Holding his first public rally in poll-bound Gujarat after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reached out to farmers from the heartland of the restive Patel community after launching an irrigation project.
Modi also launched a veiled attack on the Congress after inaugurating the first phase of the ambitious Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (Sauni) project here, saying that polls can be won by dangling baits and "throwing pieces" but a country can't be run by doing so.
Targeting the Congress which had questioned the timing of his visit to poll-bound Gujarat, Modi said his government does not believe in "throwing pieces" to attract voters.
"You can win polls by throwing pieces, but you cannot run a country by doing so. We do not believe in throwing pieces.
We worked hard for almost 15 years for this project to bring transformation and development," Modi told a huge gathering at Sanosara village in Jamnagar district in the patidar(or patel)-dominated Saurashtra region.
Water is a politically sensitive issue in Gujarat, which the BJP plans to cash in before the 2017 Assembly polls to revive its fortunes, specially at the time when it is facing challenges like Patel quota agitation and Dalit uprising.
The Congress has termed the inauguration of Sauni scheme at this juncture by the Prime Minister as an attempt to give a message to voters ahead of the polls.
In his address, Modi stressed on conserving water and remembered his days as Gujarat Chief Minister when people did not understood his vision to bring transformation in agriculture sector.
"After I became Gujarat's CM for the first time (in 2001), I used to tell farmers that instead of fighting against government to get more electricity for irrigation, they should focus more on water management. However, I failed to make them understand for almost 2-3 years" said Modi.
"At that time, I faced lot of protests by farmers. They used to burn my effigies. But, I remained firm on my vision.
Today, I want to thank farmers of Gujarat for accepting my vision of conserving water through sprinklers, drip irrigation and micro irrigation tools, which significantly brought up ground water levels," said Modi.
He added that water of Narmada river has now reached till the extreme end of parched Kutch region and helped farmers to a great extent.
"Narmada waters have reached till Khavda in Kutch.
There was a time when camels were used to transport water to our BSF jawans posted there. They used to get small quantity of water for drinking. But now, they use Narmada water for even bathing," said Modi.
"We worked on the motto of Jai Jawan and Jai Kisan.
Water from Narmada has transformed the lives of farmers too.
This season, farmers of Kutch exported 70,000 tonnes of Kesar mangoes" added Modi.
Remembering the day when Modi first coined the idea of Sauni scheme, the PM said that people had apprehensions about the success of this project initially.