Updated: December 12, 2017 11:20:11 pm
There is “tremendous undercurrent” against the BJP in Gujarat, Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi claimed today, and predicted a “zabardast” victory for his party in the Assembly elections.
Addressing a press conference on the last day of campaigning for the second phase of the poll on December 14, he claimed “public mood” had undergone a radical change with all sections of society angry with the ruling party.
He also disapproved of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s insinuation that his predecessor Manmohan Singh and other leaders of his party connived with Pakistan to influence the Gujarat Assembly elections, saying it was unacceptable. “It is for the first time in an election that Modiji has not spoken about corruption…about farmers. There is (zabardast) tremendous undercurrent (against the BJP). Be it Patidars, OBCs, Dalits, farmers….all are angry. Public mood has undergone ‘zabardast’ change.
“The Congress will win the election….the results will be ‘zabardast’,” a confident-looking Gandhi said.
Gandhi, addressing his first presser after his elevation, said, in his new job, he would strive to change the nature of political discourse in the country which has become “ugly and nasty”. He questioned Modi’s silence on allegations against BJP president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, a charge the Gandhi scion raked up repeatedly at the hustings, and alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal. News portal ‘The Wire’ had claimed some time ago that the turnover of a company owned by Jay Shah jumped manifold after the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014.
Replying to a question on Modi’s remarks over Pakistan meddling in the Gujarat polls, Gandhi said, “I have made my stand clear from day one, in words and in action. Modiji is the prime minister of our country. Mani Shankar Aiyar said something and I made it clear that I would not tolerate it. You have seen the action.” “But what Modiji has said about former prime minister Manmohan Singh is not acceptable. Manmohan Singhji was also the prime minister of this country, served and made sacrifices for this country,” the 47-year-old leader said.
Addressing an election rally in Palanpur in Gujarat on Sunday, Modi had sought to suggest that Pakistan was trying to influence the assembly polls in the state. Modi claimed some current and former Pakistani officials and Manmohan Singh met at Aiyar’s house over dinner on December 6, and a day later Aiyar made the “neech” jibe against him. Aiyar was suspended from the party. “Narendra Modiji is my political opponent. He speaks many wrong things about me. But as he is the prime minister of the country, not a single bad word will come out of my mouth for him.
“I want to change the political discourse. It has become ugly, it has become nasty. The atmosphere is filled with anger,” he noted.
Gandhi said he would like to spread the Congress’s ideology in the country that politics should be done through “love”. He was replying to question about what will be his priority after taking over the reins of the party. He said the prime minister refrained from speaking about corruption during the entire campaign. The Congress leader also took on those who raised eyebrows over his visits to temples in Gujarat, wondering if it was wrong to pray for the well-being of people of the state. “Mandir jana mana hai kya (Am I not allowed to visit temple)? I have asked for the well-being of the people of Gujarat during my temple visits,” Gandhi said, responding to a question.
When his attention was drawn to claims by BJP leaders that he only visited temples in Gujarat, the Congress leader said, “Earlier, I had gone to Kedarnath. Is Kedarnath in Gujarat? This is the BJP’s propaganda against me.” Gandhi started his day by offering prayers at the famous Lord Jagannath temple here.
Taking a jibe at Modi over his sea-plane ride from the Sabarmati River here to Dharoi Dam in Mehsana district, Gandhi said it was a distraction from the main issues of Gujarat. Asked how will his party give reservation to the Patel community, a section of which is on warpath with the BJP government, breaching the cap of 50 per cent set by the Supreme court, Gandhi said, “The Congress party’s manifesto is clear about it.”
Gandhi refuted allegations of BJP leaders that Congress was playing caste politics in the elections by enlisting support of caste and community group leaders like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor. “The Congress wants to take along all sections of Gujarat together as against the BJP which has worked for 10 to 15 industrialists. All sections of society are angry with the BJP and that anger is coming out before this election,” he said.
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