Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut on Thursday that he has the courage to conduct surgical strikes on land, in the air and in space. Modi was referring to India’s attack on terrorist camps across the Line of Control in 2016, the Indian Air Force’s strikes on Balakot in Pakistan on February 26, and the launch of an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday.

“There is fear among goons in Uttar Pradesh,” Modi said. “Those who assault your daughters are scared. Because we implemented the death penalty [for rape].”

“Do we or do we not need a strong government?” he asked. “If these ‘mahamilavati’ people get any opportunity whatsoever, this country will regress to its old state in no time. Until recently, those who challenged this ‘chowkidar’ [watchman], are now crying. Why did Modi do this? Why did Modi do that? Why did Modi enter the houses of terrorists in Pakistan to kill them? They are crying now?”

“All these people are in a competition to find out who will be more popular in Pakistan,” Modi claimed. “Tell me, does the country need Indian heroes or Pakistani heroes? If anything had gone wrong during the [Indian Air Force] operation, would they not have blamed Modi? I will not wilt under any political or international pressure.”

“You must have noticed yesterday how India’s great achievement in space was ignored by the Opposition,” Modi alleged. “What kinds of allegations they made. I have begun to wonder about their intelligence.”

“Some people were confused when I spoke about A-SAT [the mission]. They wondered if I was talking about the theatre set,” the prime minister said in an oblique reference to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s remark that Modi made the announcement on World Theatre Day.

“Remember how some people have run this country. Our air force wanted new jets, their [the Congress-led UPA] government kept postponing the decision to buy them. Our jets kept falling, their government kept postponing the decision. Our jawans kept dying, their government ignored this. Our scientists wanted to launch an anti-satellite missile, their government ignored this. We should have taken this decision much earlier. But it was put off. These people want India to remain weak.”

Modi wondered for whose benefit the Opposition, when it was in power, wanted to keep the country weak. “They only consider the selfish needs of their family,” he added. “They don’t approve of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. That is why, those who spread nepotism and corruption from Kashmir to Kanyakumari are worried. They have all come together, even in Uttar Pradesh. For these people, there is nothing more important than power.”

“The people who ‘behenji’ [Mayawati] spent two decades trying to imprison, have now become her allies,” Modi said in a reference to the Samajwadi Party. “Those who wanted to finish her in a guest house [in 1995] have now become her allies.”

The prime minister asked the people of Uttar Pradesh to punish those who committed atrocities against them, by voting on April 11, the first phase of the 2019 General Elections.

Enumerating the various developmental projects the Uttar Pradesh government has initiated in the state, the prime minister said these schemes could have implemented earlier. However, he alleged, the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party only indulge in the politics of caste and community. “You continue to suffer the effects of the riots that took place during their rule,” Modi alleged according to a tweet by the BJP. “The people of Uttar Pradesh have seen that the efforts of the parties to divide them between 2014 and 2017 have been unsuccessful. The mandate we will get now will be greater than in 2014 or 2017 [Assembly polls].”

Modi said the Congress should be eliminated from all parts of the country to get rid of poverty in India. “When I was eight or 10 years old, I heard that the government wants to get rid of poverty,” Modi said. “When I was 20 or 22, I heard that [former Prime Minister] Indira Gandhi wanted to eliminate poverty. But while four generations have passed and they [Congress leaders] have progressed in life, the poor have remained poor.” He claimed that the Congress has betrayed the poor of India, and has tried for seven decades to keep them poor.

‘Congress culture of corruption had destroyed Uttarakhand’

In Uttarakhand’s Rudrapur later in the day, Modi claimed that the “Congress culture” of corruption had destroyed the state and spoilt its image. “When you gave the chowkidar a chance to serve Uttarakhand, I tried to bring development to every nook and corner of the state,” he said. “But in the first three years [2014-’17], the Congress government here tried to create hurdles in my work.”

He also claimed that the Congress humiliated India’s soldiers and insulted the Army. that the Congress high command does not want him to talk about the Indian Air Force’s strikes on Pakistan’s Balakot, or about national security. “Should Modi stay quiet, should he bow to terrorists’ threats?” he asked. “Will the people of India forgive those who make anti-national remarks in order to please Pakistan?”