With one day to go before campaigning for the first phase of the Gujarat election ends, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge were among a plethora of political heavyweights to address rallies in the state on Monday.
Modi, who held four rallies in the Saurashtra region, said Gujarat had suffered under the Congress’s “divide and rule” policy until the people of the state united against “divisive forces” more than 20 years ago.
“Our mantra is peace, unity and harmony. The root cause of Gujarat’s progress is the unity here. On the other hand, Congress’s core ideology is to divide and rule — making people fight among themselves so that its interests are protected. This was Congress’s trick,” Modi said at a rally for the BJP at Palitana in Bhavnagar district. He said that the Congress made Marathas and Gujaratis fight each other before Gujarat became a separate state, and added that after the state was formed, the party caused rifts among various regions, communities and sects.
Seeing through the Congress’s “trick”, he said, the people of Gujarat went on to adopt a path of unity and choose the BJP to govern the state. “Thanks to walking the path of unity, Gujarat has been progressing constantly for the past 20 years unlike in the times when bombs used to explode in markets and temples, and when an atmosphere of insecurity prevailed,” the Prime Minister said. The BJP formed a government in Gujarat for the first time in 1995, and Narendra Modi became chief minister of the state in 2001, staying on in the post until he became Prime Minister in 2014.
Shah addressed rallies in Mehsana, Aravalli, Ahmedabad and Vadodara, and accused the Congress of “disrupting peace”. He alleged that during Congress rule, the state saw communal riots and curfews. In Ahmedabad, Shah said the BJP converted it from a city of “badshahs and begums” to “Karnavati”. Changing the name of Ahmedabad to Karnavati, after the legendary king Karnadev Solanki, has been on the BJP’s agenda since the 1990s.
“They (Congress) orchestrated Hindu-Muslim riots and ensured that there was a curfew for 250 of the 365 days… Bombs used to be found from homes of their Cabinet ministers and 200 people would get stabbed daily in Ahmedabad jail. In 2001, when Narendrabhai became the chief minister, noone had the courage to cast an evil eye on the rath yatra of Lord Jagannath… The Congress had backed rioters always and so in 2002, they (miscreants) made another attempt to create a riot. But they were taught such a lesson that they never lifted their heads again,” Shah said.
Also appearing at rallies in the state for the BJP on Monday were Union ministers Smriti Irani and Parshottam Rupala, as well as Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, and actor-turned-politician Paresh Rawal.
Kejriwal held a townhall with diamond workers in Surat, and also addressed a roadshow in Katargam, which was hit by stone-pelting, according to the AAP. Kejriwal appealed to the people to vote the AAP to power for five years and said that even to those who pelted stones, he would give “free electricity and education to your children”.
The AAP, which is fighting on 182 seats, saw two of its candidates withdraw their nominations, of which the Abdasa candidate Vasant Khetani joined BJP on Monday.
Addressing a public rally at Behrampura on Monday, Congress president Kharge targeted the BJP for failing to provide jobs in Gujarat and for paper leaks, while also taking a dig at the party for deploying PM Modi, Union ministers and chief ministers at the Gujarat election campaign.
“If the BJP believed it was winning in Gujarat, then Modiji, who should have been in Delhi working for the central government, would not have left it to tour the alleys of the state, visiting every Assembly segment of Gujarat. He is going to every ward of Gujarat. He is going, Shah is going, four-five other chief ministers are going, more than 40 Union ministers are going…Because they got to know people are against them and they can see it…I’ve been seeing that votes are sought in the name of Modiji, be it municipality elections, corporation elections (or Assembly elections)…Ask for vote in the name of the candidate…is Modi going to come and work at the municipality? Is he going to help you in times of your need?” Kharge said.
Sarma again brought up the Shraddha Walkar murder case on Monday in Ahmedabad. “So, it is my clear allegation that Congress has given the country an ecosystem where such incidents of ‘love jihad’ have become very easy. And people like Aaftab were under the impression that there is still a Congress government… Therefore, I believe that the country needs a law against ‘love jihad’. And it can be possible only in the BJP government under the leadership of Narendra Modi.”