Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the National Democratic Alliance was prioritising the health sector to ensure healthcare is affordable, ANI reported. Modi made the remarks in his speech after laying the foundation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. He also inaugurated super-speciality blocks at medical colleges in Thanjavur and Tirunelveli.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami thanked Modi for deciding to build the AIIMS, a 750-bed medical facility that will offer 100 MBBS seats, in the state. He also urged the Centre to set up a medical college in Ramanathapuram district, PTI reported.
Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said the AIIMS would benefit the people of backward districts in southern parts of the state.
At a rally in the city, Modi criticised those protesting against 10% reservation for the economically weak among upper castes and said some persons in the state were creating an “atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust” to serve their interest. The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and a few other parties in the state have opposed the quota on the ground that social backwardness alone should be the yardstick for reservation.
Modi reiterated that the provision would not affect the existing reservation benefits for Dalits, tribals and others and urged the people to “reject forces of negativity.” “This decision has been taken in such a way that it doesn’t affect Dalit and tribals,” he said.
Modi also claimed his government was taking effective steps to rid India of corruption and nepotism. “Any person who has cheated or looted the country shall be brought to justice,” he said in an apparent reference to economic offenders like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
Social media protests
Ahead of the prime minister’s arrival in the city, #GoBackModi trended on Twitter. Social media users criticised Modi for not visiting Tamil Nadu after Cyclone Gaja and for not releasing the funds sought by the state. They also questioned the Centre’s silence on the police shooting in Thoothukudi during the anti-Sterlite agitation, and agrarian distress.
Several tweets carried an image of Dravidian leader EVR Periyar saying “Go Back Modi” while the prime minister runs to a ladder lowered from a helicopter.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam spokesperson A Saravanan told NDTV that the tweets reflect people’s anger and denied that the party was behind the hashtag. “The construction of the AIIMS hospital should have started two years ago and by now it should have become functional,” he said. “Why did they delay the project? This foundation laying is just a gimmick before polls.”
DMK”s IT wing head P Thiaga Rajan tweeted that #GoBackModi was “people’s voice”. “As usual BJP calls those that oppose their policies [and] leaders as ‘anti-national forces’, even as their crude attempts to trend a hashtag are exposed,” he said. “...I reiterate that we do not follow the playbook of the BJP’s IT Cell. #GobackModi is the people’s voice.
This is the second time the prime minister has faced such an online backlash during a visit to the state. In April, #GoBackModi hashtag had trended during his visit to the Defence Expo India.
Protestors belonging to various political outfits such as the DMK and the Tamizhaga Vazhvumurai Katchi demanded that the prime minister return to Delhi as the Centre has not yet constituted the Cauvery Management Board as per the Supreme Court’s orders.
MDMK stages protest
Meanwhike, members of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by Vaiko staged a black flag demonstration on Sunday before the prime minister’s arrival in Madurai. They released black balloons, accusing Modi of betraying the interests of Tamil Nadu. They alleged that the Centre was backing Karnataka’s bid to build a dam at Mekedatu across the Cauvery.
In response, BJP youth wing supporters put up posters sarcastically “welcoming Vaiko” to Madurai. BJP’s state unit chief Tamilisai Soundararajan and Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan condemned the MDMK protest.