Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today visit the poll-bound states of West Bengal and Assam, the second time in a little over two weeks. He was in Kolkata on January 23 to mark Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary, Parakram Diwas, and on the same day visited Sibsagar district to hand out land ownership titles to over a lakh indigenous people of the northeastern state.
The Prime Minister arrived in Dhekiajuli, Assam, around 11.45 am and was scheduled to go to West Bengal later, where he will address his first election rally in the run up to the state assembly polls. Significantly, the event will be held in Haldia, East Midnapur, the stronghold of Suvendu Adhikari, the former Trinamool minister who joined the BJP in December.
Later, the Prime Minister will inaugurate four oil and gas projects worth ₹4,700 crore in Haldia.
This function is also likely to be tracked for possible political developments. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is said to have excused herself from the event, according to sources. Since a number of other Trinamool leaders, too, have been invited, the list of final attendees is expected to send out political signals.
For instance, among those invited are senior Trinamool MP Sisir Adhikari, who is reportedly staying away. Mr Adhikari is the father of Suvendu Adhikari whose brother, MP Dibyendu Adhikari, may attend, sparking speculation over another possible shift in loyalty.
On January 23, during the Parakram Diwas celebrations in Kolkata, a section of BJP supporters had raised the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan as the Chief Minister addressed the gathering, prompting her to cut short her speech and reprimand those who created the disturbance. This “insult meted out to her” could be the reason she is likely to stay away from today’s event, according to a PTI report. The Trinamool boss has also asked her party members to skip the programme, the report said, citing an unnamed senior official at the state secratariat.
In Assam’s Sonitpur District, the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of two medical colleges and launch “Asom Mala”, a highways-and-roads project. The two medical colleges are being set up at Biswanath and Charaideo at an estimated cost of over ₹ 1,100 crore, according to ANI.
“Since independence for seven decades Assam had six medical collages. But in the past five years, we have started to build six more medical collages. With this, Assam will get 1,600 MBBS doctors every year,” the Prime Minister said.
The meeting venue of Sonitpur’s Dhekiajuli in Assam was significant since no Prime Minister has ever visited the historic place where, during the British Raj, 13 persons were martyred during the Quit India movement.
Recalling their sacrifice, the Prime Minister said, “In this land, people of Assam defeated the aggressors. Today I got the opportunity to pay respect to this historic land of Dhekiajuli.” He quoted legendary Assamese composer and singer Bhupen Hazarika in this context to say that “today the lions of India are awakening”.
Assam and West Bengal are scheduled to go to polls in April-May.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her annual Budget speech a few days ago, apportioned ₹ 34,000 crore over three years for road projects in Assam. For West Bengal, which the BJP badly covets, she allotted ₹ 25,000 crore to build around 700 kilometres of highways. This is besides the ₹ 1,000 crore welfare scheme she announced for the two states’ tea plantation workers.