India General Elections 2024: PM makes a splash in AAP-Cong stronghold

24 May,2024 07:40 AM IST |  Patiala  |  Faisal Tandel

Defies protesters to campaign in Patiala for Maharani Preneet Kaur, wife of former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh

Farmers who were prevented from entering the venue of the prime minister’s rally. Pics/Faisal Tandel

During his first Lok Sabha poll rally in Punjab, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, donning a saffron turban, addressed the crowd in Punjabi, saying, "I have spent a lot of time in Punjab and roamed its bylanes and farmland when I was just a BJP karyakarta." He was in Patiala on Thursday to campaign for his party's candidate, Preneet Kaur. Addressing the masses, the prime minister said, "In the five election phases that have been held in the country, the public has given its approval [to the BJP]. Punjab also knows very well that it doesn't want to waste its vote. Vote for the one who forms the government, vote for the one who has taken the pledge of a developed India."

PM Narendra Modi addresses the crowd at Polo Ground in Patiala, Punjab, on Thursday

Slamming the Opposition, Modi said, "On one side, there is the BJP and NDA, on the other, there is the INDI Alliance of corrupt people. They have no intention of being leaders. On one side, there is Modi who is even making aircraft in the country; on the other, there is the INDI Alliance which says that we should end nuclear power. The INDI Alliance people shed tears when terrorists are encountered. We have brought 25 crore people out of poverty. On the other hand, the alliance says that it will snatch half of your farmland. Today I have come to the land of Punjab to seek blessings from my brothers and sisters. The Sikh community of Punjab has always worked hard. What have the deeply corrupt people done to Punjab? Industries are migrating. The government does not have any say here, the liquor, drug and sand mafia and shooter gangs wield power. The on-paper CM of Punjab is making his presence felt in Delhi's court. The party guilty of fomenting the Sikh riots and the dishonest party here are pretending to fight face-to-face. Both of them have the same shops. They are dancing on each other's shoulders in Delhi. People of Punjab, beware of them."

He added, "Those who can betray their guru Anna Hazare [a reference to the Aam Aadmi Party] can lie thousands of times. They cannot do anything good for Punjab." Claiming that the Congress had divided the country for power, Modi said, "For 70 years, we had to see Kartarpur Sahib through binoculars. During the war with Pakistan, 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were in our custody. If Modi was here at that time, I would have taken Kartarpur and then their soldiers would have released it. Sikh families were brought back safely from Afghanistan. I have blood ties with Punjab. I rebuilt a gurudwara destroyed in the earthquake in the last village of Kutch desert. I did this not for votes but out of devotion. My head bows before the sacrifice of the Gurus," he added.

On farm issues

Stating that the BJP prioritises the welfare of farmers, Modi said "MSP has been increased by two and a half times. Every farmer in Punjab has received Rs 30,000 as Kisan Samman Nidhi. Organic farming has been promoted to save the land from chemicals. The country is going to become a manufacturing hub, and Patiala will benefit from it. We have to change Punjab and take it to new heights. This is Modi's guarantee. Your dream is my resolution. My every moment is for you and for the country, 2024 for 2047, this is Modi's guarantee. The CAA helped Sikh brothers get citizenship. But that too was opposed by many." Speaking about sports, the prime minister said, "We are trying to bring the Olympics to India by 2030."

Significance of visit

Modi's Patiala visit could potentially influence voting patterns in a region that has traditionally favoured the AAP and Congress. While the BJP is making concerted efforts to establish a foothold in Punjab, farmers have been protesting against the government for the past 100 days. Kaur, the wife of former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, is referred to by her supporters as Maharani as she comes from royalty. She has represented Patiala four times already, albeit as a Congress leader. As Punjab favours the BJP's rivals, it will be interesting to see if Modi's visit increase her chances of winning the seat again. The prime minister will hold rallies in Gurdaspur and Jalandhar on May 24. A local said, "A huge crowd gathered to see the PM. But it remains to be seen if his campaigns in Punjab will help the BJP."

Farmers' ire

Thousands of farmers who have been protesting at the Punjab-Haryana borders headed to Patiala to confront the prime ministers and ask why they had been stopped from going to Delhi and a concrete wall had been built to restrain them. Farmers, who had arrived by car, were stopped near the Dhareri Jattan toll naka, almost 12 to 15 kilometres away from the rally venue. A heavy police bandobast was set up and trucks were parked on the roads to ensure farmers did not reach Polo Ground. Farmers later sat at the toll plaza till the evening, demanding that they be allowed to meet the prime minister.

A farmer said, "Even though we weren't allowed to meet him, we will show them the power of the common citizens at the ballot." Tejveer Singh, spokesperson for the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) (Shaheed Bhagat Singh) said, "The authorities have assured us that they will arrange a meeting with senior bureaucrats from the prime minister's office. But nothing was done to listen to us. The authorities stopped us at the toll naka despite us not disturbing the law and order situation. We listen to the authorities and police, but who will listen to us? We were just going to question the PM about our rights but were not allowed to meet him. We held a silent protest."

Singh alleged that BJP leader Hans Raj Hans despite knowing that farmers were protesting, had come to the site and tried to drive his vehicle in the direction of the agitators. "We were not allowed to meet the PM but leaders were coming to the venue not to talk but to us but to intimidate us," said Singh.

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Lok Sabha Lok Sabha Elections 2024 punjab bharatiya janata party narendra modi PM Modi India General Elections 2024
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