Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched a sharp attack on the Congress in Rae Bareli, UPA president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, which many are reading as the start of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) 2019 campaign.
On his first visit to the traditional bastion of the Gandhi family, the PM lashed out at the Congress and accused it of trying to weaken the resolve and strength of the Indian armed forces. He also took jibes at the grand old party over the Bofors and the AgustaWestland scams.
Addressing a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli, the PM said that while his government is trying to strengthen the armed forces, the Congress is siding with forces inimical to India.
“Today there are two sides before the country. One side is the government that is trying to strengthen our forces. The other side that wants to weaken our forces at any cost,” he told the gathering.
“Country is witness that Congress is standing with forces that don’t want our forces to strengthen,” he added.
The PM was speaking after flagging off the 900th coach and a Humsafar Rake of Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli. The event coincided with Vijay Diwas – India’s annual celebration of its victory against Pakistan in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
“The people of the party that raises questions on surgical strikes, trust enemy’s claims more than our Army, what can be expected of them?” the PM said.
Underlining his government’s commitment to defence forces, the PM added that the Congress-led UPA government did not procure the 1.86 lakh bulletproof jackets requested by the Indian Army in 2009 but his government did.
“In 2016, we bought 50,000 bulletproof jackets. In April this year, we placed the complete order for 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets with an Indian company,” Modi said.
Mocking the Congress over AgustaWestland and Bofors scams, the PM said that the party’s “history in defence deals is that of uncle Quattrocchi” referring to the Bofors scam accused who the government during the UPA era failed to extradite following his arrest in Argentina.
“(AgustaWestland) Helicopter scam accused Christian Michel was brought to the country a few days ago. Everyone saw how Congress sent their lawyer to save him,” the PM pointed out.
The PM also asked why the UPA government did not strengthen the Indian Air Force for 10 long years of its rule even after its demand for better aircraft following the 1999 Kargil War.
Modi’s sharp attacks on the Congress came two days after the government got a shot in the arm in the Rafale fighter jet deal case from the Supreme Court. The Congress, which has branded the deal a scam, reiterated its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.
The PM also targeted the Congress over not allowing the Modern Coach Factory to function in full capacity.
“This factory was sanctioned in 2007 and was built in 2010. For 4 years parts of the coach from Kapurthala were assembled and painted here. The factory that was supposed to make new coaches was never allowed to work at its full capacity,” he said, adding that an increase in the capacity of the factory will give employment to youth.
“When the earlier government decided to construct this factory it was decided that 5000 employees will be hired. But only half of these recruitments were approved. Not just that, in 2014 we noticed that no new recruitment was done in this factory,” he said.
Rae Bareli is represented in the Lok Sabha by Sonia Gandhi, who has not visited the district since April this year. Before that, she visited the constituency in mid-2016 and did not campaign in the constituency during the 2017 UP election due to a health issue.
The visit of PM Modi was planned before the BJP got a drubbing in three of the states ruled by it – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – losing all to Congress.
At Rae Bareli, the PM reportedly launched developmental projects worth over Rs 1,000 crore before heading to Prayagraj for a special event ahead of Kumbh Mela.