Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday said that his first virtual address before the Assembly elections in Bihar was not a political rally but an attempt to “bring the people of the country together in our fight against” the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier in the day, leaders from the Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal protested against Shah’s rally and termed their demonstration the “Garib Adhikar Diwas”.

“Some people welcomed today’s virtual rally by clanging ‘thalis [plates]’,” Shah said, taking a dig at the Opposition’s protests. “I am glad they finally heard PM [Narendra] Modi’s appeal to show gratitude towards those fighting Covid-19.” The Union minister also announced that the Bharatiya Janata Party will hold 75 such meetings.

Shah said the Opposition was engaged in politics and questioned what the leaders had done for people in comparison to the Modi-led government’s welfare measures such as cash transfer and free ration. “In six years, Modi’s attempt to change the lives of crores of poor people has benefitted eastern India the most,” he added. “The Modi government was able to provide gas cylinders, bank accounts, toilets, etc during its term between 2014 and 2019.”

The home minister highlighted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s demand for loan waivers and said the party’s government had let go of Rs 60,000 crore worth of loans in its 10-year term. “Through the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi [or PM-Kisan scheme], the Narendra Modi [government] provided Rs 72,000 crore [in total] to 9.5 crore farmers,” Shah claimed.

On ferrying migrant workers back to their home states amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Shah said the Centre had helped out 1.25 crore migrants after the nation’s health infrastructure was boosted for their needs.

He also lauded Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s administration for its work in the state. “Bihar’s growth rate was 3.9% when RJD [Rashtriya Janata Dal] was ruling, it reached 11.3% under Nitish Kumar,” the Union minister said. “There are elections in Bihar in the coming days, I believe that under Nitish Kumarji’s leadership NDA will form the government with two-third majority but this isn’t the time for politics.”

Shah also highlighted the “surgical strikes” conducted under the Modi administration and said the nation’s defence policy has attained international acceptance. “There was a time when anybody used to enter our borders, beheaded our soldiers and Delhi’s darbar remained unaffected. Uri and Pulwama happened during our time, it was the Modi and BJP government, we did surgical strikes and airstrike. The whole world agrees that after [the] US and Israel if there is any other country that is able to protect its borders, it is India.”

On Sunday morning, India’s coronavirus tally rose to 2,46,628 after 9,971 cases were reported in 24 hours. This is the country’s highest single-day rise yet. The toll rose to 6,929 – an increase of 287 deaths.

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