in explosions in Surat and Ahmedabad. The Congress was at the Centre then, we asked them to target terrorism but they targeted me instead. Terrorism was at the peak in the country,” he said.

“In Gujarat, we kept track of terrorist sleeper cells and arrested terrorists,” the PM said referring to the action taken by the BJP government when he was the chief minister. “Your one vote in 2014 has created a lot of difference in killing terrorism in the country.”

“Terrorists have to think a lot even before attacking our borders. But Congress questions our surgical strike. The youth of the state, aged up to 25 years, have never seen what a curfew looks like. I have to save them from the bomb explosions, only BJP’s double-engine government can do this,” PM Modi said a reference to the BJP’s governments both at the Centre and in states.

“We have to save Gujarat from those playing the dirty game of terrorism. This is a long fight and we need your support,” Modi said.

“Terrorism is not over yet and the politics of the Congress has not also changed. The fear of terrorism will remain till appeasement politics continues.”

Hitting back, the Congress said that the BJP is trying to deflect attention from issues like inflation and unemployment by raising the issue of terror.

“The Prime Minister should answer why his party released Pakistan terrorist Azhar Masood who was involved in Parliament attack (in 2001) and is still a threat for India. The Prime Minister had also promised to capture Dawood Ibrahim in 2014 but so far it has not happened. Let alone arresting such hardcore criminals, the white-collar criminals are escaping the country after doing scams of thousands of crores of rupees. The Prime Minister is not able to address issues like inflation and unemployment in Gujarat and hence raising such issues to try and target Congress,” said Manish Doshi, Gujarat Congress spokesperson.

At another rally in Netrang, a tribal area in Bharuch district, the PM accused the Congress not respecting the tribal community.

“Congress has no respect for tribals in the country... We decided to make our tribal daughter (Droupadi Murmu) the president of the country. We went to the Congress with folded hands to accept her (support her candidature), but they opposed. We put all our might and made the tribal daughter win the election,” Modi said.

“Be it Birsa Munda or Govind Guru, the Congress did not give respect to tribal leaders of the country,” he said.

The Prime Minister also hailed the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that the world was amazed at how quickly the country was able to overcome the crisis.

“The whole world faced such a terrifying pandemic. If someone gets sick at our home, we take four to five years to come out of it. We faced the pandemic in such a big country. But the way we came out of it, the entire world is amazed. They are not able to understand how it happened,” Modi said.

“To fight the pandemic, vaccination was crucial. Even now, many countries are struggling to vaccinate their entire population. We have given more than 200 crore doses of anti-coronavirus vaccine. After two doses, we provided a booster dose also free,” Modi said.

The PM also credited the BJP government for bringing a data revolution in the country.

“If the Congress was in power, your mobile bill could have been around 4,000 to 5,000 per month, which is minimal now. We made data affordable,” he said.

Capping his weekend campaign blitz, the PM led a massive roadshow in Surat in the evening. Thousands of people gathered along the 27-km route of the roadshow from the Surat airport to Varaccha, the city’s hub for diamond cutting and polishing.

He is also scheduled to address four rallies in Kutch’s Anjar, Jamnagar’s Gordhanpur, Bhavnagar’s Palitana, Jamnagar’s Gordhanpar, and Rajkot on Monday.

The Assembly elections in Gujarat are scheduled to be held in two phases on December 1 and December 5, whose results will be declared on December 8, which coincides with the result date of the Himachal Pradesh polls.

While voting in constituencies in Kheda district will be held in both phases, Surat and Bharuch will vote on December 1.

In the last elections in 2017, BJP won 99 seats and the Congress came close with 77 seats. The BJP has been in power for the last 27 years with Modi being the longest-serving chief minister of the state.

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