The tug of war between Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah has taken a new turn as both leaders took their political battle to each other’s citadels, exchanging barbed attacks over corruption and development ahead of the crucial Gujarat Assembly elections.
Ahead of his appointment as Congress President, a decision announced by the party recently, Rahul’s two-day ‘Navsarjan Yatra’ across Central Gujarat assumed
political significance as up till now he had failed to rein in the growing influence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led campaign of the BJP that has assumed power in 17 states of the country.
Interacting with university students in Modi’s home turf Vadodara on October 10, Rahul targeted the RSS, saying, “You know who the parent organisation of the BJP is? It is the RSS. It is their idea that as long as women remain silent, they are good. The moment a woman opens her mouth, they want to shut her up. Have you seen a single woman at a RSS Shakha wearing shorts? I have never seen any. Why aren’t women allowed in RSS? They (BJP) have so many women in the party, but I have not seen a single woman in the RSS. What mistake have they made?”
His remarks created a furore with former Gujarat chief minister Anandi Ben Patel and Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani seeking an apology from him for what they alleged was a derogatory statement towards women. The Gujarat unit of RSS also took exception to the remark about “women in shorts”. In a statement, the Sangh said, “The inappropriate comment made by Rahul Gandhi is extremely hurtful. He should apologise for the same.”
After news portal The Wire made startling revelations about his son’s business making enormous financial gains since the BJP came to power at the Centre, party chief Shah tried to divert national attention towards the political nursery and Lok Sabha constituency of Amethi, from where Gandhi scions including Rahul have been winning elections after elections. This was exactly at the time when Rahul was attacking Prime Minister Modi for his economic policies at his home turf Vadodara alleging that the common man and businessmen are worst sufferers of demonetisation, GST, sharp hike in petrol and diesel prices. In his road shows,
Rahul is pulling unprecedented huge crowds in Gujarat, the home bastion of the Modi-Shah duo, where polls are scheduled for December this year.
Interacting with university students in Vadodara, the Congress vice-president asserted that the foundation of inflation was the increase in petrol and diesel prices and that the ruling government should include fuel prices in the items listed under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime for taxation, responding to a question on fuel price hike. He added that there would be an inflationary impact of the GST in the coming days.
Earlier in Ahmedabad, Rahul targeted the Prime Minister over his silence on The Wire report. “This is a strange world. In 2014, the company was nothing. Modiji came (to power in 2014) and then introduced demonetisation and GST. This destroyed small businessmen and farmers. But from this fire, one company comes up. It was nothing in 2014, but in a few months it became so big that this company’s worth of 50,000 rose to 80 crore,” he told a gathering in Kheda district.
Recalling Modi’s assertion that he would neither engage in graft nor allow it to happen, Rahul said, “Now, when Amit Shah’s son’s company has grown 16,000 times, Modiji has gone silent. Modiji had also said (before the elections) that he does not want to become Prime Minister and be the ‘Chowkidar’ (watchman) of the country’s wealth. Now, where has the Chowkidar gone?”
Rahul later tweeted through his official Twitter account: “Modi ji, Jay Shah ‘jada’ kha gaya. Aap chowkidaar the ya bhagidaar? Kuch toh boliye.” (Modiji, Jay Shah has eaten a lot. Are you a gatekeeper or a partner? Say something at least). When a student asked if he thought journalists were unsafe in India, Rahul said, “Why do you think Gauri Lankesh was shot? Do you think truth can be hidden? Journalists are being intimidated, most media houses ignored our press conference on (Amit Shah’s son) Jay Shah.”
When Rahul was attacking PM-Shah duo at their home ground, BJP chief Shah was in a retaliatory mode at Rahul’s traditional strong fort of Amethi, accompanied by Union Minister Smriti Irani and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He slammed Rahul for “mocking” Gujarat’s development and said, “He is mocking the development in Gujarat. I want to ask ‘Shahzada’ of Congress as to what your three generations have given to Amethi? You sought account of our past three years, but people of Amethi are taking account of works done here by your past three generations… He cannot see development because he is wearing Italian spectacles.”
“In 2019 Lok Sabha polls the BJP will win from here, as after losing election I kept serving the people of Amethi by visiting the area from time to time,” Union Minister Irani said. She had made sensational revelation in 2015 when she accused top Congress leadership of usurping nearly 65 acres of land acquired from farmers for setting up a manufacturing unit, Samrat Cycle, a project that never saw light of the day.
Irani, who had led a high-voltage campaign against Rahul in Amethi in 2014, had lost the Lok Sabha poll but made a strong dent in his vote share. Rahul secured 4,08,651 votes against Irani’s 3,00,748. Despite
losing the election, she managed to reduce Rahul’s victory margin from around 3.70 lakh in 2009 to 1.07
lakh in 2014.
“We will leave no stone unturned in developing Amethi or for that matter the entire state,” Adityanath said. Without naming anybody but evidently referring to Rahul and his brother-in-law Robert Vadra, he said no son-in-law or son will be allowed to grab land in the State.
During the meeting, some projects were unveiled for Amethi and a number of foundation stones were laid, days after Rahul during his visit here accused the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state of re-inaugurating projects launched by the previous UPA regime in the district.
BJP is consistently focusing on the seven seats of the total 80 constituencies in UP, where the party or its ally Apna Dal had lost to the Samajwadi Party or Congress. These constituencies include Amethi (Rahul Gandhi) and Raebareli (Sonia Gandhi) won by the Congress whereas the other five seats were won by SP viz. Azamgarh (Mulayam Singh Yadav), Mainpuri (Mulayam, later his grandnephew Tej Pratap Yadav had won the bypoll), Kannauj (Dimple Yadav), Badaun (Dharmendra Yadav) and Ferozabad (Akshay Yadav). All these belong to the extended Yadav family.
On July 29, when Shah had last visited Lucknow, three sitting members of the legislative council (MLC) had resigned to join BJP. Of these, two belonged to Samajwadi Party — Bukkal Nawab and Yashwant Singh, while another, Jaiveer Singh, was a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) member. Later, three more legislators viz. Ashok Bajpai and Sarojini Agarwal (both SP) and Ambika Chaudhary (BSP) had also resigned. Except Chaudhary, all the five MLCs have already joined BJP. The political scenario of the state is being set for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections where BJP is once again reaping its hope on the duel strategy of polarization with a touch of development. Top on the future agenda of the saffron party is Ayodhya where the Ram Mandir card is to be once again played to win the elections.
The views expressed are author’s own