Befitting reply will be given to Chhattisgarh Naxal attack; NDA's 'double-engine' to ensure Assam's growth: Shah

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(Eds: Collating stories) Guwahati/ Sualkuchi/Sorbhog, Apr 4 (PTI) Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday said a befitting response will be given to those responsible for the Naxal attack in Chhatisgarh at an appropriate time.

He also said search operations are continuing in Chhattisgarh following the encounter.

''As far as the numbers are concerned, both sides have suffered losses and exact casualty figures cannot be ascertained immediately'', Shah said, after cutting short his election campaigning in Assam. The home minister is flying back to Delhi to take stock of the situation.

''Our securitymen have lost their lives, we will not tolerate this bloodshed and a befitting reply will be given at an appropriate time'', he added.

Bodies of 17 of the 18 jawans missing after the encounter were recovered on Sunday, taking the death toll to 22, police said separately.

Though Shah arrived at Sualkuchi, in Jalkubari constituency after addressing his first rally of the day, to campaign for NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, he left without making any speech on learning of the Naxal attack. He took a helicopter to Guwahati en-route to Delhi to take stock of the situation.

Before leaving, the home minister told reporters he was appealing to people to vote for Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to ensure Sarma's victory by a huge margin. He added that the vote would strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his work in Assam and the North East.

Shah said that both Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Sarma are working to develop the state and ''we want this to continue''.

Congress had earlier charged that there was discord between the chief minister and a key minister without naming them.

''This is a golden opportunity for the people to give BJP and our team another five years so that we can ensure a flood-free, developed Assam'', he said.

The Union Minister said that Sarma's contribution in this development process is immense and as the convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) , he ''is also needed for the development of the entire North East''.

He accused the Congress of beginning the election campaign in the state on the promise of protecting its identity and pride but ending up 'by stating that AIUDF Chief Badruddin Ajmal is Assam's identity''.

''I just want to ask that when Vaishnav saints Srimanta Sankardeva, Madhavdeva, brave Ahom general Lachit Barphukan and Bharat Ratnas Gopinath Bordoloi and Bhupen Hazarika are linked to Assam's pride and identity, can Ajmal represent or occupy the same space, he asked rhetorically.

The home minister claimed ''Congress has lost its way and also its appeal among people. They cannot take the state forward on the path of development it is the BJP which has (however) pulled Assam out of the morass of violence and taken it on the path to progress and development''.

arlier addressing an election rally in Sorbhog in Barpeta district, Shah accused the Congress of having no discernible agenda for Assam's development, and asserted NDA's 'double-engine' government will continue to ensure the state's growth.

Shah claimed the Congress was 'dividing people' in order to rule over them, while the BJP follows the mantra of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas' (with all, development for all and belief in all).

''The Congress cannot solve any problem and their leader Rahul Gandhi comes as a tourist to the state. They have no vision for development'', the home minister claimed.

''I had come to you five years ago and urged you to repose faith in the Prime Minister and promised we will end violence and agitations. The BJP government in the state and Modiji has ensured this during the last five years and now the state is moving in the path of progress and development'', he said.

In the next term, the NDA is committed to make the state flood-free and the Prime Minister has already initiated the process, he said.

Shah said that two phases of elections are already over in the state and claimed ''we are confident that in these two phases alone, BJP has achieved majority to form the next government''.

''Let me share another good news with you. Elections are being held in West Bengal too and 'didi ja rahi hain aur BJP aah rahi hain (Didi, referring to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is going and BJP is coming). The BJP will win more than 200 seats in the neighbouring state'', he also claimed.

Highlighting the achievements of the BJP government, Shah said that during the last five years, the historic Bodo accord was signed and more than 2000 youths have surrendered and returned to the mainstream.

He also accused the Congress of giving a free-hand to poachers in Kaziranga National Park and ''if their government had continued, rhinoceros, Assam's pride, would have become a thing of the past. It is the BJP government under Sarbananda Sonowal that has ensured that poachers have been thrown out and the animal saved from extinction''.

A Sattra Land Protection Task Force would also be set up to free all lands of Vaishnav monasteries from encroachers and ''we will take the message of Vaishnav saints Srimanta Sankardeva and Madhavdeva not only to other parts of the country but also across the world, he said.

He also assured that Guwahati would be developed as a 'Start-up capital' of South-east Asia paving the way for youths to become self-reliant.

PTI DG JRC JRC