Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday flagged off Kerala's first Vande Bharat Express train and Kochi Water Metro in Thiruvananthapuram.
During his two-day visit to Kerala, Modi inaugurated a number of developmental works, held roadshows, addressed a youth conclave, and met Church bishops.
Modi's visit to Kerala and events are being seen as a major outreach to the state in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. Kerala remains out of bounds for Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the Congress and Communists remain a potent force in the state and the BJP and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been working over the years to infiltrate the Congress-Left fortress there.
While Modi inaugurated the water metro and Vande Bharat train and held a roadshow in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, he addressed a youth conclave, held a roadshow in Kochi, and met heads of churches on Monday. Here is all you need to know about Modi's visit and outreach to Kerala.
Modi's outreach to Kerala with eyes on 2024 polls
Putting the BJP on the election mode in Kerala ahead of the 2024 general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday made a major outreach in the state by conducting a road show, addressing a youth conclave, and meeting heads of churches.
Modi targeted the two main parties in the state, the ruling CPI (M) and the Opposition Congress over different issues.
Roadshow in Kochi
Upon his arrival in Kochi, Modi was accorded a rousing welcome with thousands of people, including BJP workers and supporters, lining up on both sides of the nearly two-kilometre long route of his road show from the INS Garuda naval air station to the venue of the youth programme.
Dressed in traditional Kerala attire —a kasavu mundu, a shawl, a kurta— Modi began the roadshow on foot and waved to the people on both sides of the road and atop buildings along the route, which was under a tight security net with hundreds of police personnel being deployed for security.
People of all age groups, from various parts of the state, were lined up on both sides of the road, reaching the place hours in advance to welcome Modi. They showered him with flowers along the entire route.
Thank you Kochi! pic.twitter.com/hbuY9FRivM— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 24, 2023
Initially, Modi walked surrounded by Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel with security vehicles in tow. Later, he climbed on to an SUV and stood on its footboard to wave back at the people.
The youth conclave
Later, addressing the youth conclave Yuvam 2023, Modi launched a scathing attack on the ruling CPI(M) and Opposition Congress, alleging Kerala was being harmed due to the conflict between the two, and expressed confidence that the BJP would be accepted by the people of the state in the coming days.
Modi said the way northeastern states and Goa —which have large Christian populations— accepted BJP, its work and its government, Kerala too would accept the saffron party in the coming days.
He said, "Be it the northeastern states or Goa, all those who have seen the BJP's work, the conduct of its government, let them be from any sect, cult or denomination, they all have accepted the Bharatiya Janata Party. Thus, I can say with conviction that what the northeastern states have done, what Goa continues to do, it will be done by Kerala too in the coming days."
Modi also referred to the gold smuggling scam allegedly involving some top officials of the Pinarayi Vijayan government and said the youth of the state were aware those in power were playing with their future.
"On one hand, we are working hard to increase the exports of India. On the other hand, in Kerala, some are working hard to smuggle gold. The youth of Kerala are very well aware that the people in power are playing with their future," said Modi, without naming anyone. He also accused the Left government in the state of not taking steps to provide jobs for youth.
A glimpse of BJP’s vision for Kerala. pic.twitter.com/GTCqWzhA9k— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 24, 2023
He said, "Our government is organising Rozgar Melas to give permanent jobs in the government. In every BJP-ruled state, the campaign for giving jobs is going on. However, the present Kerala government isn't focused on giving jobs to the youth. The youth of Kerala can never forget this attitude of the Kerala government."
The conclave was attended by film personalities, including Suresh Gopi, Unni Mukundan, Aparna Balamurali, Vijay Yesudas, and Navya Nair, and former Defence Minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony's son Anil K Antony.
Meeting with Church leaders
After addressing the youth, Modi met the top priests of various churches in Kerala, giving a push to the BJP's efforts to reach out to the influential minority community in Kerala ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
It is learnt that Modi met eight top Church priests, including Syro-Malabar Catholic Church head Cardinal George Alencherry, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church head Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Syrian Orthodox Church head Baselios Marthoma Mathews III, and Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Church Joseph Mor Gregorios. Modi also met the senior priest of the Latin Catholic Church Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, Archbishop of Knanaya Church Mathew Moolakkatt, Archbishop of the Knanaya Jacobite Archdiocese Kuriakose Mar Severios, and Metropolitan of the Chaldean Syrian Church Mar Awgin Kuriakose, BJP sources said.
Inauguration of developmental works
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday flagged off Kerala's first Vande Bharat Express train in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Vane Bharat train will connect Thiruvananthapuram with the northern-most Kasaragod district of Kerala. It has projected by many as an alternative to the LDF government's ambitious semi-high speed rail corridor, SilverLine.
Prior to flagging off the Vande Bharat Express from platform 1 of the railway station, Modi interacted with a group of school children inside one of the coaches of the train.
Flagged off Kerala’s first Vande Bharat Express, which will enhance connectivity from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod. pic.twitter.com/u1RqG5SoVU— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 25, 2023
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor were also present with the PM as he interacted with the students inside the train. The children showed Modi paintings and sketches of him and the Vande Bharat train made by them.
Hundreds of people also gathered on the opposite side platform to see the PM flag off the train.
Prior to flagging off the train, Modi held a roadshow to the station from the airport where he landed from Kochi — where he held events the previous day.
Roadshow in Thiruvananthapuram
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, his journey to the Central Railway Station was akin to a roadshow as thousands lined up on the roadsides, hours in advance, to greet him and showered him with flowers as his cavalcade passed them.
Modi briefly stood on the footboard of his vehicle, surrounded by SPG personnel, to wave at the public as well as party workers and supporters on the roadside who cheered him on with drum beats and chants of 'Modi'.
Thankful to all those who came to bless us this morning in Thiruvananthapuram. pic.twitter.com/5Remj26gYm— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 25, 2023
Along the entire route from the airport to the railway station, thousands of people carrying party flags and placards of Modi were gathered on the roadside. Besides the thousands gathered on the roadside, cutouts of Modi and the Vande Bharat Express were also put up along the nearly six km-long route to the railway station.
Kochi Water Metro, Digital Science Park
After the flagging off of the train, Modi dedicated to the nation various developmental projects, including the Kochi Water Metro and railway projects.
Modi laid the foundation stone and dedicated to the nation various development projects worth more than Rs 3,200 crores that include the dedication of the Kochi Water Metro to the nation, laying the foundation stone of various rail projects and the Digital Science Park in Thiruvananthapuram, according to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Most public transportation systems in the country, including the Kochi Water Metro, are made in India, said Modi.
Glimpses from the programme in Thiruvananthapuram where various development works were launched. pic.twitter.com/sprEVMAjee— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 25, 2023
The Digital Science Park inaugurated by Modi is envisaged as a key research facility to develop digital products and services by industry and business units in collaboration with academia, said PMO.
The PMO said, "As a third generation Science Park, the Digital Science Park will house common facilities to support the development of products in the area of Industry 4.0 Technologies like AI, Data Analytics, Cyber Security, Smart Materials etc. The state-of-the-art basic infrastructure will support high-end applied research by industries and the co-development of products in association with the Universities. The initial investment for Phase-1 of the project is around Rs 200 crore while the total project outlay has been estimated at around Rs 1,515 crore."
Speaking on the occasion, Modi also hailed the Made in India nature of the Water Metro and other projects and praised their utility in transportation and tourism sectors in the region.
"The Prime Minister underlined that the Kochi Water Metro is a Made in India project and congratulated the Kochi Shipyard for the development of ports for the same. He stated that the Kochi Water Metro will make modern and cheap means of transport accessible for the people living in the nearing islets of Kochi while also providing intermodal connectivity between the bus terminal and the metro network. The Prime Minister further added that it will benefit backwater tourism in the state apart from easing the traffic congestion in the city. He expressed confidence that the Kochi Water Metro will become a model for the other states in the country," said the PMO in a statement.
(With PTI inputs)