Rafale, poverty, misinformation, Kannada: Karnataka trip of PM Modi gets more political

Monday, 5 February, was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's third visit in the last two months to poll-bound Karnataka.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 07, 2023 | 2:05 AM Updated Feb 07, 2023 | 2:08 AM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's new manufacturing facility in Karnataka on Monday, 6 February, 2023. (Supplied)

On the day he inaugurated a new manufacturing facility of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Prime Minister Narendra Modi in in Karnataka chose to lash out at the Congress over the Rafale deal without naming either the party or the controversial defence deal.

Modi criticised the Congress for “using” HAL as a pretext to level allegations against his government and “instigate people”.

Without naming names, the prime minister seemed to point to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s sustained corruption accusations against the NDA government under Modi in the ₹58,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

“Truth is revealing itself today,” Modi said in an apparent dig at the Congress over Rafale on Monday. 6 February.

Later in the day, in another politically loaded move, as if acknowledging the rising wave of regional pride in Karnataka ahead of the polls, Modi praised the Kannada language with a tweet.

Of his three visits in the last two months to Karnataka, Monday’s events saw the most politically charged comments from the prime minister.

Modi inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for various development works in the Bengaluru and Tumakuru districts on Monday. He is scheduled to visit at least three times this month alone.

He was addressing the massive gathering after inaugurating the Bengaluru-headquartered HAL’s helicopter factory — said to be the country’s largest indigenous chopper manufacturing facility — at Bidarehalla Kaval in the Gubbi taluk in Tumakuru.

Modi also laid the foundation stone for the Tumakuru Industrial Township and Jal Jeevan Mission projects in the Tiptur and Chikkanayakanahalli taluks in Karnataka.

Modi hits out at Congress over HAL

“Today, HAL’s helicopter factory stands as a testimony that has exposed the lies and misinformation spread about HAL. It was used as a pretext to level allegations against our government. Conspiracies were hatched to instigate people. Today, HAL is advancing our motto of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’,” said Modi, without naming the Congress.

It may also be noted that the Modi government had come under severe criticism over reportedly handing over the Rafale offset contract from HAL to Anil Ambani’s company. A section of HAL employees also staged a protest on the matter in 2019.

The then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, said there was a need to “defend the dignity of India’s defenders” as he accused the Modi government of “snatching” the Rafale offset contract from HAL and “gifting” it to Anil Ambani’s company.

On Monday, Modi saw an opportunity to hit back.

Recalling that he had laid the foundation stone of the factory in 2016, Modi said: “This factory has been inaugurated to minimise India’s defence imports and become self-reliant. Now, hundreds of defence equipment are manufactured in India.”

He added: “Karnataka is the land of innovation. From drones to Tejas aircraft being manufactured in the state, it has become the first choice for investors. When it comes to indigenously-built defence equipment from modern rifles to aircraft carriers to fighter jets are being manufactured in India.”

The Congress was, however, quick to accuse the prime minister of lying.

Also read: Union budget’s ‘gift’ to Karnataka in an election year

‘Crores moved out of poverty’

Earlier in the day, Modi inaugurated the India Energy Week 2023 at Bengaluru International Exhibition Centre (BIEC).

Deeming India a “resilient country”, Modi said, “Despite the global crisis, India remained a bright spot for the world in 2022 due to its internal resilience. Multiple factors were behind it like stable and decisive government, sustained reforms, and socio-economic empowerment at the grassroots.”

The reference to “bright spot” was made even in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s 2023 budget speech.

Citing examples of his government’s flagship programmes including opening large-scale bank accounts, access to healthcare, sanitation and drinking water, housing, and electricity, Modi said the infrastructure helped millions of people.

“All this helped, crores of poor people get out of poverty. Crores of people have reached the middle class in the country today. There has been a change in the quality of life of crores of people,” claimed Modi.

The claim comes amid an October 2022 report from World Bank — Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022 — that said an additional 56 million Indians had been pushed into poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

The report said that of the 71 million people across the world who had been pushed into poverty, 79 percent were Indians.

The multidimensional poverty index (MPI) released by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in October 2022 cited that between 2005-2006 and 2019-2021 (15-year period), 415 million people in India had exited poverty.

The report, however, added that India still had the largest number of poor people — 228.9 million.

‘India most suitable for investment’

In his inaugural address at India Energy Week 2023, Modi called upon stakeholders to explore every possibility related to India’s energy sector and get involved with it.

“Today, India is the most suitable place in the world for investment. The country is projected to witness the fastest growth in energy demand in the world in the next decade,” said the prime minister.

He added: “India’s energy demands will be the highest in the present decade, which presents an opportunity for investors and stakeholders in the energy sector. India’s share in the global oil demand is 5 percent, which is expected to rise to 11 percent, whereas the gas demand of India is expected to rise up to 500 percent.”

Modi continued: “I ask you (investors) to explore all opportunities connected with India’s energy sector. India is the most fitting place for investment today.”

The prime minister earlier launched the “Unbottled” initiative of Indian Oil, under which uniforms would be made of recycled PET bottles.

He also dedicated the twin-cooktop model of the Indian Oil’s Indoor Solar Cooking System and flagged off its commercial rollout.

Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, and Union and state cabinet ministers accompanied Modi at Bengaluru and Tumakuru.

Even businessmen, entrepreneurs, experts, and delegates from foreign countries were also present at Modi’s event.