- PM visited Tamil Nadu for foundation-laying ceremony of AIIMS hospital
- Several cartoons with "Go Back Modi" have sprung up on Twitter, Facebook
- Last year, PM faced protests when he attended the Defence Expo in Chennai
In a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP, #GoBackModi is trending on Twitter as he is in Madurai in Tamil Nadu today for the foundation-laying ceremony of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
The posts largely reflect the state's anger over PM Modi not visiting the districts in Tamil Nadu that were ravaged by cyclone Gaja that left more than 3 lakh homeless and uprooted around 11 lakh trees, crippling the livelihood of a huge population.
A majority of tweets contain a cartoon that has an outline of Tamil Nadu with the face of late rationalist leader EVR Periyar saying "Go Back Modi". The Prime Minister, shown in a saffron jacket, is running towards a ladder lowered from a hovering chopper. Similar works with "Go Back Modi" have sprung up on Twitter and Facebook.
Thousands of other tweets, meanwhile, welcomed PM Modi to Madurai and thanked him for setting up AIIMS in the city. Hashtags like #MaduraiThanksModi and #TNWelcomesModi too are among the top trends on Twitter.
PM Modi's alleged silence over the Sterlite shooting in Tuticorin in which 13 anti-Sterlite protesters were shot dead by the police; the centre's reported pro-Karnataka approach in the Cauvery waters issue, particularly over the Mekedatu reservoir project across Cauvery which farmers in the state claim will deny them their share of Cauvery waters; and the implementation of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test or NEET for medical admission abolishing the state's Class 12 marks-based system for selection are some other issues that have left the southern state seething.
"We are not behind this. This reflects people's anger. The construction of the AIIMS hospital should have started two years ago and by now it should have become functional. Why did they delay the project? This foundation laying is just a gimmick before polls," DMK spokesperson A Saravanan told NDTV.
This is the second time that the Prime Minister is facing this kind of an online backlash. In April last year, when he had visited Chennai for the Defence Expo, #GoBackModi had trended. Hundreds of protesters belonging to opposition parties had let black balloons in the air then.
The Prime Minister had to use a chopper to attend an event at the IIT Madras to avoid protesters. At the time, the centre's alleged delay in constituting the Cauvery Management Board in view of the Karnataka assembly elections had triggered the anger.
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), party sources said, will lead a protest against PM Modi in Madurai today, several kilometres from the venues.
The BJP has a negligible presence in Tamil Nadu and after Jayalalithaa's death in 2016, many say that the party is exploiting the weak leadership in the AIADMK to forge an alliance for the upcoming national election.
They also claim that the state BJP is aiming to milk the proposed Rs 1,264 crore hospital project.
But the BJP has dismissed the online anger as a "paid campaign". BJP spokesperson Thirupathy Narayanan told NDTV, "This is a paid campaign by many groups online. We know who they are and we are ignoring the campaign."
There are also some voices that see the anti-Modi campaign to be unfair.
Political analyst Dr Sumanth C Raman tweeted: "Trending #GobackModi on this occasion is IMHO wrong. PM is coming tomorrow (Sunday) to lay the foundation stone for what one hopes will be a premier medical Institute in TN, the AIIMS. There hv been occasions for TN to feel aggrieved & let down by his Govt but this is not one of them".
The Prime Minister will also visit Kochi in Kerala today and unveil a plaque at an integrated refinery expansion complex of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited. He will also lay the foundation stone for a petrochemical complex at the same venue, inaugurate a mounded storage vessel at an LPG bottling plant of the Indian Oil Corporation Limited in Kochi and lay the foundation stone for skill development institute at Ettumanoor in Kottayam.