In the high-octane campaign for the final phase of Gujarat elections on December 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi exchanged barbs on Sunday. Hitting out at the Congress, Mr Modi claimed that Pakistan was interfering in Gujarat elections while Mr Gandhi accused the PM of dumping the development agenda. The Congress also dismissed Mr Modi’s remark on Pakistan’s role in Gujarat polls, accusing him of relying “on canards, rumours and lies just for an election”.
Addressing a rally, Mr Modi raised questions over an alleged appeal by former director general of Pakistan Army, Sardar Arshad Rafiq, on making senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel the chief minister of Gujarat.
“Why is Pakistan’s retired Army officer using his brain on what is happening in the Gujarat elections. Don’t all these things raise questions and concern?” he asked.
Attacking suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, who recently called him neech, Mr Modi said, “There were media reports yesterday (on Saturday) about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice-president and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting at Aiyar’s house went on for almost three hours,” Mr Modi said at Palanpur.
“The next day, Mani Shankar Aiyar said ‘Modi is neech’. This is a serious matter,” he said.
Though Mr Modi did not name the former vice-president present at the meeting at Mr Aiyar’s house, BJP president Amit Shah said in Ahmedabad that it was Hamid Ansari.
Mr Shah told reporters that Congress leaders had not informed the ministry of external affairs or the Indian government about the meeting.
Earlier, the Prime Minister exuded confidence on a BJP win in Gujarat. “On December 18 (the day of counting), party leaders will claim on television that Congress lost because of (Mani Shankar) Aiyar’s comment. They won’t say that the party lost because of Rahul. There is an agenda in the Congress — ‘Save Rahul, Save Family’,” he said
While addressing a rally in Kaalol town, Mr Modi accused the Congress of sowing seeds of enmity between various communities for power.
Rebutting Mr Modi’s charge, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted, “ It’s a foregone conclusion that he (Modi) has abdicated the politics of development in both actions and words. But does it befit the stature of the Prime Minister to rely on canards, rumors and lies just for an election? This is very sad.”
Mr Gandhi, while addressing a rally in Kheda district, accused Mr Modi of dumping the development agenda and talking only about himself.
“For 60-70 minutes Modiji talks about himself but does not utter a word about note ban and Gabbar Singh Tax. I was sitting in a tea shop. The tea seller said, ‘Rahulji, I am making Rs 50 instead of Rs 100 I made before GST. He (Modi) has caused us 50 per cent loss’,” Mr Gandhi said.
The Congress V-P, for the last eleven days, has been asking the PM one question a day as part of his Gujarat campaign. Raising the issue in his rally, Mr Gandhi said that the Prime Minister does not reply to my questions.
Mr Gandhi started his campaign on Sunday by offering prayers at Lord Krishna’s Ranchhod Raiji Mandir. In the ongoing Assembly elections, Mr Gandhi has visited several temples to counter BJP’s allegation that the Congress is a pro-minority party. He had started his campaign in September from the Dwarka temple.
The first phase of polling for 89 seats of the 182 member strong Gujarat assembly ended on Saturday. The second phase polling is scheduled for December 14 and the results will be announced on December 18.