Lucknow / New Delhi : On the day he completed two years in office as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stepped into his favourite role as the party’s campaigner in chief for his party.
He travelled to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh to showcase his government’s achievements in the infrastructure, agriculture and health sectors.
Uttar Pradesh has contributed the largest number of MPs to Modi’s government with the BJP winning 73 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Now Modi has the opportunity of doing an encore in 2017, when the state assembly polls for 403 seats are scheduled. A win in Uttar Pradesh would buttress his chances of coming back to power in 2019 again.
Modi had intentionally chosen this western UP town, known to be a stronghold of the Bahujan Samaj Party, to commemorate two years
of his government. Addressing the Vikas Parv rally at a huge ground, Modi said he and his government were trying to change the face of the country and make a difference to the lives of the people.
“But the minds of some people are not changing,” he said in an apparent dig at his detractors, mainly the Congress.
He prefaced his speech with the boast that during the last two years, not one case of corruption involving his government had been reported.
Asserts that in the last two years, not one case of corruption involving his government was reported
His 40-minute address was a virtual launch of the party’s poll campaign. “We have taken up tasks which will strengthen the poor to fight poverty. We have given importance to building schools, hospitals, roads and transforming lives of the poor,” the prime minister said.
Announcing that the retirement age of doctors employed by the government would be raised to 65 years, he said: “There is a shortage of doctors. In government hospitals, their retirement age is 60 years in some states, and 62 in some others. It is difficult to churn out doctors in two years but poor families cannot be forced to live without doctors.”
On the agricultural front, the prime minister said that merely throwing crumbs at farmers is not going to help and then spoke about issues such as the soil health card, irrigation projects and crop insurance schemes that created a safety net for farmers. ‘‘We are trying to solve the problems the farmers face,” he added.
The ground where Modi spoke is in the Rampur-Maniharan (Reserved) Assembly constituency which has a nearly 35% Dalit population. It is represented by Ravindra Kumar Molhu of BSP. Incidentally, a large portion of the rally site and the surrounding land belongs to Muslims hailing from the minority-dominated Chunati Gada village.
The BJP would apparently like to wean away Dalits from the BSP; the party has already made dents in the BSP fold and in the past week there were two defections — former Saharanpur MP Jagdish Rana and former minister Vinod Tejiyan joined the BJP.
I have undertaken maximum reforms: PM
On the second anniversary of his government coming to power, Modi stoutly defended his track record in terms of the reform agenda for the economy. “Today, unlike before, India is not standing in a corner,” he told an American media outlet in an interview ahead of his visit to the United States of America in June first week.
“President Obama had sent me an invitation in March. And later when I went for the Nuclear Security Summit, he had personally requested me. And it was on my request that he had visited India again. Naturally it was my responsibility too. And we’ve also developed a kind of friendship where we can speak freely with each other,” Modi said explaining the context of his visit.
The prime minister, who has faced criticism for being a rather slow reformer, did not agree with this analysis of the situation. “I have actually undertaken the maximum reforms, but “I have an enormous task ahead for myself,” he said, adding that the changes he put in place would have been regarded as difficult to implement in previous governments.
On the issue of ‘big bang reforms, he said: “When I came to the government, I used to sit down with all the experts and ask them to define the ‘big bang.’ Nobody could tell me.’’