New Delhi/Ahmedabad: On the last day of Gujarat poll campaign, a combative Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi predicted a “zabardast” (tremendous) win for the party due to a strong undercurrent against the ruling BJP. He also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his comments insinuating that his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, colluded with Pakistan to influence the outcome of state polls.
“The Congress will win the election... the results will be zabardast,” said Mr Gandhi.
Winding up his nearly three-month campaign trail ahead of the final phase of voting on December 14, Mr Gandhi also raised the issue of atrocities against dalits in Gujarat that have made them insecure. He cited last year’s Una incident in which young Dalit men were flogged for skinning a dead cow.
“This is the first time that I am seeing that all communities are angry with one government. Patidars, tribals, dalits and backward communities are all agitating. There is zabardast (tremendous) undercurrent (against the BJP)… Public mood has undergone zabardast change,” he said.
“Modiji is silent on Una’s tragic incident, but who will take the responsibility for it. A number of laws were made in the name of dalits, but who will execute them earnestly,” he said on Twitter.
In his first press conference after being declared elected as the Congress president, Mr Gandhi said in Ahmedabad that Mr Modi’s comments on Dr Singh were “unacceptable”.
The Congress president-elect said what his party colleague Mani Shankar Aiyar had said about Mr Modi was not right, but, at the same time, what Mr Modi said about the former Prime Minister was also not acceptable. Addressing an election rally on Sunday, Mr Modi had sought to suggest that Pakistan was trying to influence the Assembly polls in the state and accused Dr Singh of being part of the plan.
“Narendra Modiji is my political opponent. He says 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,” Mr Gandhi said.
“I want to change the political discourse. It has become ugly, it has become nasty. The atmosphere is filled with anger,” he added.
Elaborating on his plans for the party, Mr Gandhi said that he would like to spread the Congress’ ideology in the country that politics should be done through “love”.
On questions about his temple visits, a rudraksh-sporting Mr Gandhi asked what was wrong in visiting temples.
“Mandir jana mana hai kya (Am I not allowed to visit temple)?” he said, adding that he had prayed for the well being of the people.
Mr Gandhi said that the Prime Minister, unlike in the past, had refrained from speaking on corruption in these polls. “It is for the first time in an election that Modiji has not spoken about corruption... about farmers,” said the Congress president-elect.
Mr Modi has also remained silent on allegations of financial wrongdoings against Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah and the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal, Mr Gandhi added.
Denying allegations that the Congress was playing caste politics in Gujarat by seeking support of caste and community group leaders like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor, Mr Gandhi said, “The Congress wants to take along all sections of Gujarat together as against the BJP which has worked for 10 to 15 industrialists.”
Flanked by Gujarat PCC chief Bharatsinh Solanki and state in-charge Ashok Gehlot, Mr Gandhi said, “The BJP has lost its position... After the first phase of voting in the state, we are confident that we are going to form the government here,” he said.
The Congress leader’s post highlighting insecurity among dalits was part of his “a question a day” series on social media launched in the run up to the Gujarat elections.
Mr Gandhi also thanked the voters on the last day of campaigning. “Dear people of Gujarat, you all gave me your support, affection and respect. We will always be indebted for the blessings you have showered upon me and Congress. I will always be at your disposal for Gujarat’s bright future. Thank you, Gujarat,” tweeted Mr Gandhi.
The second and final phase of elections will see 93 Assembly seats spread across 14 districts in north and central Gujarat going to polls.
The first phase of voting for the 182-member house held on December 9 covered 89 seats. The results will be declared on December 18.