In the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya in Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi steered clear of invoking the Janata Dal (Secular), or the JD(S), during his event at Maddur on Sunday, 12 March.
The same courtesy was not extended to Congress with the Prime Minister launching a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi without naming him.
Modi dedicated the six-laning of the Bengaluru-Nidaghatta-Mysuru section of NH-275 — a project worth an estimated ₹8,480 crore — to the nation. The construction of the expressway is still underway.
He also laid the foundation stone for the Mysuru-Kushalnagar four-lane project.
The 92-km four-lane highway project’s cost is estimated at around ₹4,130 crore. It is expected to reduce the travel time from five hours to 2.5 hours.
Before inaugurating, Modi received a rousing welcome from the crowds, who showered flowers on him at a 1.8-km roadshow at Mandya. He also threw some of the flower petals back at the enthusiastic crowd on the streets.
In the afternoon, he inaugurated the permanent campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) of Dharwad, whose foundation stone he laid in 2019.
He also inaugurated a 1,057-metre platform — the longest railway platform in the world — at the Sri Siddharoodha Swami Railway Station and laid the foundation stone of the Jayadeva Hospital and Research Centre, which will be developed at a cost of about ₹250 crore.
On his one-day visit, Modi inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for projects worth over ₹20,000 crore in Mandya and Dharwad.
Modi steers clear of JD(S) at Mandya event
During his last visit to Mandya, Union Home Minister Amit Shah hit out at JD(S) and its leaders with allegations of corruption and dynasty politics.
However, the prime minister opted to keep his diatribe away from the JD(S) during the inaugural ceremony of the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway at Gejjalagere in Mandya.
The JD(S) enjoys great support in Mandya because of the dominance of the Vokkaliga community in the region.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, the JD(S) swept the district completely, emerging victorious in all the Assembly segments.
However, it lost the KR Pete Assembly seat to the current Minister for Youth Empowerment and Sports, KC Narayangowda — who defected from the JD(S) to join the saffron party — in the 2019 Assembly by-polls.
The BJP is keen on making inroads into the districts this election season.
With the BJP firm on winning the maximum number of seats in the Vokkaliga-dominated old-Mysuru region in the April-May Karnataka Assembly polls, Modi treaded cautiously during his one-hour speech at Gejjalagere.
He hit out at his arch-rival — the Congress — but did not utter a word about the JD(S).
Also read: After Lingayats, Vokkaligas in Karnataka line up for quota sop
Rahul Gandhi disrespects Indian democracy: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without naming Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi, accused him of disrespecting Indian democracy.
This was the first time Modi hit out at Rahul over his comments at various events in London.
It may be noted that Rahul, during a discussion at the Chatham House think-tank in London, said: “Democracy in India is a global, public good. It has impacts way further than our boundaries.”
He added: “If Indian democracy collapses, in my view, democracy on the planet suffers a very serious, possibly fatal blow.”
This attracted sharp criticism from the leaders of the saffron cadre.
Addressing a gathering in Dharwad, Modi said: “An effort was made to question India’s democracy in London. The roots of Indian democracy derive strength from our centuries-old history. No power in the world can damage the heritage of Indian democracy.”
He added: “Despite this, a few people are continuously placing Indian democracy on the docks. Such people are disrespecting the social reformer Basavanna and mocking the people of Karnataka and India. The people of Karnataka should be cautious about such people.”
Also read: Shobha Karandlaje to lead BJP election team in Karnataka
‘Congress busy digging my grave’
Stating that the blessings of people were his biggest protection shield, Modi said: “The Congress and other Opposition parties are busy digging my grave, while I am striving for the development of the country and the welfare of the poor.”
On his sixth visit this year to poll-bound Karnataka, he added in Mandya: “The ‘double engine”‘ government is a necessity for the fast-paced development in Karnataka.”
He also said: “Amid the efforts of the double engine government for the development of the country and the progress of its people, what are the Congress and its associates doing?”
Modi continued: “The Congress is dreaming about digging the grave of Modi, while Modi is busy building the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. The Congress is busy digging Modi’s grave, while Modi is busy improving the lives of the poor.”
He also said: “Congress members who are dreaming about digging the grave of Modi don’t know that the blessings of crores of mothers, sisters, daughters, and people are the biggest protection shield for Modi.”
Modi said of the situation prior to 2014, “It was a coalition government (at the Centre) running with the support of various types of people. It did not leave any stone unturned to destroy poor men and poor families.”
He added: “Thousands of crores of rupees of the money meant for the development of the poor was looted by the Congress government. The party never bothered about the pains and sufferings of the poor.”
Modi continued: “The BJP government has made all efforts to serve the poor and alleviate their sufferings.”
Also read: BJP woos Yediyurappa in poll-bound Karnataka
Curtains over lane controversy
The Union government drew curtains over a debate, which resulted in a heated argument between the BJP and the Congress and in public, by mentioning that the 118-km Bengaluru-Nidaghatta-Mysuru Expressway as a six-lane one.
The controversy began after Mysuru MP Pratap Simha claimed it would be a 10-lane expressway.
This 6-Lane Access-Controlled highway has a total length of 117 Km and has been readied at a price of ₹8479 Cr. #Bengaluru_Mysuru_Highway#PragatiKaHighway #GatiShakti #BuildingTheNation pic.twitter.com/12H36IpIvB
— Nitin Gadkari (@nitin_gadkari) March 12, 2023
The 118-km expressway is said to be able to reduce the travel time between the two cities from around three hours to about 75 minutes.
Inaugurating the highway, Modi said: “The government will reduce the travel time between the IT city (Bengaluru) and the heritage city (Mysuru). This highway will also pave the way for a boost in tourism and economic activities in the region.”
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Union minister Pralhad Joshi, actor-turned-politician and Mandya Lok Sabha member Sumalatha Ambareesh — who recently announced support to BJP — were present at the event.
Simha absent from NH-275 inaugural plaque
In a surprise move, Mysuru MP Pratap Simha’s name did not find a place on the inaugural plaque of the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. However, the name of Mandya MP Sumalatha Ambareesh was displayed.
GoI has officially ended d debate over how many lanes Bengaluru-Mysuru highway has.
PM @narendramodi unveils plague of 6-lane highway.
Curiously, Mysuru-Kodagu MP @mepratap‘s name is missing while independent MP from Mandya @sumalathaA who extended support to BJP finds mention. pic.twitter.com/KZYdcbQOgP
— Anusha Ravi Sood (@anusharavi10) March 12, 2023
As per protocol, the local parliamentarian’s name was expected to be displayed on the plaque as the inaugural ceremony was held in Mandya, claimed officials of the Mandya district administration.
Ever since the six-lane expressway project was announced, Simha was actively following up its work and even got many hurdles cleared.
Despite his efforts in promoting the expressway, the BJP’s biggest gift to Bengaluru-Mysuru, he failed to get due credit in the plaque.