THE CAR in which Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi visited the flood-affected areas of Dhanera and Kankrej in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district was hit by a stone, which cracked the vehicle’s rear left window, triggering a war of words between his party and the ruling BJP.
The Congress leadership in Gujarat and Delhi alleged that the car was attacked by BJP workers, who also raised black flags during Gandhi’s visit. BJP leaders in Gujarat condemned the attack but described the visit as a “political stunt” ahead of assembly elections in the state.
The Congress has called for a statewide agitation on Saturday to protest the attack. In Delhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the attack and said political violence has no place in a functioning democracy. Reacting to the incident, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani posted on Twitter: “I condemn the unfortunate attack on Rahul Gandhi’s convoy. I have instructed officers to take strict action against those responsible.”
Gujarat MoS for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said the Chief Minister has ordered a probe by ADGP Mohan Jha into the incident, which occurred while Gandhi was moving towards the helipad at Dhanera. Later, Gandhi told a gathering of Congress workers and flood victims at Runi village in Kankrej: “A stone was thrown and back flags were shown, but these don’t affect me. The job is done.”
Protesting against the attack, a group of Congress workers blocked traffic and burnt tyres in Patan. Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi alleged that “the attacked was planned by BJP” and said his party’s state general secretary Lalji Desai had lodged a complaint with police.
According to Doshi, the complaint sought the registration of an FIR against four BJP workers on charges under section 307 (attempt to murder) and 120 (b) (conspiracy). Banaskantha SP Niraj Badgujar didn’t respond to requests for comment. In his brief speech, Gandhi said, “The last few days have been very painful, land has been washed away, animals killed… I met a family that lost 17 members. I will take up these issues in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to pressure the government to help the affected people.”
Gandhi was accompanied by senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot and state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki. Earlier, addressing a gathering in Dhanera, Gandhi said, “You are facing a crisis and so I wanted to come to see you. I wanted to hug all those whose houses were flooded. My party will do everything to help you all.” As he was speaking, a few people, alleged to be BJP supporters, reached the spot, waving back flags.
In Delhi, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “The damage done to the motorcade and security personnel injured clearly shows that it was a well organised attack on Rahul Gandhi to harm him physically.” “This is being deliberately done by the BJP to create an atmosphere of fear in the state of Gujarat just before the assembly elections,” he said.
Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi called the attack “appalling and reprehensible”. He alleged that Gandhi was attacked with “cement bricks” by BJP workers when he was passing through Lal Chowk in the Dhanera area. “The SPG personnel accompanying him suffered minor injuries. Glass panes were broken. It was a dastardly attack for no reason other than the fact that Gandhi dares to visit a flood affected area in Gujarat,” he said. Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani alleged that the state government had arranged a bullet proof vehicle for Gandhi but he chose to travel in a private car.