Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime minister nominee Narendra Modi on Sunday launched a scathing attack on the Congress over fielding former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, whose name figured in the Adarsh housing society scam, for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Addressing a rally in Nanded, the constituency from which Chavan would contest, Modi also lashed out the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over corruption, women's security and black money stashed abroad.
"(Congress vice-president) Rahul Gandhi says that investigation will take place (against Chavan). The Congress is shameless. Was handing out a ticket your way of conducting an investigation?... shehzade jawab do," he said, adding Chavan was an "Adarsh" Congress candidate.
Chavan was asked to step down from the post of Maharashtra CM in 2010 after his name figured in the Adarsh housing society scam in Mumbai. In December last year, Gandhi had said he did not agree with the state government's decision to reject a probe report on the Adarsh scam. Gandhi's stand against corruption was earlier ridiculed by the BJP leadership in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Touching upon the December 16 gang rape, Modi blamed the central government for neglecting the safety of women and criticised it for the rise in sex crimes in the national capital.
Modi pledged to bring back the black money stashed in foreign banks, saying it should be used for the welfare of the people. "We will reward loyal tax payers when we get back the black money."
Earlier in the day, he addressed two back-to-back rallies in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region and hit out at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, while also asking voters to free India and the state of the NCP as well as the Congress.
The Congress should come clean about the work done in the past 10 years, Modi said, slamming the ruling party for making 'false promises' in its manifesto for the general elections.
About two months after rumours of Modi meeting Maratha strongman Pawar triggered a buzz of new equations, the BJP's PM face said the Union agriculture minister had time to talk about cricket but was "unable to save" farmers.
Besides being at the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India from 2005-2008, Pawar has served as the International Cricket Council from 2010-2012.
At his two rallies in Amravati and Akola of Vidarbha, a region plagued by drought and farmer suicides, Modi stressed the need for farmers' welfare, pointing out the Centre as well as the Congress government in the state had not done enough to script a turnaround.
"The agriculture minister is from here, yet he is unable to save farmers. Let us have a NCP-free India and Maharashtra," he said in Amravati.
Modi once again invoked Independent India's second PM Lal Bahadur Shastri's 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan' slogan, and said under the present government, it had become 'Mar Jawan Mar Kisan'.
In Akola, the Gujarat chief minister said the 'winds of change' would trigger a tsunami soon, sweeping away the people who had 'sold and looted' the country.
Without naming Rahul Gandhi, Modi directed his attack on 'shehzade', saying, "Does the shehzade know the pain of sleeping without shelter on cold nights?"
He told the rally that 'shehzade' had come to Gujarat to counter the claims of development before the state's assembly elections. "But the people of Gujarat have given him the answer."
Modi also referred to a past survey of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) on Gujarat to attack Gandhi. "RGF has said in its survey that Gujarat is the most developed and progressive state. So are you questioning it (Foundation)... in which your mother (Sonia Gandhi) is chairperson?"
The BJP leader said the Congress' recently released manifesto was a tool to deceive people, adding the party had failed to deliver on its past promises such as bringing down prices within 100 days.
Taking another dig at the Congress-led UPA, he said, "Usually, there are coalitions to defeat the incumbent government, but this is the first elections where everyone is coming together to stop Modi. They want to do everything to ensure that Modi does not come to power."
Amid indications of strains in ties between the BJP and ally Shiv Sena, Modi said, "(Late Shiv Sena chief) Balasaheb Thackeray stays on in our hearts. Let's fulfil his dream of Congress-mukt (Congress-free) Maharashtra and India."
(With PTI inputs)