Gandhinagar: The emotional pitch that was expected in the penultimate days of campaigning marked the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 3-day election tour of his home state on Monday when he asserted that he has a spotless political career and the people of the state would not forgive those who are insulting this ‘son of Gujarat’.
Prime Minister Modi who began his tour from Kutch after paying obeisance at the ‘Mata no Madh’ temple said that Gujarat is his mother and ‘‘I am its son. You (people) have helped me grow, you inculcated in me the knowledge to differentiate between good and bad, you gave me strength and nurtured me to achieve new heights.
How dare you (the Opposition) come to Gujarat and defame its son? Will any Gujarati forgive those who defame a son of Gujarat? No Gujarati will tolerate this insult”, said Modi, addressing a rally in Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kutch.
He also asked the Congress not to mock his “poor origins”. “The Congress dislikes me because of my poor origins. Can a party stoop so low? Yes, a person belonging to a poor family has become the PM. Yes, I sold tea, but I did not sell the nation,” Modi said latching on to the ‘Chaiwala’ meme, referring to the numerous scams under the UPA government.
Modi, who addressed rallies in Jasdan town of Rajkot district, Dhari in Amreli district and Kamrej in Surat district, kept blowing hot and cold but directed his vitriol at the Congress which constitutes the BJP’s main opponent in Gujarat. Polling to the 182 seats will be held in two phases on December 9 and 14 and counting on December 18.While 89 seats of Saurashtra and South Gujarat will go to polls in the first phase, the remaining 93 constituencies in central and northern Gujarat will vote in the second phase.
If Modi was emotional in Kutch, he was vituperative in Surat when he said that the Congress was so confident of victory that they began to call Gujaratis donkeys. ‘‘And now they are coming here to seek support. Nobody can insult the people of Gujarat like this,” he added. The prime minister seemed to be taking liberty with facts because the observation about Gujarat being the home of the wild ass was made by socialist party leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Modi said that the arrogance of the Congress is at an all-time high but they do not realize that times have changed and the youth sees things very differently from the time the Congress ruled in Gujarat 22 years ago.
In Jasdan, the prime minister accused the Congress of indulging in caste politics and said pitting one caste against the other was an old Congress habit. ‘‘The people must ensure that they do not destroy the composite culture of Gujarat”, he added.
Modi said that the Congress has spared no effort to neglect the Patidar community. ‘‘When Keshubhai Patel, a son of Saurashtra, became the chief minister, the Congress spared no effort to dislodge him. They did the same with chief minister Anandiben Patel, a daughter of the Patel community; the Congress has always defamed Gujarat,’’ he added
Ironically the remark came on a day when the last list of BJP candidates was declared and Ms Patel did not find a mention in it. Though she had earlier conveyed her desire not to contest the polls but the BJP list today gave a short shrift to her camp followers in the selection of candidates.
Modi further accused the Congress vice president of applauding the release of a terrorist in Pakistan and asked why he hugged the Chinese ambassador during the Dokalam standoff. “You are happy to hug the Chinese ambassador, you are clapping at the release of Hafiz Saeed, you cannot respect Indian Army’s surgical strike… But why did you speak about it? You could have just remained silent,” he said in Bhuj, not specifying how and where Gandhi had hailed Saeed’s release.
Even as Modi exuded confidence that the BJP would win 152 of the 182 seats, the party announced its last list of 34 candidates on the final day of filing of nominations.
The Congress was quick to issue a rebuttal, saying that Modi was just using the controversy to gain sympathy ahead of the election. “Narendra Modi is an expert in marketing. When a person holds a post, discussions are done on his performance and not his economic status. He is saying such things to gain sympathy ahead of the election,” Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, said. Former union minister Anand sharma also hit back and gave the Prime Minister a history lesson. “Maybe he forgot that Lal Bahadur Shastri belonged to a poor family. Manmohan Singh came to India as a refugee and was from a poor family, too. The PM must recall Indira Gandhi’s slogan of ‘garibi hatao’. She nationalised banks so poor can get money easily,” he said.