Gandhinagar: Commerce and art formed the central theme of principal opponents Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-chief Rahul Gandhi who were locked in a poll duel in Gujarat on Wednesday. If Modi was invoking commerce by laying out benefits of their ”man” ruling in Delhi, Gandhi compared him to a consummate actor and gave him more marks than megastar Amitabh Bachchan.
Both Modi and Gandhi were in Saurashtra and the war of words between the two turned more acrid and personal, taking poll-related public engagements at the highest level to a new low. The Prime Minister who addressed rallies at Morbi, Prachi in Somnath district and Palitana in Bhavnagar district before moving to Navsari in South Gujarat said that business-minded Gujaratis who pursue profit should not let go of the opportunity to benefit from the rule of their man in Delhi.
“When you elect a government of his party, the entire country’s government will be at your service. Do not let go of this opportunity,” he said while addressing a rally at Morbi which has switched from being a BJP bastion to a Patidar pro-quota sympathiser and an opponent of the GST due to it being a ceramic industry hub of the state.
Taking off from Rahul’s description of GST as ”Gabbar Singh tax”, Modi said that those who had looted the country could only invoke the name of dacoits. “We are open to suggestions and corrections and when you took up the issue we reduced GST on ceramics by 10 per cent,” he said. He also spoke of the dam disaster in Morbi in 1979 and said that while he was personally present and RSS workers were doing yeoman service, Mrs Indira Gandhi was moving around the area with a handkerchief held to her nose.
Rahul who is in the region for the next two days, paid back in kind, taking a swipe at the artistic ‘capabilities of Modi’. “Let me point out to you, Modiji will have tears in his eyes like the days after demonetisation when he cried and said that if black money does not come before December 31, you can hang Narendra Modi in public. He will have tears on December 19 and maybe two or three times even before that date. He acts better than Amitabh Bachchan who needs to wear contact lens. Modiji does not even need these lenses,” the Congress vice-chief said while speaking at Savarkundla in Amreli district.
Just around the time that Gandhi was praying at Somnath temple, Modi was lashing out at his great grandfather, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. “It was Nehru who wrote to President Rajendra Prasad advising him not to attend the function organised by Sardar Patel to celebrate reconstruction of the Somnath temple. You had a problem with Sardar over rebuilding Somnath and now even the Narmada project. The land of Somnath will not forgive you,” he added.
If Modi chose to dwell on the past, Rahul was quick to lunge into him in the present. “’Modiji and Jaitleyji say that it is not their policy to waive off farm loans. They have no qualms about farmers dying but won’t raise the MSP. We will waive farm loans within 10 days of coming to power in Gujarat,” Rahul asserted.
Knowing fully well that Saurashtra is a groundnut and cotton growing region, he touched upon the issue of MSP to farmers. “When the UPA was in power, the cotton price was Rs 1200 and Modiji demanded Rs 2000.Today, it is his government and cotton prices have fallen to Rs 800. Similar is the situation with the groundnut crop,” he added.
Rahul also launched a social media campaign “Gujarat Mange Jawab” (Gujarat demands an answer) wherein he would place one question a day on his social media platform for the Prime Minister to answer. On the first day, Rahul Gandhi’s question was regarding Modi’s promise during the 2012 state assembly election campaign to provide 50 lakh new houses in five years. “You have built 4.72 lakh houses in these five years. Please tell us whether you will take 45 more years to complete this promise?”