Chennai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday unveiled mega projects, commissioned at a cost of several thousands of crores of rupees, in Tamil Nadu, where Assembly elections are due this summer. The BJP is fighting the elections as part of an alliance headed by the ruling AIADMK.
While Modi, consciously avoided giving a political tone in his speech during his visit for an official function, he did subtly send across a message that the Centre was backing the AIADMK leadership comprising Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami and his deputy in Government O Panneerselvam by holding up their hands before getting off stage. He did try to touch the Tamil psyche by quoting ancient poet Avvaiyar and national poet Bharathiar in his speech and by flaunting his intention to help the ethnic Tamils in neighbouring Sri Lanka.
“I am the only Indian Prime Minister to have visited Jaffna [a dominant Tamil area in Sri Lanka],” he said detailing the steps taken by India to rebuild the lives of the Tamils in the Island Nation. He also assured to protect the interests of Tamil Nadu fishermen, who are frequently arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy.
“Let me assure you that my Government will always protect the rightful interests of fishermen. We have ensured early release whenever fishermen are apprehended in Sri Lanka. More than 1,600 fishermen have been released during our tenure. Currently, there is no Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan custody. Similarly, 313 boats have also been released and we are working for the return of the rest of the boats,” he said.
Politically, he mentioned the tabling of a Bill in Parliament by his Government to classify as ‘Devendrakula Vellalar’, a group of seven SC sub-sects in southern Tamil Nadu. Seeking to align himself with those making the demand for such reclassification by saying, “Devendar[kula] syncs with my name [Na]render.”
Indigenous main battle tank Arjun Mk-1A inducted in Army:
The Prime Minister symbolically handed over a model of indigenous main battle tank Arjun Mk-1A to Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane. The tank has been designed and developed by Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), a unit of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), in Chennai.
“A tank made in Tamil Nadu will be used in our northern borders to keep the nation safe…At the same time, the focus on making India Aatmanirbhar in the defence sector moves with full speed,” he said. Modi noted that Sunday marked the second anniversary of the Pulwama attack.
Among other projects, the Prime Minister inaugurated the Chennai Metro Rail Phase-I extension, at a cost of ₹3,770 crore and the foundation stone for the extension, renovation and modernisation of the Grand Anicut Canal System and some highway projects.