Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday accused the previous governments in Uttar Pradesh of letting poverty and the mafia take over the state's eastern part, saying that the Bharatiya Janata Party government is now writing a new chapter of development there.
Modi was addressing a rally in Sultanpur after the inauguration of the 341-km Purvanchal Expressway, where he himself landed in a military transport aircraft on a 3.2-km stretch developed as an emergency air strip for the Indian Air Force.
Development was limited to places where the previous chief ministers had their homes or families, Modi said without naming the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Congress which the ruling BJP faces in the assembly polls just months away.
The event ended with an air show performed by Mirage, Jaguar, Sukhoi and An-32 aircraft, before the prime minister headed back to Delhi on the C-130J Hercules which had brought him to Sultanpur.
The inauguration of the Rs 22,500-crore six-lane road between Lucknow and Ghazipur followed a slugfest between the BJP and Akhilesh Yadav's SP, which maintained that it was his state government that had begun the project.
"Three years ago, when I had laid the foundation of the expressway, I had not thought that I will be myself landing on the expressway," the prime minister said.
He called it 'an expressway of development', which will quicken the pace of the state's economy.
He said the road also reflected the government's resolve to turn commitment into reality.
Modi said development under the earlier CMs was limited to their native places, but the government now is ensuring that it reaches the eastern as well as the western parts of the state.
"The previous governments reduced the vital eastern part of the state to 'mafiawaad' and poverty, but the BJP government is now writing a new chapter of development," he said.
The politically vital Purvanchal region consists of about 160 of the 403 assembly seats that will go to the polls early next year.
Just weeks earlier, Modi had inaugurated an international airport in the region's Kushinagar.
Trashing the previous state governments, the PM claimed they only showed dreams of industrialisation without bothering about connectivity. Thus, the factories were forced to close down, he said.
"And, in these circumstances, it was unfortunate that both in Delhi and in Lucknow, there was a dominance of dynasts. For years, this partnership of the dynasts continued to crush the aspirations of UP," he said in a possible reference to the Congress and the SP.
He suggested that the previous state governments didn't cooperate with the BJP government at the Centre on developing UP.
In an apparent dig at the SP, he said the people in the government didn't even want to be seen standing with him at the airport as they feared losing their 'vote bank'.
Modi said rivals are perturbed by the success of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the benefits of the 'double-engine' government, a reference to the BJP being in power both in Lucknow and at the Centre.
He also praised the Adityanath government for the Covid vaccination drive.
He alluded to the 'removal' of a Sultanpur-born Congress leader from the chief minister's post in the 1980's.
"The courtiers of a family had insulted Sripati Mishra, which the people of UP have not forgotten," he said.
In another attempt at connecting with his audience, Modi began his address in the local Awadhi dialect.
The expressway begins from Chandsarai village on the outskirts of Lucknow and ends at Hadairia village on NH-31 in Ghazipur district.
It cuts across nine districts, including Ayodhya, Amethi and Azamgarh.
The PM said new industries will be set up along the expressway, and 21 places have been identified for this.
After the address, the prime minister, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were among those who watched the air show put up around the emergency air strip.
A Mirage-2000 was the first to land. Commandos emerged later from the belly of an An-32 plane. Another Mirage, two Jaguars and an Su-30MKI performed touch-and-go manoeuvres on the air strip.
The aircraft also flew in formation and ended the show with a flypast.
An announcer identified one of the Sukhoi pilots as a local, Sultanpur man.
Claiming Purvanchal Expressway its own project, SP stages parallel 'inauguration'
The SP, meanwhile, carried out a parallel inauguration of the Purvanchal Expressway by showering flowers over its various stretches and cycling on them around the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the 341-km highway to people.
The SP workers staged the show while reiterating its chief Akhilesh Yadav's claim that the project to connect Lucknow to Ballia was first launched by his government.
'SP works for the public. The SP workers dedicated the expressway to the public by cycling and showering flowers on the Samajwadi Purvanchal Expressway,' the party said on its Twitter handle.
'This will accelerate the progress of Purvanchal (eastern UP). Congratulations and best wishes,' the party said, also uploading the pictures of its workers' celebration on the occasion.
SP president and former Chief Minister Yadav had on Monday said on Twitter that 'in all the districts through which the 'Samajwadi Purvanchal Expressway' is passing, the district committees of the party will inaugurate this public welfare work by showering flowers on the expressway on November 16'.
Apparently peeved after coming to know of Prime Minister Modi plans to land at the expressway's airstrip for the inauguration, Yadav had on Monday tweeted, 'Some people rule only like this by landing their planes on others' airstrips.'
Yadav, who had been assiduously claiming that the foundation stone for the project was first laid by him during his tenure as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, had also shared a picture of a purported newspaper advertisement for the foundation stone laying ceremony by him on December 22, 2016, a Thursday.
After the inauguration ceremony of the expressway on Tuesday, Yadav made another tweet, mocking Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath showing him showing him walking behind the car of Prime Minister Narndra Modi on the expressway.
'You gave me a good return of all my hospitality and made me undertake a humble march even before the people conferred gthe humiliating fate on me,' Yadav said in his tweet in Hindi, tagging with it a picture of Yogi, seen walking behind the PM's car.