Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday asked party workers not to make personal attacks on Narendra Modi and “maintain the respect of the Prime Minister’s Office”, even as he continued to target the PM over the issues of GST, demonetisation and corruption. Rahul said that the BJP’s “carpet-bombing” efforts to win Gujarat elections would fail in the face of a “tsunami” in the favour of his party.
As part of his ongoing Navsarjan Yatra ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections in December, the Congress leader toured Banaskantha and Patan districts on Sunday and visited local shines and met seers.
Rahul targeted Chief Minister Vijay Rupani over the SEBI imposing fine on his firm for alleged manipulative share trade, and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out on the controversy following The Wire report on 16,000 times jump in the turnover of Jay Shah’s firm in the year following the BJP’s election to power at the Centre in 2014.
At a public meeting in Patan late in the evening, Rahul started his speech by raising slogan: “Jay Sardar, Jay Mataji and Jai Bhim” — identified with the communities of the Patidar, the OBCs and the Dalits, respectively. Both Patan and Banaskantha have significant population of these communities.
He then went on to say that Gujarat is a state “where every community was unhappy”. Rahul said that the BJP “oppressed” Gujarat for 22 years, “intimidated it and now, every community is protesting, Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor, Jignesh Mevani.tribal youths.all communities are protesting.there is plunder right before the PM’s eyes.”
Criticising the Modi government over its demonetisation move and also raising the issue of corruption, he said: “When the people were queuing up outside banks, the thieves of India were collecting their black money behind the scenes. Hindustan ke choron, ne aapki madad se apna pura kala dhan safed kar diya (all the thieves of India, with your help, turned their black money into white).He hit Gujarat the hardest”.
Earlier, interacting with the Gujarat Congress’s IT Cell team at Ambaji — a religious centre in Banaskantha district, Rahul said: “You are the guerilla army. Now, they say (BJP) ‘we will carpet bomb from above’. Aap upar se carpet bombing karo, hum neeche se apko saaf kar denge (You do carpet bombing and we will sweep you out from beneath). This is the reality in Gujarat… Modiji helicopter mein and neeche se tsunami (PM Narendra Modi in helicopter and tsunami on the ground). You will get to know this in December.”
Rahul and Congress’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot also lauded the party’s social media managers for popularising the Vikas Gando Thayo Che (vikas has gone crazy) campaign mocking the BJP’s claim of development in the state during its 22-year rule. But, they said that the party had to stop the campaign because it could have hurt the dignity of Prime Minister’s Office.
“Such was the success of our vikas pagal hai campaign that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to come out and claim that he is vikas and he is Gujarat. At that the point Rahul Gandhi wrote to me and said we should ask our team members to stop this campaign as PM’s Office has a dignity, and we need to respect that,” Geholt told the gathering.
Later, Rahul confirmed that he wrote to Gehlot. “Yes, it’s correct. I sent an e-mail to him and said that let us catch Narendra Modi’s mistakes, disturb the BJP, but keep the respect of PM’s Office. Remember, when Narendra Modiji was in the Opposition, how he used to disrespect the PM. This is the difference between them and us. We will not go beyond a point, but this is the truth that in Gujarat vikas pagal ho gaya hai… ye jhooth nahi hai,” the Congress vice-president said.
Asked about his growing number of followers on Twitter, Rahul on a lighter note said: “As I have said, Pidi tweets.” He was referring to the recent social media uproar over his Twitter post introducing his dog named Pidi. He further said: “Whatever I have to say, I discuss with my team members, give some suggestions and after some fine-tuning we say it on Twitter.” He, however, maintained that “these (political tweets) are my own views”.
Asked how he tackled social media campaign against him, Rahul said, “You know who Shiva was,” in what could have been a reference to the Hindu god consuming poison to save the universe.
He further said: “No matter how much money the BJP puts in destroying my image, my truth will not change and will people will see that.” Continuing with his criticism of demonetisation and the current form of GST, the Congress leader said: “Whose fault was demonetisation and GST. It was clear cut Narendra Modi’s mistake. But, did he even say one word that yes perhaps he committed a little mistake?”
He also alleged that the media have been controlled by Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. “Narendra Modi has the Delhi (central) government, police, Army, Air Force, and the media. Not mediaspersons — they want to promote truth, but they (the BJP) control from behind… Narendra Modi’s and Amit Shah’s control (the media) from behind. Like radio’s fine-tuning, Modi does fine-tuning of truth…. You are independent, so whatever comes in your mind, you can upload it on the social media. We do not have much but the truth,” Rahul said.
On alleged corruption in Gujarat, Rahul said: “The SEBI has said Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is corrupt and penalised him, and Amit Shah’s Jay Shah(zada)jyada kha gaya.” The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has fined 22 entities, including Rupani’s Hindu Undivided Family, for alleged manipulative trading in the shares of a company during the January-June 2011 period. Rupani has rejected the allegations and the Securities Appellate Tribunal has set aside the fine of Rs 6.91 crore imposed on 22 entities, including his firm.
Later speaking at Palanpur, Rahul said: “Gujarat mein pure desh me sabse jayada brashtachar hai (Most corruption cases are in Gujarat). Modiji please tell how Jay converted Rs 50,000 into Rs 80 crore (referring to The Wire report on Jay Shah’s company’s turnover)… people want to hear (from the PM) else they will think that you are not a chaukidar (a watchman) but bhagidar (partner in corruption).”
Rahul met Sadaram Bapa, 108-year-old spiritual head of Thakor Samaj in Totana village of Kankrej taluka in Banaskantha. Bapa has been spearheading a de-addiction campaign for several years. He also visited Valinath temple in Thara. The ancient Shiv temple is considered an important religious centre for the shepherd community in Gujarat.