Seeking to strike a chord with the locals, Mr. Modi raised the problems faced by the firecracker industry in Sivakasi

Criticising the UPA government’s record on the development front and pro-minorities stance, especially in promoting Muslim welfare, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, on Thursday held the Congress-led ruling coalition responsible for withholding environmental clearances for several projects, causing a huge loss to the economy.

In the same breath, Mr. Modi, speaking at a rally in Erode, blamed the Central government for the power crisis in Tamil Nadu, a few days after AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa saw a “conspiracy” in the repeated snags in Central power generating stations in the State.

In a whistle-stop tour of Erode, Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari districts to campaign for BJP and NDA candidates in the Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Modi took pot-shots at the former Union Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, without mentioning her name. “In the name of environment, the lady from Tamil Nadu had stopped many [power] projects. It resulted in thousands of youths losing their jobs.”

If environmental safety was the real concern, how several clearances were given after the Minister concerned resigned, he wondered. Trying to be politically correct in Ramanathapuram, where Muslims form a sizeable part of the electorate, Mr. Modi was all praise for the former President, A.P.J Abdul Kalam, even as he criticised the Congress’s claim as being the “saviour of the Muslims.”

At a rally to seek votes for BJP candidates D. Kuppuramu, seeking election from Ramanathapuram, and H. Raja from neighbouring Sivaganga, Mr. Modi said the Congress’s 15-point programme for the uplift of minorities was only on paper. The high-powered committee which the Centre set up to review the programme found “there has been no change in the condition of Muslims since 2006,” he said, quoting the Kundu Committee’s report.

He alleged that the government announced the 15-point programme to “hoodwink” the Muslims. During the period 2006-12, it could achieve only 56 per cent of the goal. He also praised Mr. Kalam’s contribution to space science. “He was not only a great scientist but also a visionary,” he said, recalling Mr. Kalam’s special love for Gujarat. “Whenever we invited him, he obliged the youth of Gujarat.”

Mr. Modi termed the 2014 general election a “fight between a prince born with a golden spoon and a tea-boy born to a poor woman,” without naming Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Fishermen’s woes

Later, at an election rally in Kanyakumari, Mr. Modi charged both the Central and State governments with blaming each other for the plight of the Tamil Nadu fishermen, repeatedly under attack by the Sri Lankan Navy.

A day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked the voters to reject him, Mr. Modi, speaking at the same venue, said the Sri Lankan Navy attacked and jailed Tamil Nadu fishermen, while Delhi “sleeps.”

“Sonia says the Tamil Nadu government is not doing anything. The Tamil Nadu government says Sonia is doing nothing. Madame blames ‘Amma’; ‘Amma’ blames Madame. Our fishermen suffer,” he said.

Devoting much of his speech to the backwardness of Kanyakumari district and invoking the name of Swami Vivekananda repeatedly, Mr. Modi said the district’s immense tourism potential was yet to be tapped fully.

He also said the people were “tired” of both the DMK and the AIADMK which wanted to finish off each other. “I can sense the shifting winds; a formidable alternative front has emerged here,” Mr. Modi added.