Days ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament when the government is likely to push for the passage of a bill against instant triple talaq, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocked Congress for being a party which stood only with Muslim men.
"The real face of these parties was revealed by their approach on triple talaq," he said at a public meeting in Azamgarh, part of his two-day visit to eastern Uttar Pradesh.
"On one side the Centre is making efforts to ease and improve the lives of women and on the other these parties are working to put the lives of women, especially Muslim women, in danger,” he said criticising the opposition.
"Crores of Muslim women had always demanded that triple talaq should be banned, as it is also banned in Islamic countries," he said.
"I read in the newspaper that the Congress president had said that the Congress is a party of Muslims, and there has been discussion on this for the past two days," he said in an apparent reference to Rahul Gandhi's recent meeting with Muslim intellectuals.
"I am not surprised as when Manmohan Singh was the PM, he had said that Muslims have the first right over natural resources," Modi said.
"But I want to ask the Congress whether it is a party of Muslim men alone," he added.
The criticism comes ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament where a bill abolishing instant divorce among Muslims, already passed in the Lok Sabha, is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress and some other opposition parties have expressed reservations on the bill, and the ruling BJP has accused them of trying to stall it.
"Is there any place for the dignity and the rights of Muslim women? They have stalled legislation in Parliament, and they do not allow Parliament to run," Modi said.
"These dynastic parties are toiling to oust Modi. I want to tell them that there are still four or five days left for the Parliament session to begin. Meet the victims of talaq and halala, ask them about their plight, and then put your point of view in Parliament," he said.
The prime minister was in Azamgarh to lay the foundation stone for the 340-km Purvanchal Expressway which will connect Lucknow with Ghazipur at a cost of Rs 23,000 crore.
Modi then left for Varanasi to address another rally and inaugurate a slew of development project. He will visit Mirzapur on Sunday.
"In the 21st century, these political parties are living in 18th century, he said, continuing his attack.
"When the BJP brought the anti-talaq legislation, these parties had put hurdles even then. They want that triple talaq should continue, and the life of Muslim women should remain miserable.
But I assure you that I will make these political parties understand, and take them along so that Muslim women do not face any problems due to triple talaq," he said.
He said people should cautious of these parties and their leaders.
"They cannot do any good for the people. For the BJP government, the country is a family and above everything else," he said.
Modi hit out at the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, saying that in the name of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Ram Manohar Lohia they have done only politics.
"These parties which could not see eye to eye in the past have joined hands now. Do you know why? They want to stall the development work by the government. Will you allow this?" the prime minister asked.
"They had sought votes from the poor, the Dalits and the backwards, and after forming the government they filled their own coffers and have done nothing else," he said.
He said because of the policies of the previous governments, eastern Uttar Pradesh had languished.
At his public meeting, Modi described the occasion as the beginning of a new chapter in the development of the state, particularly its eastern part.
He showered praise on the leadership of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and said the state government was working to create an atmosphere conducive for development.
"The 340-km Purvanchal Expressway will transform the towns and cities that it passes through. It would also provide swifter connectivity between Delhi and Ghazipur. New industry and institutions can develop along the expressway," he said.
After becoming prime minister, this was Modi's first public appearance in Azamgarh, which has proved a challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party swept the 2014 Lok Sabha election in UP but lost the Azamgarh seat to former Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The prime minister said the expressway will also boost tourism at places of historical significance.
Modi stressed that connectivity was necessary for development and said the national highway network in UP had almost doubled in the last four years.
He reiterated his vision of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas', and spoke about development initiatives such as PM Awas Yojana and PM Gram Sadak Yojana.
He said the recent increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops will immensely benefit farmers and also mentioned the Centre's initiatives for weavers in this region.
The six-lane Purvanchal Expressway, expandable to eight lanes, will connect Lucknow with the economically less developed districts like Azamgarh, Mau, Ghazipur, Faizabad, Sultanpur, Ambedkar Nagar and Amethi.
The expressway will bring about development of UP's eastern districts by connecting them to the state capital and further to Agra and New Delhi, through the Lucknow-Agra Expressway and the Yamuna Expressway, officials said.
The expressway will begin from Chand Sarai village on Lucknow-Sultanpur road (NH 731) and end at Haidariya village in Ghazipur district, about 18 km from the UP-Bihar order.
'A new Banaras is being built for a new India'
Blaming the previous governments for the state of the pilgrim city Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said he wanted to see it developed as a place with an ancient soul but in a modern shell.
Addressing a public rally here in his Lok Sabha constituency, he said change was visible in Varanasi over the last four years of his government.
Modi urged the people of Varanasi to start preparing to welcome delegates from all over the world for the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (NRI Day), which will be held in the city from January 21 to 23 next year.
The guests will also visit Allahabad for a 'kumbh darshan'.
In a symbolic inauguration in Varanasi, Modi launched development projects worth nearly Rs 1,000 crore for the city and the region around it.
"A new Banaras is being built for a new India; its soul will remain ancient but the structure will be new,” he said.
While its culture and traditions will remain, the city will have 'smart systems'. He began his speech in the local dialect and chanted 'Har Har Mahadev'.
Modi condoled the death of at least 15 people when an under-construction flyover collapsed in May.
He said the city was in neglect when the Samajwadi Party was in power in Uttar Pradesh.
"Four years ago there were overflowing sewers, dangling cables, and traffic jams all over. The road from the airport was in a bad state due to which flights were missed,” he said.
Modi said the situation had changed now with cooperation between the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre.
"The condition of the Ganga banks was also not good and all the waste used to flow into the river. The earlier governments were not concerned about this," he said.
He said a large amount of money was earlier wasted in the name of cleaning up the river. The BJP-led government has now taken up the task of cleaning the Ganga from Gangotri to Gangasagar, and sanctioned Rs 21,000 crore for this.
He said projects related to roads, transport, cooking gas, beautification, cleanliness and other schemes to help people living in Varanasi were inaugurated on Saturday.
"The change Varanasi is witnessing is helping nearby areas and villages. For the farmers, a perishable cargo centre is ready and potatoes, tomatoes and other perishable vegetables can be stored here. Farmers will not have to suffer losses," he said.
"Whether it is roads or railways, new facilities are being made available for Varanasi. Doubling of track to Allahabad and Chhapra is on,” he said.
New trains will help people from Ballia and Ghazipur to come to Varanasi and return the same day, he added.
He praised the Yogi Adityanath government in the state.
"Tourism promotion and work on cleanliness and conservation of old monuments are being acknowledged. Swachh Bharat campaign has been taken forward by the UP government," he said.
He said that impact of the state's industrial policy was also visible now.
"The Samsung factory in Nodia was recently inaugurated by me. It will generate job opportunities. Mobile phone factories have increased from two to 120 in the past four years, of these over 50 are in UP," he said.