Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated or laid foundation stones of projects worth Rs 9,400 crore and held two roadshows in poll-bound Gujarat and flagged the issue of corruption and nepotism in sports in the past while inaugurating the 36th National Games on the first day of his latest visit to the state on Thursday.
On a day packed with multiple programmes, Modi, who is on a two-day visit to Gujarat, attended events in Surat, Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad.
He held a roadshow in Surat and said the city will emerge as the safest and convenient diamond trading hub in the world once the Diamond Research and Mercantile (DREAM) City project is completed.
The PM later also held a roadshow in Bhavnagar city where women showered rose petals on his car and artistes performed folk dances on stages erected by local administration at several places along the route.
In Surat, Modi addressed a rally in Limbayat area after laying foundation stones and inaugurating a host of projects worth Rs 3,400 crore, including inauguration of the main entrance gate and phase-1 works of DREAM City, an ambitious project coming up on 700 hectares of land near Khajod village on the outer Ring Road of Surat.
He said the Railways has come up with a plan to run a special train between Surat and his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi for convenient transportation of textile products from here to Uttar Pradesh.
The PM said Surat has progressed by leaps and bounds during the last 20 years. Remembering the struggle to get an airport in Surat, Modi said the then-BJP government in Gujarat, when he was the chief minister, struggled a lot in convincing the UPA dispensation at the Centre to approve an airport for the city.
"We got tired of explaining to the then government at the Centre why an airport is needed and what this city is capable of doing (if such a facility is provided). This happened in the case of the Metro project too," he said.
Referring to BJP governments both at the Centre and in the state, Modi said such approvals are now coming faster because of the "double engine sarkar".
"When the DREAM City project is completed, Surat will emerge as the world's safest and convenient diamond trading hub. The day is not far when Surat will be known as a modern office space for diamond merchants and companies from across the world," said Modi.
The projects which were launched on Thursday included new government schools, a science museum, libraries, new fire stations, a hostel for medical students, sewage treatment plants, 25 electric vehicle charging stations and flyover bridges among others.
Modi said out of the total four crore citizens who had availed benefits under the government's Ayushman Bharat scheme, nearly 32 lakh were from Gujarat, including 1.25 lakh from Surat. Earlier in the day, Modi held a 2.5-kilometre-long road show in Surat and waved at people who were standing on both sides of the road to greet him.
At the roadshow in Bhavnagar nearly 50,000 people gathered along the route to greet him, officials said.
In Bhavnagar, the prime minister said although Gujarat has the longest coastline in the country, no attention was paid for its development for decades post-Independence, but "honest attempts" were made in the last 20 years by the BJP government to turn it into the country's "door of prosperity".
He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat implemented several big-ticket projects along the state's coastline without wasting money on publicity.
He was addressing a public rally at Jawahar Maidan in Bhavnagar city of Gujarat's Saurashtra region after inaugurating and performing the ground-breaking ceremony of projects worth more than Rs 6,000 crore meant for Bhavnagar, Botad and Amreli districts. Some of these projects in Bhavnagar included the world's first CNG terminal, development of a brownfield port and a cargo container manufacturing unit.
In all, the PM inaugurated or laid foundation stones of projects worth Rs 9,400 crore on the first day of his visit to the state, where Assembly polls are due by the year-end.
"Gujarat has the longest coastline in the country, but no attention was paid for its development for decades after India gained independence. As a result, the coastline created challenges for the people living along it," he said in a veiled attack on the Congress, which has ruled the state for long in the past.
Due to salinity ingress, people were forced to migrate to bigger cities in search of employment. Entire villages became empty due to this issue. Youths of this region used to migrate to Surat, where they had to live in pitiable condition, he added.
But honest attempts were made in the last 20 years to turn the state's coastline into India's door to prosperity, he said the massive gathering.
"We have developed many ports and modernised several others. Today, there are three LNG terminals and a petro-chemical hub on the Gujarat coast. Apart from playing a crucial role for the export and import sector, Gujarat's coastline has created employment opportunities for lakhs of youths," the prime minister said.
After Surat and Bhavnagar, the PM travelled to Ahmedabad, where he inaugurated the 36th National Games in the evening.
Lauding Indian athletes for winning medals at various international events such as the Olympics in recent times, Modi said despite having the capability, sportspersons could not perform well in the past at the world stage because of nepotism and corruption.
He made the comments after declaring open the National Games at a glittering ceremony at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad city's Motera area.
"The country's sportspersons were capable in the past too. This movement of winning medals (at international sporting events) could have started earlier too. But, instead of professionalism, there was nepotism and corruption in sports. We have cleaned the system and pumped in new confidence among the youths," said Modi in his address to a cheering crowd at the sprawling stadium.
He said when people around the world eagerly waited for popular and prestigious global sports events like the Olympics, such competitions were just subject of general knowledge in India for many years.
"But now, the mood and temperament of the nation has changed. Our sportspersons have continued a tradition of being the first and the best which started in 2014," said Modi, referring to the year when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre after getting clear majority in the general elections.
According to the prime minister, Indian sportspersons used to take part in less than 100 sporting meets at various levels in the world eight years back, but this number has now gone up significantly.
In the night, the Prime Minister attended the `Navratri Mahotsav' organized by the Gujarat government at the GMDC ground in Ahmedabad and performed `aarti' of Maa Amba.
Modi was accompanied by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Governor Acharya Devvrat.
He also watched the traditional garba dance at the venue, and spoke to some revelers and allowed them to click selfies with him.
(With PTI Inputs)