Voters across 89 of 182 constituencies in Gujarat will head to the polling booths Saturday in the first phase of the high-stakes elections to the state assembly. Saurashtra and South Gujarat, which will vote in the first round, have witnessed an acrimonious run-up with attacks turning increasingly personal as the ruling BJP takes on the Congress which has had support from a Patidar outfit.
Prominent among candidates in the fray in the first phase are Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, contesting from Rajkot (West), and Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli). Sparring between the two parties continued Friday as the campaigns moved to constituencies which will vote in the second phase on December 14. In Bhabhar in Banaskantha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, continuing his attacks on Mani Shankar Aiyar for calling him a “neech kisam ka aadmi”, alleged that the Congress veteran, on a trip to Pakistan, gave a “supari” to get him “removed” for peace between the two countries.
Claiming that the Congress tried to suppress this episode and did not take any action against Aiyar, Modi said the party only believes in ‘atkana’ (stall), ‘latkana’ (keep an issue hanging) and ‘bhatkana’ (to lead astray). “Shriman Mani Shankar Aiyar… you know what he did? He gave this ‘gaali’ (abuse) to me or you? Did he abuse me or Gujarat? Did he abuse the cultured society of India or me?” Modi asked. “Let us not talk about that abuse, as people of Gujarat will look into it and give a reply and they (Congress) will know the result on December 18.”
“But, after I became Prime Minister, this man (Aiyar) went to Pakistan and met some Pakistanis. All this is available on social media. In that meeting, he is seen discussing with Pakistanis that ‘jab tak Modi ko raaste se hataya nahi jata’ (until Modi is not removed from the way), relationship between India and Pakistan cannot improve,” Modi said.
“Someone tell me what is the meeting of ‘raaste se hatana’. You had gone to Pakistan to give my ‘supari’, you wanted to give Modi’s ‘supari’ (contract killing),” he said, adding that people should not worry as he had the “protection” of the goddess Ma Ambe.
“This conversation took place three years back. The Congress party had tried to suppress this episode… They did not take any action against him for last three years,” Modi alleged. “What is my crime? This country’s people have elected me in a democratic way, and you go to Pakistan and say that this man is coming in the way and remove him,” he said.
“What Congress has done so far is atkana, latkana and bhatkana. They will either stall, keep an issue hanging or try to lead people astray,” Modi said, adding that the part is not interested in solving people’s problems. “When our brave jawans conducted the surgical strike then, I think all the people of the country felt proud, but only Congress was not happy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Aiyar said he would accept any punishment if the party suffers damage in the Gujarat polls due to his remark against the Prime Minister. “If the Congress has suffered any damage because of what I have said, then I deeply regret it,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an India-Pakistan seminar.
“Aur agar party ko election mei kuchh bhi nuksan hota hai, to jo bhi uchit dand Congress party dena chahe wo de sakte hain (And if the Congress suffers any damage in the polls due to my comments, then I will accept whatever punishment the party deems fit),” he said. Aiyar said the Congress party was doing well in Gujarat under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.