Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hailed Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman saying every Indian was proud of him and lashed out at political rivals for suspecting the armed forces which, he said, helped Pakistan.
Modi also hit out at the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government for allegedly 'blocking' surgical strikes post 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.
After inaugurating several government projects in Kanyakumari, Modi said "I am proud that India's first woman Defence Minister Nirmala ji is from Tamil Nadu.Every Indian is proud that the brave Wing Commander Abhinandan belongs to Tamil Nadu."
The events of the past two days, an apparent reference to IAF's air strikes and the IAF shooting down a Pakistan jet,have demonstrated yet again the strengths of the country's armed forces, Modi said.
"It has also brought our nation closer," the prime minister said, an obvious pointer to the outpouring of support to Wg Cdr Varthaman and India's armed forces from the people.
However, he said, it was sad that a few political parties 'suspect our fight against terror'.
When the entire nation supports the country's armed forces, they 'suspect the armed forces', he said.
"These are the same people whose statements are helping Pakistan and harming India. They are the same people whose statements are happily quoted in the Parliament of Pakistan and in the radio of Pakistan," Modi said.
"They should clarify- do they believe our armed forces or they believe those forces who support terrorism on our soil?I want to tell them -- Modi will come and go, India will remain. Please stop weakening India to strengthen your own politics," Modi said.
"We are Indians first and your politics can wait...it is the safety of our nation that is at stake," the prime minister said.
He asserted that the entire world was supporting India in its fight against terror.
Reiterating his government's resolve against terrorism by retaliation, he slammed the previous UPA government for not following such aggressive tactics.
"The nation expected those responsible for these acts of terror to be punished but nothing happened. 26/11 (Mumbai terror attacks) happened in India but nothing happened," Modi said.
Citing reports, the prime minister said though the Indian Air Force wanted to carry out surgical strikes post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, 'UPA blocked it'.
"And today we are in an era where the news reads armed forces have full freedom to do what they want. Influence of terrorists and terrorism is curtailed and is going to be curtailed even more.
"This is a new India, this is an India that will return the damage done by terrorists with interest," the prime minister said.
He rued the bomb blasts at Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune between 2004 and 2014 when the UPA was in power.
The country has been facing the menace of terrorism for years 'but there is a big difference now.. India will no longer be helpless in the face of terror', Modi said.
"But when Uri happened, you saw what our brave soldiers did (surgical strikes), Pulwama happened, and you saw what our brave air warriors did (Balakot air strikes). I salute those who are serving their nation. Their vigilance keeps the nation secure," he said.
Modi said the 2019 Lok Sabha election was about offering strength against vulnerability, asserting the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance would provide stability.
Hitting out at the opposition and dynastic politics, Modi said, "My only family is 130 crore Indians. I will live for them. I will die for them."
After launching some projects in the Rail and Road sectors in Kanyakumari, Modi also took a dig at Congress leader P Chidambaram, saying the 'recounting minister' has to now apply for bail just like the party's 'first family', apparently referring to the Aircel-Maxis deal.
"The 2019 Lok Sabha elections have two distinct sides. Our side offers strength and stability. The other offers weakness and vulnerability. Our leaders' work culture is known across India. But the other side is in confusion. They have no name to offer as national leader and have no vision for India's growth," he said.
Modi has been describing the proposed opposition coalition or 'mahagathbandhan' as 'mahamilavat,' (adulterated).
Recalling the 2009 polls, Modi took a dig at the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress coalition, saying ministers were handpicked not by the prime minister but by those who had nothing to do with public service.
"There was telephone bargaining for minister's posts," he said.
He said the NDA government took 'historic' steps against corruption under which fake companies have been shut.
"The corrupt has to answer. The famous recounting minister, who took pride in treating badly, insulting the middle class, has to apply for bail just like his party's first family", he said.
Modi has on more than one occasion described Chidambaram as UPA's 'recounting minister'.
Chidambaram, now a Rajya Sabha MP, won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu by a slender margin of 3,354 votes after a seesaw battle.
Confusion had prevailed then as election officials delayed the declaration of the result due to a dispute in the counting of votes in respect of the final round.
Chidambaram, then home minister, was declared elected later after the votes were tallied again vis-a-vis the final round.
Modi had made the same 'recounting minister' remark during his 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign and repeated the charge earlier this month at a public rally in Tirpur in the state.
The prime minister said while the NDA government came down heavily on corruption, it was also rewarding the honest tax payers.
"During the budget, exactly a month ago, it was announced that those earning up to Rs 5 lakh (per annum) will not pay income tax. Those who ruled India for such long years, did not think about middle class," he said.
Hitting out at the Congress, Modi said it was promoting an economic culture which benefited only the friends and family members of 'a big dynasty'.
"If there was someone who spoke out about the economic culture of Congress, it was son of Tamil Nadu C Rajagopalachari. We are fulfilling the dreams of Rajaji by creating an economy that is reform oriented and people friendly," Modi said.
He also accused the opposition of not having any commitment to social justice and alleged atrocities against Dalits happened during the Congress rule.
"Congress got Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar defeated not once but twice. The Congress did not give Bharat Ratna to Ambedkar for 40 years and it did not put Ambedkar's photograph in central hall of Parliament," Modi said.
Modi also hailed late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for her people-centric work as he dedicated several highway and railway projects, including Tejas train, to the people of the state.
Modi began his address by paying tributes to the late All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo, calling her 'Amma Jayalalithaa ji'.
Taking part in a public function in the state for the first time after the ruling AIADMK and the BJP entered into an electoral pact for the coming Lok Sabha polls, Modi lauded the works of Jayalalithaa.
Laying the foundation stone for the restoration of railway line between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi, Modi recalled that the line had been damaged in the devastating 1964 cyclone.
"But for over 50 years no attention was paid to this line... but better late than never," he said.
He dedicated new highway projects, flyovers and laid foundation stone for four-laning in new sections of the national highways falling under Madurai and Dindigul districts in southern Tamil Nadu, at a combined cost of Rs 2,995 crore.
The prime minister flagged off the Chennai-bound Tejas Express train from Madurai through video conferencing.
The train can touch a maximum speed of 160 km per hour and boasts of several modern features like swanky coaches and ergonomically designed seats.
According to the Railways, this is the fastest train between the state capital and the temple city which would traverse 497 km in about six-and-a-half hours.
Modi laid foundation stone for a new 2.05 km viaduct at Pamban to replace the existing 104-year-old railway bridge that connects Rameswaram and the mainland.
The 17.20 km rail link between Dhanushkodi, which is the starting point of the 'Ram Setu', and the holy island town of Rameswaram is estimated to cost about Rs 208 crore.
The prime minister was earlier received by Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister K Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam and other top leaders.
Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, who represents Kanyakumari in Lok Sabha, was also present.