Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that his government would ensure availability of electricity at every home in the country by 2022.
He made the assurance during his first engagement in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi, where he met rickshaw pullers and their families.
Mr. Modi’s schedule in Varanasi was strategically fixed to woo the extremely marginalised group, a large section of which belongs to several bordering districts of the poll-bound State of Bihar.
During the event, Mr. Modi chose the entire Opposition for attack, unlike in the past when he used to criticise only the Congress.
Taking a swipe at the Opposition parties which had criticised his ‘Jan Dhan Yojna’ programme, he said that had they [Opposition] helped the poor to open bank accounts earlier, they would not have had to worry about his flagship scheme.
“I have come here to tell you this, that what these people could not do in 50 years, I will do in 50 months,” Mr. Modi said in the first speech he delivered in his constituency after nine months of his election, evoking loud cheers from the crowd of thousands of cycle and e-rickshaw drivers.
Mr. Modi spent several minutes interacting with the rickshaw pullers and their families.
“I am surprised that those who never helped the poor open accounts are questioning the functioning and performance of my government.” He asked why no educated person questioned the politicians about the exclusion of the poor from banking services, though many banks had been nationalised.
“Banks were nationalised. But it did not help or enable the poor to have access to these financial institutions for their greater financial inclusion in the development of the country,” he said.
Mr. Modi said that more than 18 crore bank accounts had been opened under the flagship scheme and the poor account holders had deposited Rs.30,000 crore in these accounts. The poor were developing the habit of saving money.
He also took a dig at the Congress, stating that for that party, the idea of poverty alleviation remained a mere “political slogan” at the time of elections.
Without specifically naming the Congress or the ‘ garibi hatao ’ campaign of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Mr. Modi said, “We have been hearing the slogan of ‘ garibi hatao ’ for the last 40-50 years. During elections, we hear about poverty alleviation. It has become a tradition in politics to talk about the poor and their development. The need is to come out of this tradition.”
Later, at another event, Mr. Modi launched several power and road projects worth Rs.50,000 crore, including the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), BHU Trauma Centre, Varanasi ring road project connecting his constituency to the airport and nearby districts, and several power sub-stations.
This was the third visit of the Prime Minister to the temple town after assuming office in May last year. The much awaited tour comes about nine months after his visit on December 25 last year. Two of his proposed tours earlier were cancelled due to heavy rain.