New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Saturday that free and transparent DDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir coupled with voters' keen participation are a "moment of pride" for India, while hitting back at his rivals for giving him "lessons in democracy".
In a swipe at Rahul Gandhi, who alleged recently that there is no democracy in India, Modi said that while his government completed three-tier panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir in over a year of the region becoming a union territory, the Congress dispensation in Puducherry did not conduct local body elections despite a Supreme Court order.
Launching the Ayushman Bharat scheme via a video-conference to extend health insurance benefits to all residents of Jammu and Kashmir, he said the three-tier panchayat system has fully taken shape in the UT, describing it as a realisation of Mahatma Gandhi's dream of 'gram swaraj' (village self-rule).
He then added that he would like to share his pain before the nation on this occasion.
"Some people in Delhi curse Modi day in and day out and hurl abuses. They regularly offer me lessons in democracy. I want to show them the mirror today," he said, blasting the Congress for not undertaking the local polls in Puducherry.
"The party of those teaching me democracy is in power in Puducherry," the prime minister said, without naming the Congress, which has been ruling the UT since 2016.
It shows the gap between what some parties preach and what they do, and also highlights their commitment to democracy, he said in a dig at his rivals.
Noting that local body polls were last held in 2006 in Puducherry, he said its term ended in 2011 but new elections were not held.
"You will be surprised to know that the Supreme Court had given an order in this regard in 2018, but the government there has been delaying it," the prime minister said.
The district development council polls in Jammu and Kashmir have written a new chapter in the troubled region and have strengthened democracy, he said.
Noting that the people braved cold weather and the COVID-19 pandemic to enthusiastically participate in the election, the prime minister said he had heard from every political party about the high level of transparency during the polls and how free they were.
"I feel so proud... This is a moment of pride for India," he said, lauding the local administration and security forces.
These election results have thrown up victors, many of whom have come up from among the masses and who have won due to their work, not their name, he said, in a dig at dynastic parties.
"This is the beginning of a new leadership of a new era in a new decade," he said.
He said that the BJP was once a part of the government in the erstwhile state and added that it pulled out because the saffron party wanted panchayat elections and people to be given their rights. In these polls, people have left history behind and voted for a future of hope, he said.
With every resident of Jammu and Kashmir now eligible for health insurance up to Rs five lakh, Modi said it was a historic day for the region.
In an apparent reference to Article 370, which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir and was abrogated by his government last year, Modi said earlier most schemes and laws meant for the country had the provision "except J & K'.
This has become history, and over 170 central Acts are now applicable to the union territory, giving its people their rights and ending all discrimination, he added.
"This is our government's commitment that no part of the country is deprived of development any longer. Better living conditions in every territory will further strengthen national unity and integrity," he asserted.
An official statement said about six lakh families of the UT were getting the benefit of the Ayushman Bharat scheme, and now all 21 lakh families will get it.
Noting that its residents can avail of the health insurance anywhere in India except a state like West Bengal, the prime minister took a jibe at the Trinamool Congress government there for not joining the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
The Centre has undertaken all-round development of Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
Modi said a big mistake of those who were in power for decades in the country was to ignore the development of border regions, including Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states, but his government has rectified this.
He said during the pandemic about 18 lakh LPG cylinders were refilled in Jammu and Kashmir. More than 10 lakh toilets were built under the Swachh Bharat programme, he said, adding it too contributed to improving the health of the people.
The setting up of IIT and IIM in Jammu and Kashmir would help in providing quality higher education to the students, he said, noting that two AIIMS and two cancer institutes are also being built in the union territory.