Solapur: Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah on Sunday virtually sounded a bugle for upcoming assembly polls in Maharashtra by raising the withdrawal of Article 370 and launching a two-pronged attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Shah also said Maharashtra will be the first state in the country where elections will be held after nullification of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a campaign rally in Latur district of Maharashtra on April 9 had appealed to first-time voters to dedicate their votes in the name of the Balakot air strike heroes and the soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack.
Shah was in the south Maharashtra city to attend a rally on the occasion of culmination of the second leg of the 'Mahajanadesh Yatra', launched on August 1 by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
He also took a dig at the Congress and the NCP over a string of leaders from both the parties crossing over to the ruling BJP on the eve of elections.
I ask Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar to make their stand clear on our decision to abrogate Article 370 and 35 (A) of the Constitution before they go for campaigning in Maharashtra," Shah said.
In a major decision, the Centre had last month announced bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, which was later approved by Parliament.
"Maharashtra would be the first state where elections will be held after the decision of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 (A) was taken in the both houses of Parliament. This election will decide whether people are with us or not on this decision," he said.
Shah said Jammu and Kashmir has become "part of India completely" only because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"So many prime ministers came and gone but none had the courage to take such a decision. Sardar Patel (first Home Minister) was given the responsibilities to merge some 300 princely states into India but he was not given the charge of Jammu and Kashmir during Partition," recalled Shah.
Taking a swipe at Rahul Gandhi, Shah said, "He talks about violence in Kashmir, but I can assure you about not firing a single bullet or a tear gas shell. Whatever Rahulbaba says is being used by Pakistan to make a case before the United Nations. I wonder for which country he is speaking like that".
He also attacked Rahul for "seeking evidence" about the surgical strike and the Balakot airstrike by the Indian Air Force in Paskistani territory.
"Now, the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, himself has admitted that the surgical strike and airstrike had taken place. If he (Rahul Gandhi) cannot support his own country, at least he can keep his mouth shut," said the BJP president.
Shah also invoked late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a former prime minister and BJP patriarch, to stress that the party has always supported nationalism.
"There have been instances in the past when (late) Atal Bihari Vajpayee had supported the Bangladesh freedom war.
He had represented the Jammu and Kashmir issue when Congress leader P V Narasimha Rao was the prime minister. There are many other similar instances.
"The BJP has always stood with the country on national issues. I had hoped similar response from the Opposition during abrogation of the Article 370," Shah said.
In a dig, Shah said if the BJP opens its door "completely", the NCP and the Congress will be left only with Sharad Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan.
"If the BJP opens its door completely, except Sharad Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan (a former chief minister of Maharashtra and Congress leader), no one will remain in their respective parties," Shah said.
He also questionned Pawar's "contribution" in providing financial aid to farmers in Maharashtra when the latter was a minister in the erstwhile UPA government at the Centre.
"Pawar should call a press conference and give the details of how much financial help he had given so far to Maharashtra.
"In the 13th Finance Commission, Pawar could bring only Rs 1.15 lakh crore to Maharashtra as against Narendra Modi government, which had given Rs 2.86 lakh crore. It is more than two-and-a-half times of assistance that Pawar had brought for Maharashtra," Shah added.
Several leaders from the opposition Congress and NCP have joined either the BJP or the Sena in the recent weeks ahead of the polls due in October.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took a dig at the Congress and the NCP over their EVM tampering allegations by equating them with a "dim-witted child, who blames a faulty pen for flunking an exam".