Prime Minister Narendra Modi
is taking no chances on dissent from several quarters of Gujarat, with an Assembly election due by December.
The first day of his visit on Saturday saw him offering the latest revision in Goods and Services Tax (GST) as an 'early Diwali' gift to businesses.
Sunday saw him reach out to other regions that have seen turmoil. At his home town, Vadnagar, the PM launched the first medical college in north Gujarat, epicentre of the Patidar agitation for reservations in government colleges and jobs.
Later in the day, Modi flagged off the Antyodaya Express that would connect workers and labourers in Surat (south Gujarat) with their home towns in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Surat has also seen growing dissent on the back of dissatisfaction with GST, as well as the Patidar agitation. The new train comes as workers in the textile and diamond industry of Surat would be looking to travel back home for Diwali.
From businesses to labourers, the GST
roll-out has led to negative feedback in the Surat industry, which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would want to quench ahead of the Assembly poll.
Inaugurating the GMERS medical college in Vadnagar, Modi took a dig at the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime at the Centre for allegedly ignoring health policies during its 10-year stint.
“The previous government had no interest in bringing about changes in health care programmes. The last health policy was announced during Atalji's (Vajpayee’s) regime around 15 years back. After that, such a government assumed power which used to hate development. It did not have any empathy for people. As a result, a new health policy was introduced after almost 15 years by our government,” said Modi during a public address earlier on Sunday, adding that it was his government which had (by capping the maximum price) brought down prices of cardiac stents and was working constantly “to make health care affordable to the poor”.
After a warm welcome by locals during his six-km road show in Vadnagar, Modi visited the B N High School and Hatkeshwar Temple, among others, reliving his childhood memories.
At Vadnagar, Modi also launched initiatives like a ‘Mission Intensified Indradhanush’ immunisation drive and an 'Innovative mobile-phone Technology for Community Health Operations’ app that looks to improve maternal, newborn and child health interventions among the poor.
Later, Modi flagged off the Antyodaya Express through a video link from Bharuch. It starts from Udhna in Surat and ends at Jaynagar in Bihar. This is the second Antyodaya Express that has been flagged off, after one from Mumbai to Gorakhpur in east UP.
Addressing the public gathering, Modi said the train was a commendable initiative by the railways ministry for helping workers from UP, Bihar and others who work away from their home. "It makes it easier for people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to go home for Chhath Puja."
Further, lauding Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Corporation’s neem coating of urea, at a plant launch in Bharuch, he said, "Neem coating of urea helped farmers and stopped corruption, as well as theft. We decided that 100 per cent neem coating of urea has to be done, so that it can only be used in farming and not in chemical factories."
"Gujarat's strides in animal husbandry have helped farmers. I told Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to send a team to Gujarat and study the Pashu Arogya Melas. They did that and organised a similar one in Varanasi, which I had the opportunity to visit and see how it helped farmers," Modi further said, before returning to Delhi.
Poll-bound Gujarat will continue to see high profile visits. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will come on Monday, the second time in the past month. Followed by other BJP leaders in the coming weeks.