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Taking a dig at Pakistan without naming it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said a country which was a supplier of ‘aatank’ (terror) is struggling for ‘aata’ (flour) these days. Addressing an election rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Damoh, PM Modi said India, who once bought most of its arms from overseas, was now exporting high-tech weapons to other countries, and referred to providing BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines.

Citing the prevailing situation in the world, he pitched for a strong and stable government at the Centre, on a day when the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, being held in seven phases, kicked-off with voting in more than 100 seats.

“There are many countries in the world whose condition has worsened. Many are getting bankrupt. Even one of our neighbours, which was a supplier of ‘aatank’ (terrorism), is now struggling for supply of ‘aata’ (flour),” Modi said, targeting Pakistan.

The prime minister asserted his government works with the principle of “Rashtra Pratham” (nation first) and never succumbs to pressure from any quarter or bows before anyone.

Defending India’s move to purchase oil from Russia in the face of international pressure after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he said “To ensure that the people of the country get cheap oil and farmers get adequate fertilisers, we have taken this decision in the national interest.”

“We have seen in the last 10 years how a stable government works in the interest of the people. During the COVID-19 crisis, there was chaos world over, but a strong BJP government brought back its citizens from all over the globe,” he said.

The BJP’s star campaigner emphasised the next five years are crucial for making the country a big global power.

PM Modi said when war clouds are hovering in different parts of the world, there is a need for a government which is capable of tackling any exigencies, comments coming in the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war, conflict in West Asia and rising Iran-Israel tension.

He said India has become self-reliant in the defence sector and is in the process of exporting weapons worth Rs 21,000 crore to other countries this year.

Modi underscored that while he is delivering a speech here (in Damoh), India is exporting the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles system to the Philippines.

The PM accused the opposition of weakening the country’s defence sector and said they are guided by their own vested interest even when it comes to purchasing of weapons for the defence forces.

He slammed the Congress for creating hurdles in the procurement of French-made Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, and said had the Opposition party been in power, Tejas planes could not have taken to the skies.

The BJP, in its manifesto, has promised that every individual above 70 years of age will be brought within the ambit of the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat Yojana health insurance scheme, ensuring free treatment for them up to Rs 5 lakh, Modi stressed.

The PM asserted his government was committed to the welfare of the poor and pointed out that the Centre has extended the free ration scheme for five more years for nearly 80 Crore beneficiaries.

Modi praised Iqbal Ansari, a former litigant in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, for accepting the invitation to attend the January 22 consecration ceremony at the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and slammed the Opposition for boycotting the event.

The BJP has fielded Rahul Lodhi from the Damoh Lok Sabha seat and state party president Vishnu Dutt Sharma from the Khajuraho constituency. Both these seats will vote in the second phase of elections on April 26.