Narendra Modi continued his blitzkrieg in the Northeast on Saturday, stunning the region with his attention, the like of which it has never received in any Parliamentary election since independence. Addressing gigantic and enthusiastic crowds in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura, and tackling the burning issues in each, the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate sought to infuse the people with hope and optimism that the days of pervasive neglect by the Centre were coming to an end.
In his second visit to Assam in the space of a fortnight, Narendra Modi took the long-festering issue of illegal immigration head-on, saying it was time to send illegal migrants who came to India as “part of a political ploy and political design of some persons” back to Bangladesh. Sharply attacking but not naming the Congress for using illegal migrants to alter the demographics of the State and indulge in vote-bank politics, the Gujarat Chief Minister said that such infiltrators stole the rights of legitimate voters by entering the voters list (and influencing the outcome of elections); they must be weeded out of the voters list and returned to their home country.
Addressing the BJP’s Barak Vikas Samavesh at Silchar, Narendra Modi punctured the Congress’s strategy of patronising infiltration from Bangladesh while invoking the communal bogey to suppress the native aspirations of the people. Amidst wild cheering from the gathering, he said there are two types of migrants from the neighbouring country, one steals the employment opportunities of native youth with the complicity of certain political forces (read Congress), and the others are those who find it impossible to live in Bangladesh as the honour of their women is in peril, their lands and wealth have been looted and their lives ruined. Yesterday that land was ours, he thundered, but today Hindus have been uprooted from there; “Where will these Hindus go?” he asked.
If the Hindu is tyrannised in Fiji, Mauritius, America, or anywhere in the world, “will he come to Hindustan or not?” he asked the crowd, and answered, “He must have India as a refuge”. Making it difficult for the Congress to dodge the issue of persecution of Hindus anywhere, especially neighbouring countries, the Gujarat strongman asked if the Government of India should treat Hindu refugees in the same manner as the nations from where they are fleeing. As the people responded, “no, no”, he continued, “we cannot do that.” Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made generous provisions for refugees from Pakistan and settled them in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and other States. Similarly, Hindus fleeing Bangladesh should not become a burden on Assam alone, Narendra Modi said, but must be settled all over the country and their employment and children’s education taken care of. He promised to shut down the detention camps where lakhs of people are suffering due to vote-bank politics, and alluding to a youth who died in protest, said “Arjun did not die for himself.” This was an election promise of the Congress which it had failed to fulfill, he said, and mocked successive regimes in Assam which is suffering due to its Bangladeshi neighbour, while Pakistan is worried because it has Modi (in Gujarat) as a neighbour!
In a frontal attack on the Congress for failing to develop Assam despite its abundant wealth of petroleum, gas, tea, and water resources, Narendra Modi condemned the disparity in the wages of labour in the tea gardens of the Brahmaputra valley and the Barak valley, as a result of which the tea factories in the Barak valley are shutting down and unemployment rising, while illegal Bangladeshi labour is benefitting (in Brahmaputra valley). At the same time he said that the living standards of tea garden labour, who are migrants from different States and have been working in Assam for four or five generations, must improve. The Governments in New Delhi and Guwahati earn foreign exchange from the sweat of these workers, he said, and promised that the BJP would set up a Board to cater to their needs. He added that Bengali-speaking people had contributed to the Barak valley.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had conceived the Saurashtra-Silchar highway to stimulate development of the region, he said, and whereas Gujarat had completed its part of the project, “idhar latka pada hai…” The problems of rail connectivity have still not been resolved, even though the Prime Minister represents Assam in Parliament. Did the freedom fighters give up their lives for the nation to suffer this kind of degradation for 60 years, he asked, and assured the people that given just 60 months, he would deliver the needful, “I have come to take responsibility; I do not fear responsibility”. He denounced the Assam Chief Minister for coming to Silchar two days prior to his (Modi’s) visit and re-announcing old projects that had not taken off in the last three years.
Claiming to be familiar with the problems of Assam as he had toured each district, he asked the people to recall where the Chief Minister was during the floods of 2012. He (Gogoi) was in America and from there he went to Japan, Narendra Modi said, and when asked by the media why he was missing during the crisis, replied that he had gone “to see flood management in America…”
Praising the valour and talents of Northeast youth – he specifically mentioned Nagaland jawans in Kargil – Narendra Modi said that the youth of the region had to potential to end India’s Olympics drought (of medals). There should be a Sports University in the region so that India can have world class athletes. Reiterating his view that the eight States of the Northeast are the Ashtha-Lakshmi of India, symbols of her potential for wealth and prosperity, he regretted the discrimination faced by youth in Delhi and said that the large Indian cities should provide affordable hostels for youth who come to study or give job interviews. At the same time, India should think in terms of conducting examinations online and giving jobs online to save expenses of families whose children are seeking employment. Condemning the lack of development in the region, he said BJP would ensure that Assam got its own AIIMS and IIM and a Petroleum University to train the youth who currently come to Gujarat to study. He denounced the Congress, “Ye man ke thake hue log hain,” (they are mentally fatigued), they do not care for future generations.
Watch! Modi at Nava Chetana Rally at Agartala
Narendra Modi was the first national leader to raise the issue of discrimination against youth from the Northeast in the Capital during election rallies in other northern States, thus weaving them into the mainstream narrative and removing the sense of neglect they have long felt. As he addressed the Vijay Sankalp Abhiyan Rally at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, buoyed by former Chief Minister Gegong Apang joining the BJP, Narendra Modi expressed shame and remorse for the death of Nido Taniam in the National Capital and said, “We are same blood”.
Applauding the valour of the people of Arunachal Pradesh for valiantly resisting Chinese pressure in 1962, “cheen ke daant khatte kiya,” he paid respect to the heroes who resisted the British at Pasighat and those who sacrificed their lives at Kargil. The Delhi Sultanate, he said, would have to take responsibility for the security of the Northeastern States. Arunachal is surrounded by three nations and the youth are vulnerable to foreign mischief, from being lured into drug abuse or the drug trade, or extremism. Sympathising with the anger of the youth for being forced to migrate in search of uncertain employment, he said it was a shame that Arunachal lacks roads and bridges. Even Congress Chief Minister of Arunachal had sharply criticised the Centre at a meeting of chief ministers, pointing out that funds for programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan were woefully inadequate. The Centre, however, turns a deaf ear to such complaints, and the nation now needs a Government at New Delhi that listens to all States. He said China too would realise that the world has changed and that cooperation rather than competition between nations is the way ahead.
No power can snatch Arunachal Pradesh from India
Promising to continue the work initiated by former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, Narendra Modi said the entire Northeast needs imaginative water resource management to protect the region against flood and drought. Concurring with the people’s resistance to large power plants, he said much can be done with small projects using the right technology, and solar and hydro-power could also be harnessed. The beauty of Arunachal could be used to develop Buddhist tourism, “It is not less than Switzerland”, he said.
The State has the unique potential to harness its herbal medicinal plants; its horticulture, particularly its beautiful orchids; and its rich handicrafts, all of which can change the lives of the people. Atal ji, he reminisced, had created a separate Ministry for the Northeast with a separate budget, and also directed all Government departments to allocate 10 per cent of their budget to the region. The prosperity of the Astha-Lakshmi, he said, is imperative for the prosperity of India because it is the auspicious ishaan-kone (north eastern corner) of India.
Calling Arunachal Pradesh India’s Land of the Rising Sun, he said it has an ancient tie with Gujarat as Rukmini, wife of Sri Krishna, is believed to have hailed from the State. He expressed joy on learning that the Adi tribe of Arunachal are kinsmen, “a type of Modi…” and repeated his offer to all northeastern States to send 200 police women each (1600 in all) on two year deputations to Gujarat to interact with the locals and trigger internal tourism in India.