THE POLITICAL picture on the ground may be hazy but for Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and alliance partner Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the battle lines are getting clearer, and their attack turning sharper. On Monday, the two leaders addressed the first joint rally in eastern UP, and for the 35 minutes that they spoke, the other big opponent, Mayawati, was mentioned only once — by Akhilesh, who succeeded the BSP chief as CM.
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On dais, the two fiercely attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and indicated that their friendship will continue after the elections. On ground, workers of their parties showed signs of getting along.
“This is an alliance of two youngsters that will work to form the government in UP and change the country’s direction,” Akhilesh said at the rally held near the picturesque Ramgarh lake.
Taking over from where Akhilesh left, Rahul said, “Modi is tired. Akhileshji, let’s give him some rest: you become the chief minister of UP…. Let’s lighten his burden, let him relax. Then, in 2019, poora ka poora bojh utaarke unko baahar bhej denge (we will take all his load in next Lok Sabha elections and send him out).”
The focus on Modi, and the BJP, is explicable. In seats in and around Gorakhpur at least, the alliance is facing a stiff challenge from BJP.
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Mocking the BJP as “achhe dinwale (merchants of good days)”, Akhilesh said most people across the country have heard the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat radio programme. “But has anyone understood his mann ki baat (what’s on his mind)? We want to ask the Prime Minister: when will you talk about kaam (work) ki baat?”
While Rahul did not mention Mayawati at all, Akhilesh referred to her towards the end of his 15-minute speech, almost as an afterthought. “By the way,” he said, referring to tens of statues built in Mayawati’s tenure, “beware of a leader who had run a government of stones. That person has started talking about development of late. Look at their stones – elephants and her own statues. What kind of development can you expect from her? Although she is my bua (aunt), she has celebrated raksha bandhan with the BJP on several occasions.”
Continuing his war of words with Modi over the donkey remark — Modi also took a swipe at Akhilesh on Monday on the issue at a rally in Mau — the UP chief minister said, “They (BJP) are saying that the UP chief minister does not know about the donkey’s qualities…I said I don’t want to know…tell me who wants to know about the qualities donkeys?” On demonetisation, both leaders said the move ruined people’s lives.