Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday criticised the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala for the gold smuggling case it is being linked with, ahead of the state’s Assembly elections that will be held on April 6.

Modi was addressing his first rally in the state in Palakkad, a key constituency from where Bharatiya Janata Party candidate E Sreedharan is contesting. He made a pitch for Sreedharan, popularly known as India’s “metro man”. The prime minister said Sreedharan has done excellent work to make the country modern and has also devoted himself to the progress of Kerala.

Modi claimed that the ruling LDF and the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front were “only different in name” and alleged that their “match-fixing” was the “worst kept secret” of politics in Kerala.

“First time voters of Kerala are disappointed with LDF and UDF,” he added. “They are now asking what is this match-fixing? Five years one loots, five years the other loots. In West Bengal, Congress and Left are one, they were partners in UPA [United Progressive Alliance] 1 in Delhi. The Left continued to give issue-based support to Congress during UPA 2...”

Targeting the LDF, Modi raked up the controversial gold smuggling scandal in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is facing allegations. “Judas betrayed Lord Christ for a few pieces of silver,” Modi said. “LDF has betrayed Kerala for a few pieces of gold.”

The case relates to the seizure of about 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crore from diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram International airport on July 5, 2020. It is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate, Customs, and the National Investigation Agency. A prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh, has informed the Kerala High Court about the involvement of Vijayan and others.

Modi also castigated the Vijayan government for the way in which it dealt with the agitation against the decision to implement a Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala temple.

The prime minister said the Left government should be ashamed of “showering lathis [batons] on innocent devotees”. “UDF should be ashamed of remaining silent when this was happening,” he added. “I am proud to belong to a party that has, is and will always defend the culture of our land.”

He said in a democracy people can have political differences, but violence is not acceptable. “Under their eyes [Left parties] and with their blessings, political rivals are killed, hacked, beaten,” Modi alleged.

Modi also coined an acronym “FAST” for the Kerala elections. “F for fisheries and fertilisers, A for agriculture and Ayurveda, S for skill development and social justice and T for tourism and technology,” he said.

The results for the Kerala Assembly elections will be declared on May 2.