Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Bihar on Tuesday to take part in the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha. Modi also flagged off multiple railway projects, including India’s first high-speed electric locomotive under the Make in India campaign, The Indian Express reported.

Modi’s visit to the state comes at a time when relations between the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ruling coalition partner, the Janata Dal (United), have been strained over violence during Ram Navami celebrations in March. Further, Chief Minster Nitish Kumar has said he not not given up on Bihar’s demand for special category status, a contentious matter for the BJP.

Addressing thousands of people who attended the event in Motihari, Modi said it was Bihar that transformed Mahatma Gandhi into “Bapu”, as the freedom fighter was fondly called. “Hundred years ago, people from across the country came to Champaran and worked under the leadership of Gandhiji,” Modi said. “Today, enthusiastic youngsters are working shoulder to shoulder with cleanliness workers.”

He said the people of Bihar were taking forward Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals through what he called the “Swachhagraha” movement. “The Satyagraha movement gave a new lease of life to many individuals,” Modi said. “Swachhagraha [the cleanliness campaign] is also changing people’s lives.”

Praising the chief minister and his deputy Sushil Kumar for Bihar’s development, he said Bihar had shown the greatest improvement under the Swachch Bharat campaign.

“Around 26 lakh toilets were constructed in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir in the past week, which was observed as Swachhagraha week,” the prime minister said. “The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has changed the life of crores of women in the country. Even toilets in Bihar are being called ‘izzat ghar’ [house of dignity].”

Modi said the Centre was working in tandem with the Bihar government for the economic development of the state, PTI reported. He lauded Nitish Kumar “for his patience and good governance and the way he is fighting anti-social elements”.

Modi also awarded Swachhagrahis, or cleanliness ambassadors, Rs 51,000 each for cleaning their localities and neighbourhoods. He also said the banks of the Ganga in Bihar will soon become open defecation free.

‘Opposition parties trying to divide society’

The prime minister took on the Opposition, accusing it of attempting to stymie the government’s efforts to uplift the poor, PTI reported. “From the streets to Parliament, roadblocks are being created in the government’s work,” Modi said. “While the Centre is working towards uniting people, opponents are working towards breaking the society.”

Modi alleged that improvement in the condition of poor people worried the Opposition parties. “They feel that if the poor are empowered, it would no longer be possible to mislead them with lies,” the prime minister claimed.